12 comments on “Easter Entertainment

  1. Great article! We found ourselves in much the same situation yesterday with my parents. My father says a prayer about twice a year and yesterday was one of those days. Our kids aren’t quite old enough to ask questions yet but I know that will be coming. Thanks for the story!

  2. Ouch, what an awkward situation. This is why I’m glad we DON’T live near my Godfearing in-laws. It’s so much easier to avoid awkwardness when you don’t see them at major holidays.

  3. It’s interesting how quickly young kids will REALLY attach to an idea in a very black and white fashion. They love to get clarity on any issue in this confusing world and they hold on to it for dear life. I think it makes them feel powerful. Agnosticism is not easily compatible with childhood. But the amount of contemplation that can (and should) go into making a decision on whether or not one believes God exists is beyond the brainpower of a child. So not only do they lack the social skills to mediate awkwardness (less developed empathy and self awareness) they love to loudly proclaim what is and isn’t true as if there is no debate in the matter. Makes for some VERY tense dinner conversations.

    In my opinion, there a very few reasons to discuss religion or faith in mixed company because the issue is too personal. I see it as akin to discussing your sex life. You’re not going to change anyones mind and the path that brought you to the place you are today is so specific to you that it seems pointless to talk about it. But a 5 year old doesn’t know that. And interestingly enough a social-boor doesn’t know that either. So by shooshing her, you may have just been letting her know that it’s not polite dinner conversation. That’s one way to look at it.

    I am in the opposite situation. I am an athiest and my husband is Hindu. But my daughter (age 6) LOVES the idea of God. She loves the idea of an all knowing, all powerful being somewhere out there. Most of her ideas about God have come from her best friend at school who is Muslim (and apparently talks about God a lot). I have no idea how to handle the situation. I don’t know if my daughter will be the type of person who does well with faith in God (some people need it) or not. I certainly don’t think religious dogma needs to be crammed down kids throats in order for them to develop faith, so I’m letting her figure it out on her own. I try to share my thoughts on lovingkindness and compassion toward others but label it as “God” for her because it’s easier for her to grasp. Eventually, I will let her know that I don’t actually believe in God, just like I will have to tell her there’s no Santa or Easter bunny. But I want to leave that space for her to be able to believe if she wants so I’m not quashing the god-talk right now.

    There certainly is no right answer. Any rational parenting is fraught with doubts as we grope in the dark for the right thing to say. But that’s what it’s like to be a thinking parent rather than someone who believes there is a magic book with all the right answers. There are a lot of ways to be a good parent but the primary ingredient is good intentions and self-reflection which I suspect you have in spades.

  4. Paisley sounds like a little firecracker! :) I’m wondering about something though. I’m not trying to be disrespectful so please don’t take this the wrong way because I know that as her parent you just want to be completely honest with her. But she’s awfully young to be fully convinced of something that it took you many more years to conclude. Did believing in God as a child negatively affect your life? Or was it just the church that messed things up for you? Because even if she did believe in God, as a child I seriously doubt it will be more than a fairy tale to her anyway. Like watching Peter Pan and believing in fairies and pixie dust. Even though I do believe in God, I am not offended by the way you are raising your child. But I am a little sad for her in the sense that you might unintentionally be teaching her to not value other people’s beliefs. And regardless of whether there is a God or not, she’s going to grow up in a world with people that do believe in God. How is this going to shape her opinion of them?

    My grandmother was a hard core catholic. She always had a rosary in her hand, a cross over her bed, a candle lit for prayer, and my family even had a dedicated prayer room in the house, complete with a statue of every known saint! It NEVER interested me growing up. And to this day, I find all that very silly. But if my parents had ever made it a point to tell me that God was not real, and then I saw my grandmother praying to this invisible man, as a child I would have started to develop the notion that I was smarter than she was, and I imagine it would have made it difficult to respect her or take anything she said seriously.

    I was 25 before I really understood faith enough to make a choice to believe in God. Up until then I treated all religions like a buffet line. If there was a good message to be learned, then I would treat it like good advice. But it didn’t shape my behaviors at all. And frankly, unless you belong to a very ritualized religion, it wont change your behavior. Don’t you think that perhaps the less you talk about God not existing, the more likely you’re daughter will just forget about God all together when she is older? Kind of like finding out there is no Santa Clause, no Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy… won’t she just lump God in with all the other invisible characters? Clearly she’s not going to church. And your families are not pushing the subject. So why not just teach her that when a person prays before a meal that she should simply allow them a moment of silence.

    As always, thanks for allowing me to comment on your blog even though we share different views. :)

  5. Hi again. I woke up this morning thinking about something you said in your post. You say you want to encourage Paisley to think for herself. Well, would you maybe consider explaining the subject of God like this:

    Instead of saying “God is a man in the sky” (which is NOT what anyone actually believes) would you be willing to explain to her “why” some people believe in God, as well as what other people believe. It might be helpful to start the conversation by asking HER where she thinks the world and animals and people came from. This way you allow her a chance to think for herself before feeding her the 2 most common answers. Once she shares her own thoughts, you can share with her the 2 most common points of view (or more, if you see fit).

