Grasping the Invisible God

This post was published in Huffington Post Religion section. It is always an honor to be featured as a HuffPo blogger. Click here to view the article on their site. 

My Princess is newly three but yet has the ability to come across much older in her conversation. She is articulate beyond her years, and although she often exhibits age appropriate behavior (less tactfully spoken-  she can throw major tantrums and fits with the best of them), in many ways raising her feels like raising a child years beyond her biological age. At bedtime tonight I was rocking my little Princess and  she was chatty and engaged. I decided to broach a subject that I have never before addressed with her: The existence of God.

I knew the day would come and it isn’t that I have been dreading it, per se- I have just been delaying it. I think the concepts and explanations of a deity can be incredibly complex. As I have previously written, I am very opposed to the practice of early childhood indoctrination. Nonetheless, sometimes life situations force us to face things that we would much rather avoid. Over the holiday we visited our family in Northern California. Before the family dinner everyone held hands and bowed their heads to pray. This is customary in many families on holidays, devoutly religious or not- but in our little family of four… it simply is not. Naturally then, when instructed to bow her head to pray, my three year old broke the reverent silence loudly: “Mommy! What are we doing?!”  she hissed.

Well. If they didn’t already know we are heathens, they did right then.

20131223-165155.jpg

Couple that instance with the upcoming visit of my Mother who is so devout she has practically attained Sainthood- I knew it was time to take the plunge.

“Sissy. I need to talk to you about something.”

“Okay Mommy.”  She said, shifting on my lap.

“You know how I told you that saying ‘Oh my God!’ hurts some peoples feelings?”

“Oh yes! We can say ‘Oh goodness!’ instead. That doesn’t hurt people’s feelings, right?”

“Right. Do you know why saying ‘Oh my God’ hurts some peoples feelings?”

Silent fidgeting.

“The reason why saying ‘Oh my God!’ hurts some peoples feelings is because some people believe in God. I mean… (pausing to collect my thoughts. I really should have thought this through more before I blurted it out.)

“…The reason why saying ‘Oh my God!’ hurts some peoples feelings is because some people have an invisible friend who they call God. Well, some people call him other names too, like Jesus or Allah. Do you know what invisible means? Invisible- in other words ‘it cannot be seen’.”

“Oh, yes, invisible.” She responds confidently.

“You know how we can’t see the wind, but we can feel it blowing our hair, or we can see it moving the palm trees? Watch, (blowing on her hand) you can feel the air blowing on your skin, but can you see it?”

“No! I can’t see the wind, Mommy!”

“Right, Baby. That’s because the wind is invisible. You can’t see the wind but you know its there because you can see and feel it. That is what invisible means.”

“Yeah. Invisible…. Like if I stand behind that wall and you can’t see me, I am invisible. Right Mommy?”

“Right! Very good, Sissy. That’s right. If I can’t see you, you are invisible.”

“Ok, Mommy. Let’s try it. I am going to stand over there and you can’t see me, and we can practice invisible.” She hides behind her bed.

20131223-163013.jpg

“Where is Sissy?! I can’t see her! Ok…  So, some people have an invisible friend, in other words- a friend that they can’t see, and some people call them ‘God’, or ‘Jesus’. Some people believe that the invisible God is real and some people do not. Some people believe that God is pretend just like Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny is pretend.”

“Yeah. Santa Clause isn’t real Mommy. Santa Clause is just pretend. He’s just  a fun part of Christmas.”

“That’s exactly right, Baby. And you know how some kids really, really believe that Santa Clause is real? Well, some people also believe that their invisible God is really, really real.”

“I have an invisible friend, Mommy. Her name is Alice. Alice is right there.” She points across the room speaking with confidence about her favorite invisible companion.

“Yes. So is Alice real or pretend?”

“Alice is pretend Mommy.”

“That’s right. Alice is pretend. But some people chose to believe in their invisible friend named God, and some people do not. Mommy does not chose to believe that the invisible friend God is real, but some people do.”

“Yeah. I chose to believe he is real, Mommy.”

“Okay, Baby. That’s ok. You know who else believes in God?…. Your Granma.”

“Yes. Granma has an invisible friend just like me!”

