(Photo Josh Reynolds/Washington Post)
You may have heard about this effort to introduce a private after-school program for “Satanic Temple” in public schools. As reported in The Washington Post among many other places, it is a program offered in reaction to after-school Christian clubs. Their serious goal is to provide an atheist alternative. Their not-so-serious goal is to poke fun at the Christian worldview. They don’t actually believe in satan, because they don’t believe in any supernatural reality at all.
If you’re an atheist, your reaction may be indifference, or it might be a feeling of schadenfreude, that those self-righteous Christians are receiving their comeuppance. If you’re a Christian, maybe you’re aghast, adding this to the list of “what is this world coming to” alarms. Satan is real, after all.
But let’s reconsider. These clubs only serve satan accidentally. They really assert that there is NO satan, just as they say there is no God. Their mission is to provide an alternative worldview to that of Christians. I say “welcome to the party.” Just like the Christian clubs, these gatherings are voluntary, so to the extent they’re attended at all, they’ll be attended by children of parents who are adamantly atheist, glad to have an alternative to Christian fare. This is not a bad development. In fact, I would argue, it’s a good one.
The usual secular reaction to Christian teaching is just that—a reaction. Atheists seldom teach a coherent, much less comprehensive, worldview. Instead, to the extent the atheist worldview is taught at all, it is taught as what it isn’t: fundamentalist bigoted self-righteous right-wing hate-mongering irrational superstition.
What these clubs actually would do is to help us join the debate. Christianity is losing ground in this country because people feel (I say “feel,” rather than think) that it is irrational. That it doesn’t comport with modern empirical approaches to making sense of reality. That’s not true (say I as a Christian) but part of the reason otherwise intelligent people don’t see it is that they’re not comparing it to anything. We’re encouraged to evaluate Christianity without acknowledging the alternative points of view. The discussion tends to center on whether Christianity makes sense, without subjecting alternative worldviews—mainly, humanistic atheism–to the same scrutiny.
It’s a good thing to subject atheism to the same scrutiny to which skeptics subject Christianity. That’s the point of this site, in fact, and we’re in a series that attempts to articulate that atheist worldview. Atheism often wins by default because the burden of proof is wrongly placed on Christianity. People tend not to evaluate and then embrace atheism, but rather reject Christianity (or “religion,” or “organized religion”), and then end up at atheism by default. The first step is usually to believe the lie that they have merely moved from Christianity to neutrality. They’re wrong, in that belief, and maybe the presence of The Satanic Temple in direct contrast to the Christian clubs will help them see it.