Thursday, August 07, 2008

Sprouting Seeds

It warms my heart to see young people embrace reason and critical thinking and declare themselves atheists. I have always valued learning and it is wonderful to see young people independently reach the same conclusion I have. It makes me wish I was able to do so earlier in my life. Alas, I’m from a different generation than those in college and high school today. Some things are easier for them and some things are harder, I’m sure. I will always be an avid supporter of college campus groups like the local Atheist Longhorns. Watching these sprouting seeds gives me so much hope for the future.

It’s doubly wonderful to hear from an outspoken young atheist who is a freshman in high school. Lucia Guatney recently finished her freshman year in high school and she has written a nice article on what it’s like to be an atheist high schooler, about her conversation with Richard Dawkins, and about how exciting that was for her. She even has her own blog. Wow. Go Lucia!

It was triply wonderful for me to notice that Lucia is going to the same high school that I did. It made me think about how the school has changed and how I’ve changed along the way. I think it was there that some seeds of atheism were planted in me. My best friend was an atheist, but I didn’t form an opinion on religion until much later. Perhaps I was fortunate to not be too immersed in religion in my youth.

I remember three high school teachers who helped to plant some seeds. One had us read about the Holocaust and think critically about convention and authority. Another helped me appreciate the Spanish conquest of the Americas and the fraud behind Guadalupe. A third (math) teacher pointed out that according to the Bible, pi is 3. Hats off to these fabulous teachers, wherever they may be.

I have to give a nod to the Secular Students of Rice University, my alma mater. While college freethought groups are now common, they were rare when I was in college and Rice didn't have one. I’d like to think that I helped to pave the way for them in some small way. When I was in college, I did some sparring with the Campus Crusade for Christ and Maranatha student groups. An acquaintance of mine from college looked me up on Facebook recently and gave me an unsolicited compliment about how brave I was to sand up to their viewpoints those many years ago. I don't think of myself as particularly brave.

It’s nice to look back on some of those early experiences and feel a connection to the next generation of young people who are poised to make their impact on the world. I have high hopes for them.


  1. "Sprouting seeds"? Perhaps you were immersed in religion more than you think.

  2. "Go Lucia!" indeed!

    I also share high hopes for young freethinkers. And, like you, I only wish I would have freed my mind earlier. I didn't come to the realization that god is metaphorical until well out of college. And I also wonder what I might have achieved if all the energy, time and resources I put into a false belief system would have been more positively directed toward an endeavor involving something real and tangible in this world.

    I think there are two forms of viewer feedback that inspire me equally. One is the letters from the high schoolers letting me know how far beyond where I was at their age. And the other is the people who write to let us know that they live in secret as atheists, because there would be no understanding or acceptance of them where they live. I am especially emotionally touched by the contrast of the young atheists who are outspoken--they're confidence and brainpower, and those who must, for the present, hide to escape social repercussions from their thoughts and decisions.

    I hate to see young people, young minds, repressed by fearful people.

  3. I wasn't totally clear with regard to how the young people who must hide are inspiring. Generally they write to let us know how helpful it has been to find our programming, and to finally feel as though they're not the "only one" who sees the world in a rational light. They are in environments where they are shown, in no uncertain terms, that unbelief will not be treated well. And I feel good knowing that what I do lets them know that there are other "worlds" outside of whatever microcosm of rejection they are now forced to endure. It's the opportunity to see that I am offering people help with the knowledge that there are better environments they can find later in life, that inspires me.

  4. rogerdr:
    "Sprouting seeds"? Perhaps you were immersed in religion more than you think.

    I don't get it. Is "sprouting seeds" a biblical reference? I can't find it in either the KJV or NIV.

    And even if it were, so what? The Bible is probably the most influential work of fiction in western literature. I would expect any well-read American to make references to it occasionally.

  5. Arensb: Luke 8:4-21

    I got that hammered into me back in the day when I'd sit bored in vacation Bible school, watching the butterflies flutter by.

  6. rogerdr:
    I think it's a bit of a leap to go from the phrase "sprouting seeds" to the parable of the sower. I'll defer to Don if he comments, but IMHO he could equally likely have been thinking of the legend of Johnny Appleseed, or maybe even just some time when he planted a tree in his yard or something.

    Though just in passing, has anyone else noticed that the parable of the sower is a fine example of natural selection?

  7. Arensb: It wasn't the title itself, but the two allusions in the post, especially, "I remember three high school teachers who helped to plant some seeds."

    It's blatantly obvious, however unintended. If I were grading his post in a college lit class, I'd say that it a direct allusion to the parable, but I tend to see media associations everywhere.

  8. Now I know what novelists must feel like when they tell a story and everyone else analyzes it. Thankfully, in this case, nobody had any deep insights into my childhood relationship with my mother!

    I might have heard the Luke parable years ago, but I really doubt that played into my choice of words. I'm not that well versed in the Bible.

    This little nostalgia piece was about growth, both mine and others. Thinking back to the origins of that growth, a seed metaphor seemed especially apt. That's all. Sorry if that's a disappointment to anyone.

    Remember that the Christians don't own all the good metaphors.



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