So here is why you don't want to let students know that you're an atheist --
Which, unlike feminism, is not something I generally bring up. My feminism and the fact that I'm a liberal, those I make a point of getting on deck. Early on in the class each semester, I'll say something like, "Well, I'm a big old liberal, as you might have noticed," and "Given that I'm a giant feminist, this sort of deal gets on my last nerve."
But the atheism I only bring up when they ask, which, as this is Bible central, they tend to. Mr. Jesus keeps coming up in class, and How This Story Makes me Think of What Jesus Tells us, and all that, and eventually someone will say, well, what do you think, dr. delagar?
At which time I will usually tell them something about zen belief systems or Coyote or what Rabbi Hillel might say, and their eyes will go round and wrinkles will appear between them. (This is except for the other students, whose eyes have gone bright and are thinking, yo, cool.)
Then someone will say, "Excuse me? dr. delagar? What do you believe in?"
"Me?" I'll say. "I'm an atheist."
Because I'm not in the business of lying to students.
OTOH, I follow up with: "The writer here, though, she seems to be --" or "Chaucer, though, given that this is the 14th century--"
Well, here's the problem with this practice, combined with how I do live in Pork Smith, deep in the heart of Bible central: once my Rockin With Jesus students know I'm an atheist, they know that the Lord wants them to save me.
So they write their papers as missions: saving delagar's soul!
I got three of those this semester, all of them wretched.
It's as if they suspect that I'm an accidental atheist. If I only knew what they knew about Mr. Jesus, see, or the real truth about evil-lution, why then! They write me arguments for God, witnessing documents, tales about how they prayed for a sunny day before a softball game and LO! Sun came! (S-o-n, gittit?) They tell me that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, and every scientist knows this! So Darwin was Wrong! How can I not be moved!
What am I to do with these papers? Give an F to Jesus?
Fail these tools, and they believe what their preachers and daddies have been telling them, that them liberal professors hate the Religious Right: pass them, and I am passing stupid work.
They make me ill, these papers.
On the plus side, the kid's standardize test scores came back yesterday, and she broke the test. Scored post-high school reading and on the 11th grade level in science; nearly that high in math. What a little whiz-bang. Guess we'll keep her. (We were going to sell her on e-bay, to buy gas with this summer.)
30 minutes ago