culture & community

The Third Generation

by Kate — October 11, 2011

Last week I had a Jehovah’s Witness knock on my door to talk to me about God.

Which was funny, because just a few days before my 7 year old daughter had told me she believed in God, out of nowhere, and after 2 years of saying she didn’t.

He seemed a nice old man, wearing a suit, clear blue eyes, an honest face.    Do you believe in God, he asked.  Nope, I said.  Ah, that must be because someone lied to you!  he answered.  He seemed very troubled by this.  Have you ever read the Bible.  How else do you explain how the Bible knew the world was round when for hundreds of years people thought it was flat?  It’s because it is from God, and God knows things that people didn’t.

Because a lot of knowledge in deep antiquity was forgotten, I answered.  It doesn’t mean the Bible is the word of God.  It just means it was written in a time when that was known.

But science keeps changing! He cried.  Whereas the Word of God never changes, it’s infallible Truth.  How many times do scientists say one thing and then a few years later change their minds and say something completely different?

Well, that’s right.  I said.  They find out more about a subject through research and we know more.  Things change.  The truth isn’t fixed.

I had not been so articulate when my kid asked me 2 days before if I believed in God.  I didn’t really know what to say, so I mumbled something like “Well, not really, blahblah”.     Her two closest friends happen to be from religious families – one a Jehovah’s Witness, and one  some kind of Protestant.  I know they talk to her about Jesus, God, etc etc – not stuff my partner and I have ever brought up with her.  Until now I’ve dealt with any questions as they’ve come up – like, who was Jesus   – but I can tell the time is coming when I need to explain to her what exactly we believe.

I can really relate to the phase she’s in.   My parents were the first non-religious generation in my family. I remember as a child wanting to know what religion we were – what did we BELIEVE in, exactly – and my parents either not answering or saying “anglican” because that’s what they were raised as, so I could put something in that little box on the school forms.  I kind of envied the other kids knowing what label they  had and the beliefs that went with it.     What was missing was an articulated sense of what my parents had chosen instead.  To be fair, maybe they didn’t know.  They knew what they didn’t want, but there was a void where the replacement for that should have been.  It was left undiscussed.

I’m raising the third generation outside of organized religion and I want to step it up for her.    As I alluded in my previous post, it’s not enough for me anymore to say what I don’t believe in – I want to be able to articulate what I do believe in.  It’s clear my daughter’s friends have a clear sense of what they know and can articulate it but she doesn’t, because we’ve never addressed it with her, because we don’t know what to say in a way that a 7 year old with understand.  “Well, honey, we don’t have a religion because most of them are homophobic, and we’re not, or sexist, and we’re not, and there’s absolutely no scientific evidence for a God…”

Scientific evidence.  Let’s start there, then.

It’s the difference between believing there is an infallible truth – like my Jehovah’s Witness – which is unchanging and true through all times and places –  and knowing that truth is something that can gradually be learned, through research and discovery.

Now I just have to work out how to explain that to my 7 year old.


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