    For example, you can tell her that people have been around for a very long time, back when there wasn’t even tv or cars or houses (this is a great chance to learn about ancient civilizations with books from the library). Then explain that people have always wanted to know “who or what” made the world and where the first people came from. There is a very old book that tells the story that people believed a long time ago. This book is where we learn about God what people believe about him. It says he is very powerful he and created the world and everything in it, including people.

    Today we have something called science which helps us learn about the world in ways people couldn’t before. We have telescopes to let us see far into space. We’ve even been to the moon! Some scientist (Not ALL) don’t think God created us. They think that all animals on earth came from smaller animals that changed over a very long time. Then maybe show her an evolution chart and point to how man evolved from apes.Explain to her that this kind of information is what we find in books that are not old because it is what people have learned through science.

    Then recap both sides again: There are people that believe God created each animal, and he decided what they would each one look like (i.e dogs, cats, bunnies, would all be different). God also made people different from all the animals. He wanted people to be more like Him, and that’s why people call God “Father.”

    And there are other people who see that all animals look very much a alike (4 legs, or 2 arms and 2 legs, a head with 2 eyes, 1 nose, 2 ears). These people believe that animals changed over time and slowly started to look more and more like people. At this point let her know this is what you and your husband believe.

    Yes this will raise more questions. But they will be questions you will be able to answer with science books (which is what you want to teach her to do anyway, right?) And it will help her understand that people that believe in God are not just silly for thinking there’s a man in the sky. They simply think there was a different start to “life” than the rest of the people. This approach will also introduce her to 2 types of books: Religious books and Science books. As she grows older, you will have to constantly refer to both to explain to her where people get their beliefs about everything else.

    I tried to word this explanation in a way that is unbiased to both beliefs, but is still accurate enough for a young child to get a true glimpse at what both sides believe. As a side note, kids are very visual, so this is a great opportunity to introduce tons of books AND even a timeline to help her organize her thoughts. By creating a basic timeline based on science, and once based on religion, It will help her to “see” how everything unfolds from beginning to present day. I hope this helps. :)

    Thanks,
    Jackie

  6. * The approach I described above will also introduce her to history books because in order to learn about ancient civilizations, we have to look at science AND history. If Paisley is as inquisitive as I think she is, then she will LOVE learning about different cultures. It’s an amazing way to turn the topic of God into something that will fill her with a desire to discover facts about the world and its people. Just think about all the amazing things she’ll learn by studying Egypt. Kids LOVE the pyramids! But every culture will have its beliefs about God or Gods. This approach sets the groundwork to be able to discuss the “supernatural” as a part of cultural history.

    I’m truly excited for your little girl because I think that if you embrace the concept of God as a doorway into learning, then it will take the awkwardness out of all these questions and will give her an opportunity to expand her mind. :)

  7. Both my children (5 yr old twin boys) have asked this very question. I answered just as you did. One wanted to know why grandma belived in the man in the sky and why didn’t daddy and I. I struggled with that one and he was clearly confused.

    I readily admit sometimes I don’t know what I’m doing in secular parenting area. I just do my best.

    • You know it’s ok to tell them that you’re confused and don’t have all the answers. I have had some wonderful conversations with my kids about religion (even at 5-6) and I’ve learned a lot from THEM! At seven my older son had A LOT of questions so we did a modified comparative religion class (twenty minutes before bed for a month) and we talked about what people believed and why. Helped him understand why people around him did what they did. He accepted the fact that me and Dad just didn’t believe any of that stuff very matter-of-factly.

  8. Kiona,

    I disagree that children lack the “brainpower” to decide about belief in God. I decided around age 7 that believing in god made no sense. It isn’t very complicated. Children can understand the difference between fairy tales and science.

  9. I don’t mean to come across negatively (I do like your post), and I hope I don’t get flamed, but if I do i’ll take it on the chin…if I was told as a kid that god was a ‘man in the sky’ (and actually believed that’s what the bible teaches) I’d have rejected it years ago. i’m not saying i’m ok with everything the bible teaches, but there’s no concept in there of a ‘man in the sky’ …nor any teaching that clearly contradicts evolution, old earth, multiverse, m-theory and multi dimensions (hillbilly theology takes issues with those things, but the bible does not). i just think your post would have been a lot stronger (and you would do more good for the many intelligent people who listen to you) if you would reject the bible for what it actually says rather than a caricature of it. at least pick something good, like god telling people to kill. i know, that’s not good conversation for a child, i agree. but making up something for my kid about a ‘man in the sky’ rather than just telling them that I don’t know seems to be handling the issue ‘with kid gloves’. if i may be so annoying as to suggest timothy keller’s podcast (am i the thousandth person to suggest that…do i get a prize? :)

    however, one thing i really resonate with, and see alot of among people in my part of the country, is ignoring elephants in the room. it creates way more awkward situations than just calling things what they are. i think i was lucky to have parents who challenged me to think freely (yes, people of faith can do that too), but there is a tendency to clam up during uncomfortable situations…as if saying something will create a bad situation, rather than realizing the situation is already there.

    anyway, sorry for rambling. it should be obvious i disagree with a lot of what you said. but i think you’re a great writer. and yes i know i stopped using initial caps in the first paragraph. :)

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