How to talk about God

I have a predicament. I’m what one would politely call an agnostic. I’m not a believer in a specific higher power, I’m a firm believer in the power of humans to both create and destroy. I believe that this is our world, that the lives to which we are born are those on which we must focus.

But enough about me. Now that I have children I understand (frustratingly enough) that life is not about me or what I believe…

This was brought home to me rather abruptly during Easter celebrations, when my daughter came home with what I described as a ‘reed cross’ to my friends, who politely told me that it was actually a palm Sunday cross. Then she started telling me all about crosses, and drawing them on every piece of paper she could find. And finally, she told me the story of Jesus, how he died on a cross, but then he lived again ‘the next day’.

And she ended it all with the searching, ‘did you know?’

At which point my husband, who has slightly more traditional beliefs, looked at me and raised his eyebrows questioningly.

As it turns out, I did know, because my parents had sent me to a rather strict Anglican school. But the question was not whether or not, or how much, I knew, but rather how much of it I chose to share.

Should I explain the story of God and Jesus to Megan? (If you’re reading this, and you know me, please don’t laugh. I do actually know some of the story!)

If so, how should I share it? A friend’s mother, who shares similar beliefs, explained that she does read Bible stories to her granddaughter, but she always prefaces them with ‘This is just a story…’

All well and good, but Cinderella is just a story too, and who begins that by saying, ‘this is just a story…?’

Leave it to the school?

Or do I leave it up to the school, trusting that they will likely provide a better, all round view of religion?

Given my experience, that’s also not the best solution. I’ve chosen to send Megan to an Anglican school, and she will as such be introduced to the Anglican version of religion, when I’d really rather she was exposed to a wide variety of religions.

Certainly, and probably most responsibly, I could take it upon myself to expose her to different religions. But the reality is that I wear my heart on my sleeve, and whenever I talk about God, I tend to place the deity in inverted commas – and you can hear it in my tone of voice. As I’d really like Megan to make up her own mind about religion one day, I don’t want to taint her opinion at such a young and impressionable age.

And, if I’m to be completely honest with myself, there’s a part of me that loves the innocence of faith. Even I, at some stage in my life, believed in something. The story goes that I came home from nursery school holding my hands open, and walked around like that all day. When my mom finally asked why, I told her that God was everywhere, and maybe he needed a place to sit.

Maybe therein lies my answer. I know it’s a pipe dream, but like most parents, I’d like my children to remain as innocent as possible, for as long as possible. Cynicism and skepticism are personality traits that should only develop with age. Perhaps, for the moment, I should focus on teaching myself to read the one child-friendly copy of the Bible that we possess with as much enthusiasm as I read Cinderella.

How have you dealt with your child’s religious curiousity?

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