I’m pretty proud of yesterday’s big conversation with Peanut, and I have only the Jehovah’s Witnesses to thank. I can’t believe it actually happened this brilliantly, but it did.
P and I were eating dinner when we saw a woman walk up the porch and knock. When I opened the door she apologized for interrupting dinner and invited us to a celebration of her faith and I thanked her then closed the door.
Peanut: What did she say?
Me: She wanted to invite us to a meeting.
P: Me, too?
P: And the cats?
M: No. Just the people.
P: What’s the meeting for?
M: Well, she and her family believe something and they want to tell us about what they believe.
P: Is it true?
M: Nobody knows, but she wants to tell us about it.
P: What does she believe?
M: Well, this is a big idea…….People have always tried to figure out how the Universe and the solar system and the Earth and humans got here, and some people believe that some chemicals got really hot and exploded and made the Universe, and some people believe that a kind of creator, not like a person but kind of like a ghost person that was here before anything else was here made the planets and the solar system and the people.
P: Do you believe that?
M: No. Daddy and I don’t believe that something decided to make the Universe. We believe that physics made the Universe. But lots of people we know believe a spirit decided to make everything and then created planets and people. [He asks who and I list the people we know and tell him who does and who does not believe in God.]
P: Well I believe a…what’s the name of it?
M: Most people who believe call it god. One god or lots of gods.
P: Yeah. I believe god made everything.
P: But I believe something else made god.
P: Yeah. It was kind of like a bicycle that was just a basket and people have to push it and it made the god.
M: So a bicycle that’s just a basket makes a creator, and the creator makes people, and the people push the bicycle.
P: Yup. That’s just what I believe.
P: Is god around anymore or did it die?
M: Depends who you ask. Many people believe many different things. Some believe god is everywhere and is still everywhere and will always be everywhere. Some believe god is an idea that people made and that idea died.
P: I don’t believe that.
P: No. The bicycle and the god are still around.
M: Hmmm. Okay.
Here’s the thing. I’ve been waiting for just the right moment to introduce the idea that lots of people believe different things about supernatural forces. And I wanted it to be a discussion that respects all ideas, like our discussion about the afterlife late last year. So I’m thrilled the faithful came to the door. I’m proud of myself for teaching P by example to respect what other people believe, and I’m proud of not teaching him only what I believe. I’m glad I’ve been introduced to so many faiths and paid attention, so I can explain, when he asks, the basics of Catholic and Lutheran and Muslim and Buddhist and Jewish belief. I’m glad I got to introduce the idea seriously, with no pressure to hurry, no frustration at who introduced the topic or how. I’m glad I got to explain that we believe something, that other people believe something, and that you never know who will believe what, but that it’s generally pretty important to them.
And I’m proud, in a detached intellctual kind of way, that P saw the immediate question of “what existed before the Creator?” because this kid is gonna be way cool to talk with about philosophy, theology, and sociology, whatever he ends up believing.
[for the record, I do not hold his faith in an immobile bicycle as Creator of the Universe and all within on par with other faiths, nor am I trying to mock religion when I detail his reaction to being exposed to the idea of god. It's his first try at faith, he's four, and we're just getting started on this journey. Please don't misinterpret my being willing to relate his "god #1 invents god #2 so the latter can create people to wheel god #1 around" theory as an attack on any ideas you may hold dear. Just because I don't believe doesn't mean I disdain belief itself. There is no way the bicycle that is just a basket dogma will hold up, nor that fascinating theological texts like Jesus Interrupted or Misquoting Jesus dedicated to Peanut’s bicycle-god-people trinity, but who am I to judge, is the point.)