What resources are there for helping teens develop a broad, secular, fully integrated understanding of life?
People raised in a religious environment may discover atheism in their teens, but it can be very hard for them to sort through everything they have been told and retain the factual while discarding the baseless.
Religion, for example Christianity, is based on some historical reality with admixtures of magical thinking and power politics and philosophical mind-games. It takes work to tease out the fact that Jesus was real, but he was a Jew, not a Christian - and then to deal with all the implications.
I first became an atheist at 17 - but it took me a couple of decades to rid myself of all magical thinking and to integrate history, science and the development of religion as a coherent world view. It is this ability to "see life steadily, and see it whole" which I feel is essential for a stable and comfortable transition from a religious to a secular life.
I am interested in connecting with all resources for helping teens (and adults) be comfortable in developing their own world view. My own contribution is a novel, The Gospel According to the Romans, that contextualizes Jesus as a fundamentalist rabbi within the ongoing resistance to the Roman occupation of Palestine. It is designed to allow those brought up in the Christian belief to see how the religion developed from its historical (non-Christian) origins - but presented as a spy story, not as a university text.
If you know of other resources out there - for dealing any religion - please let me know.
Good luck on your novel. For some time I have thought of writing a short story based on MATTHEW 27 51-53.
This is an old site for teens, but I do not know how active it still is.
http://teens.rationalresponders.com// It would be fortuitous if a group were formed on Atheist Nexus for teens specifically.
I agree with Neil Thompson and Paul Cahill. For an overview of the dearth of reliable evidences, I suggest you read from John Remsburg's missive - an old assessment, but still valid.
The "Bible" simply doesn't withstand scrutiny. Its "Old Testament" was compiled from the 24 texts of the Hebrew "Tanakh", rearranged and edited, with others added that Jews do not recognise as "scripture". The "New Testament" was compiled from manuscripts by assorted authors, often writing anonymously or under an assumed name, to lend greater authenticity. Several "councils" were held in the 4th century to select and reject manuscripts for inclusion: notably the Council of Nicaea in 325, stage-managed by the politically-motivated Emperor Constantine and Bishop Eusebius. Eastern Orthodox churches continue to use different selections of books from western Bibles.
Doubts about biblical authenticity have been raised --and censored-- for a thousand years, or more, as Richard Friedman describes in the first chapter of "Who wrote the Bible" . In the remainder of the book he explains how the first five books, traditionally attributed to Moses, were not authored by Moses at all. Indeed, two similar but distinct and inconsistent accounts, relating to the distinct religious practices, politics, and traditions of Israel in the north and Judah in the south, were melded together: but not so well that literary analysis of the text couldn't separate them clearly and reveal the differences in vocabulary, style, and interests. Although useful groundwork was done in 1651 by Thomas Hobbes, and first developed in 1711 --300 years ago!-- by German minister H.B. Witter, churches continue oblivious, like ostriches, praying that no one will notice.
Prof. Bart Ehrman, once "an extremely zealous, rigorous, pious (self-righteous), studious, committed evangelical Christian", has written several books on biblical authorship: most recently "Forged: Writing in the Name of God -- Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are", . He discusses the motivations early Christian writers had for amending existing documents and for forging new ones under the name of other authors. Although this was viewed by contemporaries as a deceitful and illicit practice, there are "numerous" forgeries in the New Testament, including "two books that falsely claim to have been written by Peter and six that falsely claim to have been written by Paul". Christian authors have been lying "not only today, but also in the Middle Ages, in late antiquity, and in the time of the New Testament. From the first century to the twenty-first century, people who have called themselves Christian have seen fit to fabricate, falsify, and forge documents, in most instances in order to authorize views they wanted others to accept".
