Is it OK to have an atheist teacher?
Sorry, wrong question. Let me try again. Is it OK to have a christian teacher?
Indoctrinating young children to the unproven god is serious crime. As a teacher of over 1/4 of a century, I have kept my personal belief separate from my teaching activities. [I was bought up in christian primary school and catholic secondary school, yet taught in buddhist school!] And I am regretting that!
I taught Physics, a mathematical scientific discipline which values enquiry, evidence, tests and experimentation. There are theories and theories get disproved or modified. This is real and this is based on evidence. In class, I rather spent my time in motivating my students, enriching their curiosity than going through the content matter. My students could always read the textbook at their time as many times as they like.
Every now and then, some students would be able to answer questions about what they learnt in class perfectly, but in real life, they still go about their daily life like Physics is just something they learn for passing examination.
One trick is to lend a radioactive source to a student so that he/she can play with it at home. I would take out a glass bottle from a lead container using a long-handle forceps and ask if anyone would like to it home by put the bottle in his/her pocket. Inevitably, there is always some students who have forgotten all about the risk of radioactivity I was talking moments ago and reach out with their hands for the glass bottle. That's where things get interesting from a teacher's point of view. Of course the glass bottle contains nothing radioactive and it is illegal for me to let radioactive material out of the laboratory. But that is a good way to start a good discussion.
I regret I did not make my atheism clear to my students [and I have stopped teaching more than 15 years]. If I have the foresight of knowing how religious is damaging the intellectual world, I would have use my atheism to discuss more about Science and the true nature of scientific enquiry.
Back to the question at the beginning of this post, the answer to the first question is YES and the answer to the second is NO!
[This post is a reflection after reading Hemant Mehta's post. I hope Mehta would have the opportunity to make his atheism clear to his students and give his students a chance of cleansing from the religious pollution.]