Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Talk

We had THE TALK a few days ago. It was not the most comfortable talk in the world, but I thought it was important that the kids hear this from me rather than from their friends at school. If I had a choice, it would be a topic I wouldn't have to address at all, but the world being what it is, I did have to address it, and I'm sure I will again in age-appropriate ways as the children get older.

"There are people in the world who believe that gods exist," I told the boys.

"Nuh-uh," said A.

"No, really," I said. "In fact... there are MANY people who believe that."

"No, Mommy, no, you're TRICKING us!" D said.

Last year I had given the kids some parts of the story of Jesus, but I'd left out a key detail about the whole son-of-God thing. This year I laid it all out for them.

"I know who Jesus is!" D said. "Jesus Price!" Then he got distracted by the fact that I have fingers, and my fingers have bones. Apparently this is more interesting than discussing the nature of divinity.

"What do you think a church is?" I asked A.

"It's a place where people go... to sing... and, uh, take their shoes off." I think he realized for the first time that he actually had no idea.

"People go there to talk about God," I said.


We read the book What is God? by Etan Boritzer. There are many things I like about this book:

I like that it dismisses the "old man in the clouds" idea of God out of hand: Next time you fly in an airplane, look out the window at the clouds. But you won't see that God there, because no one has ever seen that God! 

It describes Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and Buddha as "teachers" without any hint of the supernatural.

It talks about how religion often causes fighting, which is a big issue I have with religion. It says that most religions are almost the same! and gives equal weight to many people who believe that there are many Gods, not just one God. It also says that although people of different religions pray in different places, you can really pray anywhere, again a knock on organized religion.

My favorite part is the end:

You can close your eyes now,
And listen to your breath go slowly in and out,
And think about how you are connected to everything,
Even if you are not touching everything.
Try to feel how you are connected
To your Dad, and how you are part of your Mom,
Try to feel how you are part of your whole family,
Like your brother or sister, your grandparents,
Your aunt or uncle, cousins, even your friends.
And try to feel how all of those people,
Are part of a whole bigger family,
And how all the families of the world,
(Even those we can't see or touch),
Are really a part of you and your family.

I talk about this connection with our kids a lot. I never use the word "God" to describe it, but the idea is the same.

The only thing I don't like about this book is that it makes no mention of people who do not believe in any gods. So it's not perfect. But only Allah is perfect, right?


  1. Well done. It isn't easy to communicate abstract ideas to children. Religion was never mentioned in my home when I was growing up, so when I friend described going to church, the only thing I could compare it to was the circus. I'll stop now. ;-)

  2. great post!
    I'm going to go check out that book now.
    I was never really intentional about talking with my oldest about religion until he came home from school with the story of being told by a teacher that if he didn't believe in god then he couldn't celebrate christmas! After that I realized I need to prepare him at home, like so many other talks we need to have with our kiddos. I'm planning on being more intentional with my littler one.

  3. I see what you did there…"the talk." You make me laugh. This is a great post, though, and something that always comes up with us this time of year. Andrew's mom is an Episcopal priest, so we have to be careful not to knock religion while still talking about what WE believe. Sounds like this book might be a good addition to our library. And "Jesus Price" is priceless!

  4. Thanks for sharing how you handled this. We don't yet have a plan for this talk but I will keep that book in mind

  5. Great post! We haven't had any one talk, but based on some things our six year old talks about, it is very clear that both his agnostic parents and godless Seattle are wearing off on him. But we don't want to discourage him from exploring the connectedness, as you say, or other thinking/growth opportunities that one can find in organized religion. We have him signed up for a mindfulness class through a Buddhist group in town...I'm also very interested in that book and will give it a try!

  6. We just brought our 7 y.o. daughter home from Ethiopia last month. At our first meal together at the guest house in Addis, she put her hands together to pray before the meal and looked at my husband and me confused because we just dug right in to eat. We chose to just carry on like we do at home with every meal and she quickly became used to our non-religious ways. I thought we would have a good year before she finally brought up religion but was I wrong! Just yesterday, 4 weeks after coming home to South Carolina, our daughter asks me if I'm Christian. I stammered and said, "well, no, I'm not." She was speechless. I don't think she ever met anyone who was not a Christian or a Muslim. We carried on with other things we were doing (getting dinner ready, etc.) but I know she will probably bring it up again. It's tough because she still doesn't speak English well and I really wanted to have this conversation when I could explain our position on religion a little better. Thank you for this blog and for the book recommendation.

    1. Congratulations on your new daughter, Rhonda!