My five-year-old son has a good friend up the street whose family is religious. Alex often has asked if he can go over there on Sunday morning, and I always say “No, Honey, they are at church now. You can go over in the afternoon.” So of course, now he asks if he can go to church WITH them.
Now, I’m not rabidly anti-religion like some people I know. But the only church I’d let Alex attend at this point is the local Unitarian Universalist church – I went there for a while about five years ago, and I know they don’t teach any “religion” at all (it was more like a town meeting with a little poetry reading thrown in). I’m not saying *all* Unitarian churches are that way, but our local one sure seemed to be.
I’ve tried to explain religion to Alex before, and it just confused us both. I think this sums up his understanding so far:
There are books with stories in them. Some people believe that all of the stories are really true. Other people believe that some parts are true, but other parts were made up (like a lot of the stories that Alex himself tells!). Other people believe that everything was completely made up.
Church is kind of like school, but the teaching comes from these religious books. The people who go to church might get mad if you tell them that you do not think the stories are true.
Alex is a natural-born skeptic (or at least agnostic). He likes stories, but he does not think that anything that doesn’t SEEM like it could be true IS true. He likes stories about vampires, zombies, gods, monsters, ghosts, and flying ponies. He does not think that means there are such things in the real world. His father and I, however, do tell him that just because you haven’t seen something, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – you can not prove that something does not exist.
When he asks me about Santa, god, ghosts, and the tooth fairy, I tell him that I have not seen them and don’t really believe in them, but a lot of people do believe in them and I can’t prove that they are wrong.
Some people have told me that it is good to expose Alex to some of the Christian stories as he’s growing up, so that at least he has some idea what people are talking about. So this week when I picked up his normal fare of library books about Greek myths and monsters, I picked up one book about the parables of Jesus. Because while a lot of the stories that other people tell about Jesus are just plain creepy, the dude himself told some good stories.
One thing I have no idea how to deal with is the crucifixion scene outside the local Catholic church. Life-sized representation of the cross with Jesus hanging there with his crown of thorns and people bowing in front of him. Alex has asked me a couple of times what’s going on there, and I have just changed the subject… really not interested in getting into how criminals used to be killed by nailing their hands and feet to wooden crosses and hanging them until they died of suffocation, blood loss, or exposure to the elements. And how some people believe that this one guy came back to life a few days later.
Although Alex does love zombie stories, so I guess he’d like that one, too.