In "Astonishing Credulity" , Michael Lawrence demonstrates that the New Testament epistles and "Revelations" were written during the period 9 BCE - 70 CE: BEFORE the gospels and "Acts", which were completely unknown to Christian writers until as late as 150 CE. As the epistles and "Revelations" contain NO mention of the Jesus stories related in the gospels or "Acts" --including virgin birth, miracles, crucifiction, and resurrection-- we must conclude that the early Christians were either unaware of them, or considered them irrelevant: quite unlike churches today. Yet nearly 4,000 years ago, Ancient Egyptians celebrated "Easter" at the Spring Equinox: the resurrection of the god Osiris three days after he was killed by Seth/Satan. A stone pillar, now in Germany in the Berlin Museum, records details of the celebrations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ikhernofret_Stela Another stone --the Metternich Stele-- relates a detailed, Ancient Egyptian, close parallel to the tale of Moses in the bullrushes. Clay tablets from Iraq around 2100 BCE contain the Epic of Gilgamesh, which parallels Noah's flood long before Old Testament. Both the Old and New Testaments borrowed heavily from older religions: and much of the ministry of Jesus was lifted from Old Testament prophecies, taken out of context. Lawrence states: "the only similarity between Christianity pre-70 CE and that which is promoted by the Church today is the name. The content of the theology was completely changed to suit the political aims and despotic rule of the Roman Empire post-325 CE".
Babylonian stone tablets, over eight feet high and now in the Louvre Museum in Paris, record the 282 laws of Hammurabi --king from 1792 to 1750 BCE-- which were plagiarised some thousand years later in Leviticus: e.g. "Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth", Lev.24,20.
In "Jesus never existed" , Kenneth Humphreys cites example after example of how early Christian writers knew nothing about Jesus Christ as a man who lived on Earth: though later writers lifted phrases and entire stories from other contexts, to construct His life. John the Baptist really did exist, baptising his followers, and was probably executed in 36 CE: but as his sect persisted for several hundred years, he hardly would have venerated or worshipped J.C.. Christian bishops in the early second century knew nothing about J.C.: Theophilus in Antioch wrote 29,000 words on Christianity, but never once mentioned J.C.; Tertullian in Carthage, "an active forger", amended Christian texts and wrote new ones, distancing Christianity from Judaism, to appease the Emperor; and Marcion in Rome had no Holy Family, rejected Jewish scripture (the "Old Testament") completely, and taught that salvation came in Eden from the serpent's introduction to the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The story of Mary and Joseph curiously parallels the Egyptian tale of Aseneth, a chaste priestess who was visited by an angel and married a Jew called Joseph. In 134 CE, Emperor Hadrian (who walled off the Scots) wrote that Christians in Egypt worshipped the god Serapis: derived from the earlier divine trinity of Osiris, Isis (the mother), and Horus (the child). In Luxor the temple of Amen has a mural, dated around 1700 BCE, with panels showing the Annunciation (by Thoth), the Immaculate Conception, the Nativity, and the Adoration by three kneeling figures. -- That is the same "amen", incidentally, which Christians use at the end of every prayer.
As a further aspect of exploring Christianity, consider the well-known phrase, "by their fruits ye shall know them", [Matthew, chapter 7, verse 20]. In "Double Cross: The Code of the Catholic Church" , Dr. David Ranan documents Vatican morality throughout its history: not just the recent scandals of aiding and abetting paedophile priests around the globe, but inciting war and butchery -- the Crusades, in Europe, Latin America, etc.; oppressing and murdering Jews; torturing and burning "witches", "heretics", and "sodomites"; aiding and abetting Nazis, both during WW2 and for several years afterwards, helping them to escape justice; owning and trading slaves; subjugating women; opposing progress in science and technology, from Galileo's explanation of the solar system to current claims that condoms promote AIDS -- thereby condemning billions to sickness, poverty, and starvation.
In "The Case of the Pope" , renowned barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC details the legal arguments for prosecuting Joseph Ratzinger, a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI, for crimes against humanity: advice followed in February this year by lawyers in Germany.
In the UK, the Archbishop of Canterbury and others want "the church to dominate secondary provision" of schools. We should examine Christianity --honestly and objectively-- and tell these self-serving charlatans, who prey upon the insecurities of superstitious and vulnerable folk, to go to Hell.
Telling good stories can get a free thinker a pass even in religious schools.
In 11th grade in a nun-taught Catholic high school, a valued member of the noon hour chat group I was in entertained the rest of us with his belief in re-incarnation. He described a soul as a kind of bottle that gets filled again and again. We listened, chuckled, and returned to talking about cars, sports and girls.