Monday, April 12, 2010
Growing in Reason: Talking to Children About Unbelief
One day, maybe soon, she'll want to talk to me about God. She'll ask why I don't believe in God. What will I tell her?
(1) "Believe in God" is the wrong expression. I believe in you. I don't believe that God exists.
(2) You've gone to temple/church/whatever. You have seen people you know and love who pray to God as if He really existed. You have been told stories that are presented as true, as if they really happened. But the fact is that no one knows whether God truly exists. The stories started a long time ago and they have undergone many changes. Many people believe the stories because they believe what they are told by others whom they love and respect. Many people like all the friends they have in the group of believers. Many people like the idea that even when they are alone, they can have someone who sees them and is interested in what they do. But what people like and what's true are not always the same thing. People may want the stories to be true, but that does not mean they are true.
(3) There are many, many religions. There are also many, many gods. Most every group that's ever been has tried to explain the world by using gods to be responsible for the things that came before. Our planet and our universe are wonderful things, and it's not easy to discover how they got to be the way they are. Every religion thinks that its god is the answer and that all the other religions are wrong.
(4) We are learning so much about the universe, the world, and humanity. We use scientific methods to help us separate what might really be true from what we think might be true. And the more we learn, the more wonderful it all seems. On the other hand, with everything we learn, it becomes less likely that God really exists. No God and no heaven, but no devil and no hell either.
(5) We have each other. We have our lives together. We have our minds. We have our dreams. All of this is real enough. We talk to each other and we talk to ourselves. We laugh and we share. We sing and we learn. Why wonder about God when our lives are already filled with wonder?
(6) You are my child and I am your father. This is always true, no matter what you or I believe about God/no-God. As we live, learn, change, and move on, we'll think many things. We'll believe many things. We'll settle matters and then later overturn them. But you are always my child and I am always your father. This is one true thing, and that's all we need to build happy lives.