Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Big questions from small people

My friend Evil Brian's young daughter asked him today why people went to heaven. At first I thought it was pretty cute, but then it gave me a moment of panic. How are we going to answer questions on this matter?

I mean, right now I'm an atheist. I believe in goodness and humanity and love, but I'm also pretty skeptical. And I guess I think it's one of my better qualities. I don't think that I will change. I mean, I could. I only became an atheist maybe 3 years ago. So, could I change back? Maybe. I was a goddist before that. And Jeffrey's beliefs are not quite as clearly cut.

Anyway, I feel like I have to prepare for these questions. I mean, how early can you really introduce concepts like subjectivity? I mean, I imagine that in the early years, you rely on the concept of absolute right and wrong to keep the kid alive. Don't hit. Don't put that in your mouth. Don't touch that. I am right, and you  must listen to me.

But when does "Here are some things that some people -- in fact, most members of your extended family -- believe in but your mom happens to not be one of them" come in? The idea of beliefs at all? In my early schooling, it was just fact vs. opinion, that which is provable vs. that which is felt or judged. What the hell are these beliefs anyway? Not provable, but pertaining to facts, not opinions. How early does a brain grasp this?

Also, like I said, I came to atheism as an adult, and it was a somewhat harsh conversion. Would it be better to cushion the kid with some comfort at first? I mean, right now I don't think so. But I do think I need to ask all the questions.

1 comment:

Jill said...

This is something I'm really struggling with myself. As I move further and further from the religion of my childhood...more "agnostic" all the time...it seems hypocritical to teach my children about God. I spend a lot of time thinking about the comfort I found in God as I grew up, though, and then I wonder if it'd be cruel not to?