“That’s what we believe, right Daddy?”
“That’s what we believe, right Daddy? What they just said on the radio, that God created the universe?”
Ahhh… I hadn’t really been listening, but NPR had just played an ad for a then-new Discovery Channel show called Curiosity, and the premiere episode was going to have Stephen Hawking lead a discussion about whether God created the universe (spoiler: Hawking says no). D, my oldest child who was then almost five, was eagerly listening to “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” when he heard this ad and tried to confirm with me what his family believed and, I guess, what he was supposed to believe.
In some families, this might be a simple answer, but not for us.
Largely, this is due to our mixed family. I’m an agnostic atheist, an active member of the Ethical Society of St. Louis (a humanist congregation), and formerly a member of a charismatic Lutheran megachurch. My wife, J, is an equally active member of a relatively-liberal Lutheran church. D and his younger brother, M, go to church with their mother, grandmother, and aunt most Sundays and occasionally to the Ethical Society with me. At bedtime, I’ll often read a book of creation myths or science to the boys, and J usually reads a children’s Bible.
Fortunately, there’s a second reason that it’s not a simple answer. J and I may disagree on the answer to Hawking’s question, but we agree that our children get to decide their own answers to questions like this.
So, after a deep breath, I answered “Well, Mommy and Grandma and Grandpa and Oma think so, but Daddy doesn’t – Daddy doesn’t think that God exists. Here’s the cool thing, though. You get to decide for yourself. You’ll get to ask questions and figure it out for yourself as you get older. Even better, you’ll get to change your mind as many times as you want to as you learn new things, even when you become a grown-up.”*
That was a good enough answer for D that day. But a few days later, he had another question.
“Daddy, if you don’t think there’s a God, then who created the world?”
My son had recreated the Cosmological Argument for the Existence of God on his own. Sure, it’s not a great argument, but at age four my kid was already as theologically sophisticated as William Lane Craig. I was a proud Daddy.
More importantly, he felt safe to ask me about something we disagree about. I hope that never changes, and I will do everything I can to keep it true.
*Yes, major thanks to Dale McGowan for inspiration on that.
Featured Image credit: Fredrik