An Atheist teaching in a Catholic School
Perhaps this will be one of your biggest surprises, and hopefully it will bring you a large amount of hope.
Eight years ago, I started teaching in a Catholic school. I would have considered myself a Christian, however not a very good one as I had doubts. I did go to church occasionally and I brought up my three children in Catholic schools, feeling that it was best to expose them to some sort of religion. After my first year of teaching elementary school, I was asked to teach middle school science. As my degree was in Elementary Education, I felt that I needed to better my knowledge of science and dove into reading whatever I could get my hands on, concentrating on biology and chemistry. I also took classes at a local college to brush up on my scientific skill set. I was also asked to teach religion. I chose also to read as much about the Christian faith as I could, so as to be a better teacher of the history of Christianity.
I dove deeper and deeper into science and religion. I started reading through book after book: Finding Darwin's God, The Selfish Gene, Ancestor's Tale, The Lost Scriptures, Etc. My home started filling with book after book and I found that it was impossible to believe in God. Here I was, teaching religion and science in a Catholic school and I wanted to shout from the rooftops that the Catholic Religion was a joke and that children needed to be taught the truths in science! Of course, I could not share my revelations with the people I was surrounded by, but I felt that as an educator, I had a responsibility. I chose to teach the truth, without coming out and sharing my own beliefs.
In religion class, I focused on the REAL history of Christianity. I showed videos such as From Jesus to Christ which discussed the true origins of the bible. I watched the children's eyebrows rise and taught them that it was healthy to question their religion. I taught them that you should never believe something that sounds ridiculous without questioning where the information came from. I did not tell them what to believe, but only taught them to research before forming an opinion. We debated lots of topics in class and I saw the expanding of their thoughts and rejoiced!
In science class, I taught evolution. When the children would question God's role in all of this, I would tell them that we were now in science class and not talking about God. I brought in some of your books and we read through the evolution of the EYE! Children saw that things could evolve without someone waving a magic wand. We talked about how our bodies were made from particles that have existed for billions of years and again I saw the eyebrows rising and the children beginning to realize that our world was pretty amazing and that it was okay to question!
At the end of 8th grade, on the test for the unit on Natural Selection, I put an essay question that had the children explain a certain trait of an organism using the argument of Natural Selection. The essays included sentences such as, “Of course evolution plays a part in the elongation of the neck of a giraffe. One only needs to look at the series of events that would have led to the better survival of an animal with a longer neck over the survival of an animal with a neck slightly less long.” They were convinced that evolution was more than some crazy theory and left middle school armed with the scientific knowledge that would hopefully lead them in the right direction.
I know that people would be very angry at me for being an atheist and teaching in a Catholic school. I do need to keep my personal beliefs under cover, for now. I will probably transfer to a public school in the next couple of years and at that point I will not fear to share my beliefs. But for now, perhaps I am most useful in an environment where if I weren't there, many children would never be taught true science.
As a side note, my youngest child is attending a Catholic High School, but is also an atheist. He has no problem sharing his beliefs with everyone at the school. Interestingly enough, he is encouraged to debate his opinions with other students in his religion class and for the most part has not been ridiculed by his teachers, some of them being Brothers! His message to his classmates has been to judge someone for who they are, and not put atheists into a leper category. When he announced to one of his teachers that he was an atheist, the response was, “Really? But you're not a murderer or a rapist! You're a really nice kid. I thought all atheists were really evil people!” Chalk one up for the nice atheists!