A Discussion About The Big Guy And His Son


With all the recent hullaballoo, Easter snuck up on me this year.  Seems like I was just saying to myself, “I have plenty of time to buy all the crap – er, treasures – for the kids’ Easter baskets,” and then suddenly, I went to Target to buy paper towels and cereal, and all the Easter stuff was on clearance!  I confess, I spent several long minutes considering the possibility of letting Easter slip by unnoticed this year, but I realized that the kids know it’s this weekend thanks to all the talk at school.

It brought to mind a question, though: why do we celebrate Easter?  I mean WE as in us, our particular family.  And then I thought, well, if the kids have expectations of Easter, be they baskets and bunny prints or otherwise, I think it warrants a discussion about what all this Easter business is about.  So Michael and I opened a conversation with Joey, age 8, yesterday, that went something like this:

MICHAEL: “Joey, what is Easter about, anyway?”

JOEY: “I dunno . . . bunnies and stuff, I guess.”

MICHAEL: “Well, you know, some people believe that today, which is Good Friday, is the day Jesus died on the cross for everyone’s sins, and that Easter is when he came back to life and went to Heaven.”

JOEY: “I don’t even believe in Jesus!”

ME: “Why don’t you believe in Jesus?”

JOEY: “I don’t know . . . it just sounds pretty crazy and made up.”

ME: “What about God?  What do you think about God?”

JOEY: “God isn’t real.”

MICHAEL: “How do you know?”

JOEY: “No one’s ever seen him, have they?”

ME: “So how likely do you think it is that some guy died, and then three days later came back alive, somehow got out of the cave he was put in when he was dead, and then rose into Heaven for everyone to see?”

JOEY: “Very unlikely.”

ME: “So what do you think happens after we die?”

JOEY: “I don’t want to think about that!”

ME: “Okay, but really, what do you think happens?  Do you think after we die we go to some other place, like maybe Heaven, or Hell?”

JOEY: “No!  Where’s Heaven?  Come on.  Where would it be?  Nobody’s ever seen it, have they?”

MICHAEL: “So what do you believe?”

JOEY: “Well, I believe in Santa Claus, that’s for sure!”

Okay, so his critical thinking skills have a ways to go.

***

This morning I had a discussion with Daisy, age 6, that went something like this:

ME: “So, Daisy, do you know why people celebrate Easter?”

DAISY: “Um, no, not really.”

ME: “Well, some people celebrate Easter because they believe it’s when Jesus came back alive and went to Heaven for everyone to see.  And some people celebrate Easter as a way to celebrate Spring.”

DAISY: “People can’t come back alive when they’re dead!”

ME: “Well, some people think that Jesus did.  Do you know who Jesus is?”

DAISY: “Um, wasn’t he a little baby and a little girl cried because she couldn’t find anything to give him?”

(Hmmmm, interesting.  No idea where that came from.)

ME: “Um, I’m not sure about that.  Anyway, some people believe that Jesus was God’s son, and that when Jesus grew up, he died for everyone’s sins, so that everyone could go to Heaven when they die.”

DAISY: “God isn’t real!  It’s just pretend, Mom.”

ME: “So what do you think happens after we die?”

DAISY: “That’s like bad thoughts that I don’t like to think about.”

ME: “Right.  But do you think that after we die, maybe we get to go to this really special place called Heaven?”

DAISY: “No!  It’s pretend, Mom!”

***

And there you have it, straight from the uncluttered minds of pure, innocent children.

***

It is interesting when you think about it, though (if you’re so inclined to . . .), that the natural inclination seems to be NOT to believe.  For kids who have not undergone long-term indoctrination, it’s a stretch, even for those inclined to believe in Santa.

It seems to me that if God were real, if Jesus were the way, the light, and the truth, it wouldn’t all require such a hard sell.  The knowledge would just be there within all of us, hardwired into our brains and hearts.  It wouldn’t require all these mental gymnastics to try to make sense of what is really, if you want to be perfectly honest, completely nonsensical and preposterous.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  John 3:16

Okay, but he could have begotten a hundred sons.  A thousand.  A trillion!  He’s God, after all – all powerful, etc., etc.  So he begets a son and sends him to earth to do good works and then sacrifices him to show us lowly humans how much he loves us.  Really?  Seems like pretty small potatoes for someone so big and powerful.  That’s like a multi-billionaire giving away a dime to a homeless person.  Big deal!

