Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Religion in a godless household

I gave up God for good when I was seven. We'd never been particularly tight, God and I, so it was probably to be expected that it wouldn't last. But I gave it a good run. I read my bible stories; I attended a series of religious preschools and, for a short time, real school; I attended service through school once a week, and usually opted to go again on Sundays; I said my prayers nightly. And I believed.


But I never joined the ranks of the highly devoted. At a very early age, I started making my own rules. The bible stories to me were interesting stories. I kept my bible on the same shelf as my copies of Aesop's Fables and Just So Stories. I couldn't believe in a vengeful God. I decided he was more like Santa Claus. He sees you when you're sleeping; he knows when you're awake; he knows if you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake. My God was jolly with a round little belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly. And my God would never punish with anything more than a lump of coal in your stocking.

To this day, when I close my eyes and picture God, he is wearing a red suit.

The road from cheerfully molding my own religion to dropping it entirely was a short four step process that started in kindergarten.
  1. My kindergarten class studies Genesis. I ask on what day God made the dinosaurs. It is an honest question, but I'm sent to the corner for disrupting the class. And I am given no answer.
  2. I begin to study the bible on my own time. I read the story of God's command that Abraham sacrifice Isaac. In all my six years, I have never been so appalled. I decide God is an egomaniacal ass.
  3. It occurs to me that my baby brother has not - and will not - be baptized, and consider the ramifications. I decide I cannot respect a God who would turn his back on my perfect brother, simply because his head hadn't been doused with water. I do not believe that such a god could exist.
  4. My 2nd grade glass is studying Native Americans. We talk about some tribes' religious beliefs. My classmates scoff at their silly miracles. I find them silly as well, but can't help but notice the similarities between their sillies and mine.
And so I broke up with God. He and I? We just didn't fit. We didn't work together. He was all creation and heaven and I was all evolution and solar system. He was into immaculate conception and virgin births and I was pretty sure I was going to grow up to be a vicious slut.

So what does a heathen mother tell her son when he asks about God?

I tell him the truth: no one knows for sure. I tell him that there are lots of different beliefs in lots of different gods. I tell him that there are people who believe in no god at all. I tell him that there are people who follow established religions and people who create their own. I tell him that everyone needs to make that decision for himself, and that there is no right or wrong choice.

And up until recently, The Kid has always opted to believe in God and the angels and heaven. And I have always supported him in that choice, offering to take him to church if he's so inclined (he never is) and reading to him from my once cherished bible whenever he asks.

But recently he announced that he no longer believes in any of these things; that they no longer make any sense to him; that the only way Jesus could've been resurrected is if he was a vampire, and vampires aren't real.

And while I respect his recent decision (and happen to agree with him), I'm surprised at how sad it makes me. I must confess, I'm afraid that this is only the beginning. That soon he'll give up on all wonder, all miracles, all magic. How do I help him resist the urge to squash all that is mystical under the mighty steel-toed boot of the analytical?

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