“When someone talks to their friend God or Jesus, they call it praying. When they want to talk to their invisible friend, they pray. (pausing) Sissy, what does ‘invisible’ mean?”

“Invisible is like Alice.”

“That’s right. And what does ‘pray’ mean?”

“I don’t know.”

“Pray means that someone is talking to God, or Jesus… or Allah… there are lots of other names that people call him. Or her. There are lots of names for their invisible friend, and when they talk to them, they are praying. And so, when Granma comes to see us, she is probably going to be talking to her friend Jesus a lot. Granma believes in her invisible friend, God and Jesus. Mommy does not. But you know how some people chose to eat meat and some people do not? Well, Mommy does not chose to eat meat, and that’s okay. Some people chose to eat meat, and that’s okay too…. some people chose to believe in God, and that is also okay. Do you understand?”

“Yeah! Granma has an invisible friend like Alice!”

20131223-165015.jpg

She’s a genius. I swear my daughter is a genius.

As I walk through this parenthood journey I have decided that I would rather my children be free thinkersMore than being atheists, more than being vegans, more than being anything else- I want my children to develop the ability to think. The age of three is an awfully early age to pose such in depth concepts as the Trinity and the Immaculate Conception, but my daughter is certainly mature enough to start grasping concepts of real vs. pretend and belief vs. non-belief. Most importantly, she is never too young to start instilling tolerance into her lens of life.

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.37.49 PM

There are many views in this world, many beliefs, many convictions, and many  ways of thinking. I look forward to exposing my children to different trains of thought, at age appropriate moments and intervals, and as they are prepared to grasp them. I have given a lot of thought to my sole purpose as a parent. Is my intention to turn out plant-eating atheists? Would I love them any less if they were Bible-believing omnivores?

No. The answer is indisputably and firmly no.

There are enough of us already that carry an overwhelming amount of guilt for not turning out to be exactly as our parents planned and programmed us to be.

Instead, with my children, I wish not to teach them what to think, but rather how to think. I want my children to grow with a healthy awareness of the facts, and  I want them to ask questions. Oh, do I want them to ask questions! I hope that “Why” is their mantra, and that “How” is a path the leads them on a journey to discovery. I pray- if a plant-eating atheist can borrow the expression, that my children turn out to be great thinkers who never take a fact at face value and who, after leaving no stone unturned, can stand confidently on their own convictions. Raising children such as this would truly be life’s greatest work.

Screen Shot 2013-07-06 at 9.38.00 PM

14 thoughts on “Grasping the Invisible God

  1. Hi Justin Meade from Wellington New Zealand! I never leave comments, but just read this article on Huff Post. You are an incredibly smart woman and amazing mother. Yes, your daughter is a genius and utterly super cute! I used to be a hardline fundamentalist preacher in the Salvation Army until the bottom fell out of my world because I learned to question and think for myself. I’m still a strong believer in an indefinable God (Ground of Being); beyond that I lay no arrogant claim to to any inside knowledge of him/her. Wonderful article. Makes me want to hurry up and be a Dad!!

    • Hi Justin!

      Your comment means so much. It is encouraging to see that there are so many people who can relate and who share a similar view. I am so glad you visited my blog and left a remark! Stick around, I would love to have more of your feedback! (And congrats in advance – whenever you do because a Dad, to hull absolutely love it!)

  2. I found your blog from HH, and I’ve already read every post! (Slow day at work. My boss is out of the office.)

    I don’t have any kids, yet, but I’m definitely going to steal your “invisible friend” line when I have to explain god to them. Also, congrats on getting published on Huffington Post!

  3. Thank you for being brave enough to publicly acknowledge your atheism! More proof for believers that one can be a moral and ethical person without a god. In fact, you are more likely to be one, because you don’t believe anyone is going to forgive you your sins! Science and thinking for yourself rock!

    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond, Leslie! Funny- the anti-theist portion of my blog take the cake on the least loved posts :) ALthough a little of everything I write about seems to bug someone, this topic seems to cause the most stir. I write because I know that I am not the only one out there who feels this way & we can encourage each other by building our own networks of support. In the process, maybe one neigh-sayer will be caused to pause and think a moment- challenged to consider at least one point.

      Keep in touch!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s