And Jesus?  He didn’t sacrifice his life.  He was a puppet.  God’s stool pigeon!  He was supposedly sent here for the specific and sole purpose of one day being brutally killed . . . and then reanimated, whereupon he would physically rise into the sky, the implication being that that’s where Heaven is located – somewhere out there in outer space.  There was no choice in the matter – it was all preordained.  If you believe the story.

And who wants everlasting life, anyway?  I mean, seriously.  When you think about it, really think about it, it’s kind of creepy.  When I was still a believer, this is one of the things I had a lot of trouble with.  The idea of living forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever – even in Paradise! – freaked me the hell out.  You mean it never ends?  Never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever?  Wow.  No thanks.

I get the appeal of all this.  Generally speaking, the human race is terribly afraid of death – and of life for that matter.  It’s frightening to think that we might be all alone out here, completely at the mercy of a random universe.  That there actually might not be a point to any of this – except what we each choose to make of it.  It’s comforting to think that there is some omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent fatherly figure out there who cares about our well-being and is looking after us, that death isn’t so bad and scary because, wow, we get to go to this really awesome place after we die where all wrongs will be righted and there will be no suffering.  Yeah, that sounds really great.  I get it.  The fact that these notions are appealing and comforting, though, don’t make them real.

As for us, we’ll just keep recognizing Easter as a way to celebrate Spring and life.

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18 Comments on “A Discussion About The Big Guy And His Son”

  1. Wendy
    April 24, 2011 at 3:58 am #

    Will you be telling your son there is no such thing as Santa… ?

    • Lisa
      April 24, 2011 at 4:05 am #

      I trust that he’ll figure that out for himself, Wendy.

  2. Megan
    April 24, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    I feel for your children… Not because they don’t believe in God, but because you have not given them the facts to let them decide for themselves. Makes me sick.

    • Lisa
      April 24, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

      What “facts” are those, exactly?

      • Megan
        April 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

        The entire bible. The fact that Jesus died on the cross for YOU

      • Lisa
        April 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

        The bible is NOT fact. It’s merely the allegations of a group if men who claim that they received the divine word if god, directly from god himself. It’s not fact. If
        There were evidence to back it all up, leaving no room for question or doubt, then it would be fact, not faith. Your
        beliefs are characterized as ” faith” because it’s a belief in that for which there is no evidence.

        So you feel for my children because I haven’t filled their
        heads with YOUR particular brand of faith? Nice.

  3. pris
    April 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Hi Lisa, I’ve been reading your blog on and off for some time and while I admire your strength in everything you have faced, I feel compelled to comment today.

    I am a Christian and firm believer of God and Jesus Christ. It saddens me to sense your disdain for Christianity and Christians alike when you post about my faith. It is, however, not surprising. Rejection of God itself stems from the sinful nature of humans. Sinful nature which is present in each and every person. Because undoubtedly even Christians fail time and time again to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, our Lord.

    You claim that not one part of the Bible is true. But if you only spent some time to do a little bit of research, you will find that there is a plethora of evidence supporting the events in the Bible. Also, no one will know what Heaven is like in actuality until Jesus’ second coming. What are you afraid of?

    It may be extremely difficult for your children to come to know and love God, as they live in a household with a parent who doesn’t believe. But our God is capable of anything. As they grow, I hope they will continue to be exposed to the Bible and to God. If they should ever show interest, I sincerely hope that you won’t discourage or belittle their curiosity.

    • Lisa
      April 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm #

      Pris, you’ve twisted my words. Where did I say that “not one part of the Bible is true”? What I said is that there is no evidence that supports the bible as “fact.” You claim that there is a “plethora of evidence supporting the events of the Bible.” Could you please point me to this plethora of evidence? I assume you have it at your fingertips.

      My kids do, in fact, from time to time express curiosity about matters pertaining to God. I do not discourage or belittle that curiosity. We have open, frank discussions about faith and science and things that can be proven and things that cannot be proven. If they one day find themselves on a path of faith and belief in a god, I will have no problem with that, as long as they don’t try to shove those beliefs down my throat.

