The radio played softly in the background, as our car drove across the congested, well traveled highway that would take us home. We’d been down for my husband’s ten year high school reunion, and it doubled up as a nice visit with his family. It’d been a busy but great weekend.
For the early duration of the trip home, my husband and I had been discussing the long list of things we had to get accomplished before his sister’s wedding in three weeks. There was a lull in the conversation when suddenly, a small voice piped up from the backseat.
“Who made the world?”
I whipped my head back to look at my son. “What?”
“Who made the world? Megan says that god did.”
I groaned inwardly, as I raised an eyebrow in the direction of my husband, his expression matched mine. Even
though him and I differ in our beliefs, slightly, we agreed that religion wasn’t going to be something that we actively sought out or taught our children. So far, the plan hasn’t really hit many snags. In all honesty, I was surprised it took this long for the topic to come up. Especially since our public school reads the Lord’s Prayer every morning. Beyond asking what churches are, and a small discussion who god is, we haven’t broached the topic much. There just hasn’t really been a need to.
Image Credit: Russ Seidel
My mind raced as I tried to figure out how to have this discussion without placing the same religious fervor that atheists are occasionally guilty of themselves.
“Do you remember that show we watched? Cosmos?”
He nodded eagerly.
“The uncomplicated answer is that there was a big explosion, and the earth was created from that.”
“So space created the world?”
“Actually, that’s pretty accurate, love.” For a moment, I paused, ” Why do you ask?”
“Megan told me god created everything, and I told her that’s not true. I told her science did it.” He seemed proud of himself. Of course, I was, too. Not because he told this girl that science created the world, but that he stood up for himself. Something that he struggles to do every single day.
“Hmm. Some people do believe that god created the world.”
“Can we watch Cosmos again? I want to learn about the earth being built.”
“Yes, of course we can.”
The sun was setting as we continued to weave our way in and out of traffic. I was bursting with so many words, so many things I wanted to tell him but I stopped myself. My experiences aren’t his experiences, and while I hope as he ages, he’ll learn from the experiences I had growing up in an overzealous religious home, now is absolutely not the time to be sharing them. Beyond that? I don’t want him to feel like we are pressuring him; he deserves to hone his critical thinking skills and come to his own conclusions, even at six years old.
“Mama? Is god real?”
It was as though he was reading my mind and could see that I was bursting to share more with him. How do you answer this without placing a certain amount of expectation on your child to believe as you do? Sure, I would love for him to come to similar conclusions as I have, but I value his need and ability to do that on his own without pressure. I looked at my husband, and immediately had the answer.
“Well, some people believe he is, and that’s okay. Personally? I don’t believe in him at all. But, your dad doesn’t know if god is real or not. It’s okay to say that you aren’t sure, just like it’s okay to say that you believe he is real, or like me, that you don’t.”
“Do I have to believe he’s real?
“You can believe whatever you want. If you want to believe in god, or any other religion, we will still love and absolutely support you. All your Dad and I want is for your to be a good person and to be kind.”
For a moment, he took his eyes off me and looked out his window.
“I like science. I believe in science. It’s cool.”
“Yeah, science is pretty cool.”
Satisfied with our discussion, we went back to playing with his dinosaurs and his sister’s Frozen dolls.
My husband, as quietly as he could, whispered, “Do you know how much easier that conversation would have been if we said god did it all?”
I chuckled, and said, “Yes, but since when have we ever done anything the easy way?”