This is a post about god. I’m not a person of faith. You may be, and I respect that.
If you are convinced that I’m going to hell, please don’t tell – I don’t want you to spoil the surprise.
Here’s the thing. It’s not that I have anything against god, it’s just that I’m not sure he exists. So when B asked me about the existence of god on a Sunday afternoon trip to Target, I panicked.
It was my fault, really. I was listening to (what I thought was) an unobjectionable song from the soundtrack to The Book of Mormon. The song is called I Believe, and enumerates the protagonist’s Mormon beliefs, including
I believe that God sent his only son to die for our sins
Suddenly B popped up to ask, “Mommy, how old is him’s son?” And instead of saying “I don’t know,” which would have been a perfectly legitimate answer, I said, “Oh, this song is about God and his son, Jesus. You know all about Jesus.” (And he does, since he goes to a Catholic school where Religion is the only subject for which his class has a textbook.) So we had a little discussion about Jesus, and how he was very special because he was God’s son, and B said, “He came back. How’d him do that?” To which I replied, “Because his daddy is God, so Jesus was a very special man.”
I was particularly proud of that.
And then B asked me the $25,000 question, which I have been dreading since he started school:
“Mommy, is God real?”
Finally, I said,
“Well, sweetheart, I don’t really know. A lot of people believe that he is.”
“Well, I don’t think him’s real.”
“Because I can’t see him.”
Another looong pause, then I said,
“Well, but remember things can be real even if we can’t see them”
The first thing that came to mind was Santa, which is a terrible example – or a good one, depending on where you fall on the zealot-to-atheist spectrum. Finally, I came up with a genius response,
“Well, like germs. Germs are real, but we can’t see them. But just because we can’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”
Except, believer or not, did I just compare the god of Abraham to germs?
We didn’t settle things one way or the other, and I didn’t expect us to. B went on to tell me about the guards who either punched or shot Jesus, he wasn’t sure which. Apparently, they watched a movie about it in school … because, of course they did. (And all I could envision was Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ!)
This was just the opening volley in a conversation that we’ll be having for years to come. At times like this, I wish I did have a steady faith, so that I could give my child an answer – an answer that I believe is right. But I don’t have that – I have friends who do, and I admire them, but I’m not there right now.
I’m being really honest here, because I think it’s important. Very often, people begin with an assumption that Christianity (whatever brand they subscribe to) is the default religion, and that to believe anything else is to be WRONG. Everyone, from the president on down, is required to avow a belief in God. The problem with that approach is that it shuts down a conversation before it can begin. Let’s face it, you’re not going to convert me to your point of view by calling me names and telling me I’m going to hell.
Here’s a statement that’s gotten me in trouble before, but I stand by it:
I am looking forward to exposing my child to god and faith in many forms.
My best friend is a Buddhist. My in-laws are Catholic. My parents are Episcopalian. My brother is a musician. There are so many ways to express a human connection to the universe we live in. Going to church on Sunday isn’t the only – or correct – one.