      I find it disappointing that you’ve followed my blog for some time and have never felt compelled to comment and offer a word of encouragement during times of adversity, but you suddenly feel compelled to comment only to defend your faith and express sorrow that my children are not being instilled with YOUR beliefs.

  4. Michael
    April 24, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    @ Megan: did you make available to your children all the “facts” and let them decide for themselves? Did you make available to them the Jewish Bible, the Koran, the Mormon Bible, any of the many eastern religious writings/teachings, and the countless other versions of the “facts” before letting them decide for themselves? Did you also make available to them the “facts” pointing to no God, before letting them decide for themselves (assuming you have children that is, and if you don’t, will you?) whatever it is they decided?

    We have several bibles in our house: I think a King James one, the Five Books of Moses, and the Greatest Man that Ever Lived (Jehovah’s Witness). We haven’t plopped them on the bookshelves and said to our kids “read these and decide for yourselves,” but I think even you’d agree that to be fair we ought to acquire the Koran (Quran, or however it’s spelled) and the many other religious teachings that swear they’re correct and make them available to our kids before we can say we provided to them all the “facts” before letting them decide.

    I also came to a realization this morning that I think you’d also agree with. Wouldn’t God view aetheists a little more favorably, or at least with a breath of fresh air? Here you have a bunch of people who, even in the face of no promise of heaven, eternal life, and no fear of the awesome power of God, decide (as one example) to be nice just to be nice, without any expectation of a reward, just because it seems like the right thing to do. I bet God would get a kick out of people like that–who didn’t want anything from him, who didn’t, upon death, come to cash out their promise from him.

    If I’m God, I’d much rather reward the aetheists for being good just for the hell of it instead of all my other children whom I had to coax, threaten, whip out the fire and brimstone, flood the earth for 40 days and nights, sacrifice my own child for, scare the shit out of, and make all these promises for salvation, just so they’d behave like civilized people. Too much damn work. Maybe that’s why God became so cranky.

    Anyway, I think I’m right on this one. It may sound nutty (I don’t think it does), but it certainly would fall under the rubric of “God works in mysterious ways.”

  5. Jen
    April 24, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    I wondered what comments you would get for this one. I like the way you led the discussion with your children. You asked them what they thought. You didn’t tell them what was true. Such a refreshing approach. I don’t feel sorry for your kids. I feel sorry for the kids of people who preach, who shame, who tell their kids what they have to believe, what is fact.

    For what it’s worth, I’m an athiest too and very strong in my beliefs. (For the religious readers out there, athiesm is NOT a lack of beliefs. It’s a set of beliefs that are different from yours.)

    I find it odd that it is “shameful” to admit to athiesm. While I’m strong in my beliefs, I have not had the courage to admit them so openly in most circles. All those “holier than though” christians are so judgemental against people with different beliefs. And yet, one of their catch phrases is “Thou shalt not judge.” Um, okay. Either stop preaching, or at least practice what you preach, please.

    I respect your courage in putting this out there. I’m sorry for the judgement you have to listen to from those who think they’re better than us because they believe what someone told them was true. Please know that there are many who think the way you do. I think many of them just tend to be quiet about it to avoid judgement.

    • Lisa
      April 24, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

      Thanks, Jen.

  6. Asha
    April 24, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    Great post Lisa! I also love what Michael wrote. So true!

  7. Keri
    April 25, 2011 at 4:31 am #

    Kudos for teaching your children to think! Not enough parents do in todays world. From reading your blog, you seem to be teaching your children empathy and compassion; two values that I feel are often lacking among professed “Christians.” I know that lack of empathy is ultimately what drove me from the Catholic Church. Well, that and their medieval views concerning women!

