Can an Atheist in Catholic School succeed?

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Answered by: Suzanne, An Expert in the Atheism - General Category
As the beginning of the school year quickly approached, my husband I found ourselves in an interesting dilemma. We had recently found out our daughter did not make the lottery for the All-Day/Everyday Kindergarten program offered in our school district. By default she would be forced to attend All-Day/Every-Other Day.

Earlier in the summer our daughter graduated from her pre-school program and while we knew she was smart, we had no idea where she fit in academically until her teacher approached us about testing her for Gifted Talented programs. We don't necessarily like the label of "Gifted Talented," but we did want her to have the best possible education available.

After she had a Peabody Assessment and we got the test results, we knew the All-Day/Every-Other Day program would not be challenging enough. We had to look at all our options and one of them being private Catholic school. The Catholic school in our neighborhood only offers one Kindergarten class, and that class is All-Day/Every-Day. I knew my other Atheist mommy friends would cringe at the thought of us sending our daughter to a place where she could possibly be indoctrinated, or come home singing, "Yes, Jesus Loves Me." True, I did wonder how we would handle situations like going to mass weekly during school, and a requirement of learning the Holy Trinity, but we also had to look at the advantages. Could an Atheist in Catholic school survive?

Was learning about religion bad? No. We have spent the past 9 years teaching all our children about many religions. We teach them about God, death, Heaven, and through all of those teachings we've never told them it was wrong to believe in God, or wrong to learn about all the Gods others worship. We spoke of God as a historical figure in our world. Religions play an important and integral part of our world history. Going to a private Catholic school for Kindergarten certainly wasn't going to send our daughter on the path of Catholicism for life.

As an Atheist attending Catholic school she'd have the opportunity to see religion up close and experience it first hand. Talking about God, and experiencing the teachings are remarkably different. I remember something my friend said when we told her our consideration, "I think the best Atheists were raised Catholic." For me, that was true. I was raised Catholic and also went to Catholic school for Kindergarten.

We had to look at her education. What we wanted was a full-time, all-day education where she would be challenged academically. The first day of school arrived and as our 3rd grader caught the bus for public school, our little Atheist in Catholic school was on her way to Kindergartner--uniform and all! Her first craft project she brought home was a numbering worksheet about the stations of the Holy Trinity.

I asked her what she learned and as she showed me the way she learned, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" across her chest I felt no shame. Any reservations I had about her new school could not compare to the education I knew she would get all year despite my personal feelings of Catholicism.

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