Going back to school can be a stressful time for students. Students worry about fitting in, being judged, and bullying. But for atheist students there is the added struggle of being judged and bullied for their beliefs. This already stressful time of year becomes extra stressful for atheist students because of the pressure they experience in an environment that is surrounded by religion, particularly if they live in the Bible Belt.
Atheist students face challenges such as being sent home from school, sent to detention, asked to leave class, and being made an example of for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Atheist students are opposed to reciting the pledge mainly because it contains the phrase “under God,” and will refuse to stand and recite it. The American Humanist Association’s Appigani Humanist Legal Center created a campaign called “Don’t Say the Pledge” which encouraged atheist students to sit during the pledge’s recital. This campaign received reports from participating students and their parents about discrimination they experienced because of their refusal to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Atheist students have tried forming student groups but have struggled and been met with resistance. One Oklahoma principal called a proposed secular club at his school a “hate group.” Students trying to form such groups get caught in a pattern. A student finds a faculty sponsor, gets things organized, and then applies to form a group. Then they meet resistance from school administration. Students press their cause and the administration wavers, but the faculty sponsor withdraws support.
Not only do atheist students find themselves facing hardships trying to form their own groups, they must face down a strong stigma placed on them by the general population. A survey by the University of Minnesota found that atheists are the most disliked group in America. They are more disliked and mistrusted than immigrants, gays and lesbians, conservative Christians, Jews, and Muslims. It’s no wonder atheist students feel stressful about going back to school.
“Atheist students must deal with the public perception that because they have no religion, they must have no morals. Religious people do not consider this to be an offensive slur but simply a fact about atheists. This view continues to persist despite there being no evidence to support it,” writes Jospeh Benson, educator at Dissertation Help Service. All these hostile views have made it so that atheist students often feel they must hide their status. Young people will compare revealing themselves to be atheist to “coming out of the closet” as gay or lesbian. The stress of hiding their atheism comes to a head when situations such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or singing God Bless America arise.
So what are some ways to protect yourself or your children from the stress of being an atheist at back-to-school time? “One important defense is to know your constitutional rights. When a teacher is being hostile to an atheist student, the solution isn’t necessarily going to involve a courtroom. A good way to deal with this kind of situation is to become an activist,” writes Tracy Mauricio, educator at Academized. Speak out against mistreatment of atheists at your school. Chances are administration knows the laws, but are just not expecting someone to stick up for themselves. Teachers can help by educating themselves on stereotypes that harm atheist students. They can also support their nonbeliever students and lead by an example of tolerance and respect.
Back-to-school time can be stressful, educational tools such as State of Writing, Via Writing, PaperFellows, and Essayroo can help make the process easier. Atheist students face some challenges, but the good news is there are steps that they, their parents, and their teachers can take to make school a more welcoming and safe place for atheists.
Grace Carter is a writer and blogger at BigAssignments and Thesis Writing Service, there she helps students improve writing abilities and manages business correspondence. Also, Grace is a tutor at OXEssays website.
All user-generated information on this site is the opinion of its author only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. Members and guests are responsible for their own posts and the potential consequences of those posts detailed in our Terms of Service.