    To borrow a line from one of C.S. Lewis’s books, “It is not the name to which you dedicate good deeds that matters. What matters is the deed itself.” I think that is pretty much what Michael was saying in his comment

  8. Addie
    April 25, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    WEll, I could write a long, drawn out rant-y type comment, but I dont think it would matter…

    What I do wonder though… a while ago, you did a book swap with another mom – I believe she gave you a Christian book and you gave her an atheist one (sorry if I got that wrong)… but you never posted your thoughts on the book or the swap, so I was just curious…

    • Lisa
      April 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

      Addie, I posted my thoughts on the book she gave me here: http://booklust-lisa.blogspot.com/2010/08/case-for-christ.html She never told me her thoughts on the book I gave her (The New Atheism); after swapping books, we never talked about the books or our thoughts on them with each other. She and I are FB friends, and we live in the same neighborhood, so see each other around the neighborhood and at school from time to time. We’re friendly, but not friends. She’s a very nice person, but also so wrapped up in her religion and faith that I have a very difficult time relating to her. I’m sure she has a difficult time relating to me as well. It’s unfortunate, I think, that this type of thing can and does come between people. Shouldn’t faith bring people together? It tends to separate people though. Anyway, I found her book ridiculous and utterly unconvincing. Perhaps she found my book the same way.

      • Addie
        April 26, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

        I must have missed that a long the way… thanks for the comment to explain.

  9. christina
    April 25, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    I can’t add anything to this comment that Michael hasn’t already said so eloquently. I just don’t get what the big deal is. Do the same people who leave comments on YOUR blog about YOUR beliefs feel sorry for children of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.? I’m not sure what it is about Christianity that enrages people so. There has been more blood shed in the history of the world, in the name of Christ, than any other reason. I thought Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek and do unto others….

  10. Maggie
    May 8, 2011 at 5:50 am #

    WOW! Lisa you’ve been through the ringer. I’ve been away a bit on my own crazy journey and had no idea Michael was sick. I’m sorry for you all, and will throw my good thoughts and wishes (some call it prayer… whatever!) up into the universe for you guys. I used to comment here and there on Finnian’s Journey… as I share that path with you having identical twins with Down syndrome. I’ve also journeyed down the path of questioning my religion and faith. (Religion died but faith survived.) Interestingly, I never bought into the whole LITERAL bible thing from the start and so for me, I questioned and searched my heart/gut/soul and looked at facts. Then I listened to others, I interpreted what I believe is a non-literal account of the life of a good man named Jesus (Christ) whose example we could emulate… like so many others including Martin Luther King Jr and the likes (in Buddhism Jesus and Martin would be a Boda Satfa… I’m sure I misspelled that) and came out saying, OK I’ll be a Christian and emulate that good life. I could just as easily chosen, and do attend to other peaceful figures such as Ghandi and King! I ultimately came to believe there is a God/creator/call him/it/her what you will and we are all the children of that… God — a creator who did up this whole universe and then some… something big and unknowable at least at this time. And I decided that Jesus rising was a figurative account of his soul living on whether as energy or an “angel” here or in “heaven” which would be wherever it is that the essence of a person goes after death b/c you cannot destroy energy. I questioned my religion and I read about other religions and belief systems and I came out restructuring my belief supported by the scientific evidence as a non-religious, non-church-going “Christian” b/c I believe that he lived and if I emulate his good example I’ll be a decent person. I am not a pawn in anyone’s chess game. For me, NONE of this is literal, ALL of it is personally interpretive and you, like everyone else, will believe what you want, what works for you… and NONE of that matters a bit except if we emulate BAD/not nice people! Many years ago, my brother-in-law, raised Jewish but a self-proclaimed atheist, said to my born-again Mother that he believed there is good and evil in each man and we should strive to foster the good and, effectively, squelch/suppress the evil. OK! So, I went through the similar journey and came out a self-made believer in my own version of Christianity. it works for me. BTW, “miracles” do happen every time 2 cells join and grow into a baby. Science only explains the mechanics, for me.

    I actually like to listen to the views of others so long as they communicate their belief structure in a reasonable and open-minded fashion (i.e. not “I’m right and you’re wrong b/c you came to a different conclusion”). I avoid preachy Catholics, intolerant Muslims and self-righteous Jews. My faith is personal and private. It’s well thought t and I put it to the test constantly… so far so good. I assume you will teach your children all POVs and to think and decide for themselves is a logical path (though very few traditional Catholics do so). I respect your choice. I respect your journey of self discovery. Good luck with your new belief structure… whatever works for you!

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