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4 year olds & Heaven

Normally I find that facebook is the best medium for me to post my thoughts on life these days as I enjoy feedback on them... however I found myself today wanting to think through and write about the journey I have been on with my daughter and handling the inevitable confusion of religion with her. I don't really care to have that discussion of facebook and a part of my brain said, "Hey, your livejournal is still there waiting for you", and so I find myself here again.

It feels familiar to be writing here.

Our oldest dog, Aeris, passed away when Eve was three. At the time we explained that she was gone but that we had her ashes in a box. Eve would often ask me to see the ashes and often tell me how much she missed Aeris. Then her great grandmother passed and again we had to explain that someone she loved was gone. Times like that I can see the allure of heaven. You don't have to tell your child that her great grandmother is dead. Instead you can say she is waiting for her somewhere else, always watching her, always with her...

Eve handled both fairly well even though she often mentions how much she misses them both.

One day however she came home talking about heaven and how both her granny and Aeris were running around up there, happy, pain free, and watching over her. I felt like I had been punched in the chest. I had been so careful with her. Careful to be realistic and yet not essentially tell her that the things we love turn to dust and that's it. Now suddenly it was all undone, and I had two option. Let her believe this until she is older (which in turn opens gateways to other confusion) or tackle it head on and dash her new found happiness in thinking her dog and granny were frolicking in heaven.

I chose to talk about it with her and I did my best to explain that some people believe in God and heaven and some don't. She looked me dead in the eye wanting to know what I believed. And I was torn. She is going to believe whatever I believe. I don't want to raise an atheist simply because I am one, I want to raise a child that can think for herself. But that also means not letting her get brainwashed at a young age into buying into the fairy tales that so many others accept simply because they have heard them since before they can remember. I always find it disturbing how a religious person can look at another's beliefs an express disbelief that anyone could believe in something so fantastical (from cults, to paranormal, to other religions). The disassociation of their own fantastical beliefs from another persons is one of the great mysterious of humanity to me.

I told Eve I didn't believe. Immediately she told me she didn't believe either. Without hesitation. It kind of hurt me as I felt like she was being indoctrinated as an atheist the same way other children are indoctrinated as christians or muslims.... but as long as she wasn't self righteous about her beliefs then I figured things were ok and she would have time enough to figure out her own beliefs.

That was a while back and for the most part things have been fine, however her friends at school have begun imparting their sunday school teachings to her. Things like how God made us all and how much Jesus loves everyone. The side of church that is presented the children that doesn't include tithes, sinning, and hell. Then I noticed whenever she heard the word heaven or god in a song, she was quick to state, "that's not real" the same as if she heard a bad word on the radio and she replies "I won't copy that".

I knew I had to talk to her again, otherwise a child in school would be going on about heaven just to have Eve walk up and say it isn't real. That's not Eve's place, just as it was no one's place to talk to Eve about their beliefs. And that's the part that begin to anger me. That a person could be so far up their own ass about their religious beliefs that they think it is totally fine to start talking to someone else's child about it. The irony is, that forced me to sit down with my daughter and tell her that I didn't believe in this stuff and in turn that led to her deciding that she didn't believe either. So good job self focused christian, you forced my hand into telling my daughter that I don't believe any of these shenanigans.

I had another talk with her yesterday, explaining why some people believe in God. I explained how the world was a mystery to humans for a very long time. Humans came up with reasons to explain how it all works. Why the sun went up, why it rained, where people came from. And that over time we have figured out how a lot of these things work. And while we haven't solved every mystery, we have found that we don't need to make up stories to explain things. I went on to explain that god was one of these things that was created to explain the world and that many people still believe in god and heaven simply because their parents believe in it and have passed that information down.

She understood all of this immediately. In perfect clarity she replied, "Like when I get scared at night so I think there are monsters even though they aren't real." I was impressed with her grasp of the situation but also so sad. Sad because children are very logical beings, and I think almost every child could understand this simple viewpoint. But instead they are raised with their parents fears, superstitions, and biases.

I went on to explain that some people get very angry if they find out that people don't believe in the same thing as they do. Before I could continue she stated, "When my friends talk about god or heaven I just ignore them and I don't say anything." Yet again, she seemed to understand better than I could have hoped.

After that we made dinner and played games but I found myself feeling angry with the world that I had to have that conversation with her. Angry that in this day and age there are so many people blind to the world and the fallacies of religion. I am not what one would call an "angry atheist". I don't pick fights about it and for quite some time now I haven't cared what others believe. But back then it just affected me. Now I see my daughter having to navigate these waters, and I know how intolerant and insufferable people can be. I have had so many absolutely insane things said to me simply because I don't buy into the god delusion. I have been asked point blank why I don't just commit crimes every day since I don't believe in God.... as if morality comes from fear (sin) and rewards (heaven) alone.

The world is becoming more secular and more radicalized all the time. Less people are buying the bullshit, but those who do are getting more and more loud and irrational. I hate that my children have to grow up in a world so full of smoke and mirrors. I suppose the best I can do is prepare them for it and make sure they have the tools to know why they believe in whatever they believe and the self confidence to not be shaken or hurt when they find that common sense and logic are a minority viewpoint.

Not that anyone really reads this anymore, but comments have been set to be screened on this particular post.

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