Atheist Sunday School

Atheist Sunday School (images)
Left: the 2007 Time article on the rise of Atheist Sunday Schools being taught in humanist community centers in California. Right: a joke atheist Sunday school cartoon (Ѻ) subtitled “a possible infiltrator is detected at the atheist Sunday school”.
In education, Atheist Sunday School, or “Sunday School for Atheists”, refers to a weekend (or weekday) class taught to children of atheist, agnostic, humanist, or free-thinking parents, as replacement to the typical Christian class that religious parents send their children to each Sunday morning.

In the 1830s, in Great Britain, and later America, so-called “secular Sunday schools” and or “socialist Sunday Schools, as alternatives to orthodox Christian Sunday schools began to appear, centered around the ideas of those such as Robert Owen; resistance for some of these secular or socialist schools began to appear per reasons that they were subverting the minds of young people with political and anti-religious doctrines and teachings. [5] These, however, do not seem to have been atheism-explicit Sunday schools.

In 1910, German physical chemist and radical atheist Wilhelm Ostwald gave a series of sixty “Monistic Sunday Sermons” in Germany, generally based on his monism view of energy, supported by Ernst Haeckel and his evolution views, in Germany. This wasn’t necessary a Sunday School for kids, as summarized by Caspar Hakfoort (1992) and Stephen Contakes (2013), but rather a pioneering effort directed towards free thinking adults. [1]

In 2004, the Humanist Community Center in Palo alto, Ca, began to offer a weekly ‘Sunday School for Atheists’ class for the children of atheists, secularists, and humanists, where parents would take turns teaching kids about morals and meaning with god. [2]

In 2015, American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims, in Chicago, together with Atheism Reviews co-host Thor, taught a ‘Monday School for Atheists’ kids class, dubbed ‘Zerotheism for Kids’, to five kids, ages: 6, 7, 9, 10, and 11, two girls and three boys, over the course of 3.5-hours, with one recess and lunch break. [3]

In 2015, YouTube existential philosopher Nick Bohl, was hired by Greg Epstein (Ѻ), Harvard’s humanist chaplain, author of Good Without God (2009), organizer of the YouTube Humanist Hub, launched in 2013, a public version spinoff of the 1970s initiated Humanist Community at Harvard (HCH), to begin teaching a so-dubbed “secular Sunday school” class, superficially entitled the “Big Questions Lab” (BGL), for kids of parents that are humanists, atheist, agnostic, and allies, in and around Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In Jul 2016, initial segments of the BGL class were recorded and put on YouTube. Those who helped make the program include: Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief (2007), Karenna Gore, E.O. Wilson, Alfie Kohn, Tracy Elizabeth, and Katherine Ozment. A review of this BQL class, however, seems to be more of a basic kindergarten class, focused on answering “big questions” such as “why is the sky blue?”, “why are days shorter in the winter?”, with no atheism-explicit talk mentioned in respect to the bigger deep questions that kids as.

See also
Camp Quest
Church of Elective Affinities

1. (a) Hakfoort, Caspar. (1992). “Science Deified: Wilhelm Ostwald’s Energeticist World-View and the History of Scientism” (abs), Annals of Science, 49(2):525-44.
(b) Contakes, Stephen. (2013). “Exploring the New Atheist Movement with Wilhelm Ostwald” (Ѻ),
(c) Stephen Contakes (faculty) – Westmont College.
2. Lee-St. John, Jeninne. (2007). “Sunday School for Atheists. An Oxymoron? Nope—Nonbelievers Need Places to Teach Their Kids Values Too” (Ѻ), Time, Dec 3.
3. (a) Thims, Libb. (2015). “Zerotheism for Kids” (co-host: Thor) (main), 14-part [4:41-hr] lecture playlist (Ѻ), 5-intro sides (Ѻ), 56-main sides (Ѻ), 11AM-3PM, Chicago, Aug 10 (recorded), Sep 7 (published).
(b) Note 1: the first attempt at this lecture was initiated in circa Feb 2015 when Thims’ sister came to visit with her two kids (ages 4 and 6) to Chicago during which Thims said he wanted to do an atheism for kids video with them; she explained that, as they were already in Hebrew school, that “they already believe in god, that will only confuse them!”; after which Thims got into an argument and the project was scuttled.
(c) Note 2: the modern working version of the show was conceived, in mid Jul 2015, when Sarah, a friend of Thims, explained who she gave her 3 kids, two boys, ages 6 and 9, and one girl age 10, a children’s bible to read, after which the youngest (aged six) asked “how did god create the world so fast?” (i.e. 6-days, standard Genesis account); to which Sarah really didn’t have an answer; Thims then sent his "Are Adam and Eve Real People?" (Ѻ) video to her to watch; which in turn found its way into Alex, another friend of Thims, who texted him to send her more like this to show her two kids.
4. (a) Bohl, Nick. (2016). “Atheist Sunday School?! Philosophy & Community for Nonreligious/Interfaith Families” (7-min) (Ѻ), The Humanist Hub, Jul 12.
(b) Mehta, Hemant. (2016). “The Big Question Lab: Why an Atheist Sunday School Makes a Lot of Sense” (Ѻ), Friendly Atheist, Jul 13.
5. Socialist Sunday Schools – Wikipedia.
6. Bohl, Nick. (2016). “Big Question Lab (Season 1 Preview)” (3-min) (Ѻ), The Humanist Hub, Jul 5.

TDics icon ns

More pages