“If God wants us to do a thing he should make his wishes sufficiently clear. Sensible people will wait till he has done this before paying much attention to him.”
“I cannot believe in a God who has neither humor nor common sense.”
W. Somerset Maugham
Followers of the riveting “Zachary’s Brain” series will remember that Zach is my 6-year-old stepson (7 this month) whose task of configuring the world – his knowledge is truly minuscule! – is unfortunately complicated by spending 2/3 of his time with his stepmother (a vanilla pan-Christian, some Protestant sect or other) and father (lapsed Catholic who once refused communion because he had problems with the Church, once joined his then-wife in mocking the Pope but now wears a crucifix and goes to church with wifey)…and the other third with me and his Mom, staunch atheists.
He has a 19-year-old brother whose atheist/skeptic credentials exceed mine: at age nine, he was telling other little Jewish kids that they wouldn't always have to wear their yarmulkes (skull caps).
Zach has to manage two radically conflicting views of the world, just when he’s trying to settle on one. My wife tearfully told me she’s sorry he has to go through this, but it’s the religious people who bring it on by trying to impose their view of truth on Zach, instead of just letting him use his mind to discover truth, as we urge him to do.
Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus
We’ve already been through the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. We urged him to ponder the crowds of Christmas shoppers. For whom are they buying gifts if Santa does it all? We also talked about the physical impossibility of visiting millions of households in one night.
It’s all warmup for God, as I’ve indicated in other posts. They get the kids used to believing something adults believe. They see the consensus and mutual bonding over religious fantasies and rituals. There’s nothing and nobody there, but the adults act as if there is. Very puzzling.
Part of our stragtegy for making a freethinker out of Zach is to get there first. Right nowthe religion they'rte feeding him is all warm, cuddly baby Jesus and going to heaven. WE will tell him about hell and who is supposed to go there. WE will teach him to question the tide of BS that will soon come at him. WE will tell him that Catholics and others pretend they are EATING their god and drinking his blood.
Zack’s original (and sometimes inappropriate) thoughts come out without any filter, as do the statements that he hears in one household, freely uttered in the other.
Thus we learned that he’d had the balls to blurt out that there were many other religions, gods, and holy books in the world. He was firmly informed that only one holy book and one deity count. But Zack would remember about all those others and how many people believe in them. Besides -- more premptive counter-programming -- we showed him lists of world religions and videos of Muslims and Jews praying.
And we learned, on my birthday, that you’re not supposed to celebrate the birthday of somebody who doesn’t believe in God. WTF?? This from his father, who says it’s in the Bible.
In the Bible, huh? Give me chapter and verse. Where does it say anything about birthdays? Zach, we found, was confabulating again, just to see how adults would react. Soon he will learn that you can't just make stuff up.
Where'd he get it?
Maybe it does say, somewhere in the Bible, in prescribing harsh and discriminatory treatment for unbelievers, that you should not honor them or remember them, or some Biblical BS. It probably didn’t say anything about birthdays because they are a more modern concept.
God did not create you.
His Mom told him, in no uncertain terms, that SHE created him with the help of his father, she carried him for nine months, gave birth to him, and God had nothing to do with it. Hence, all birthdays are worth celebrating by all concerned.
My wife also took advantage of the opportunity to point out how religion introduces artificial differences and divides people and teaches them to hate each other and regard themselves as SO special. Without religion, we’d just be…people (there would still be racists, no doubt). She made it a teachable moment.
Poor Zach, trying to make sense of things. Our message to him has been consistent: don’t always believe what someone tells you, look for the evidence, use your mind to find the truth.
This is what believers fear: that kids will use their mind. Think of how Zach’s Dad and step-mom will feel when he becomes a full fledged free-thinker – because he will. If I as a religious person had invested myself in what I now found to be fantasies, I would be very embarrassed, especially in front of the kid who now articulately refutes it (Zach in five years), if it turned out that I’d been wrong about it all.
Think of the “sunk costs,” as economists say. How much of the maintenance of religion is irretrievable investment, sunk costs?
The Battle for Zachary’s Brain continues. We recently discussed grace before meals, which they say at the other house. We assured Zach that his Dad should be thanked for earning the money to buy the food, step-mom for preparing it. That’s it. What sense does it make to thank God? Zach had no answer.