The Honesty of Children

March 14, 2012
An 18 foot playmat describing the evolution of species on Earth

An 18 foot playmat describing the evolution of species on Earth

This morning my 8 y/o said, “When I said that I believed in God I lied. I WANTED to believe in him but when I learned how the earth was made and how God made the earth I just didn’t anymore.

I know for sure that this comment really doesn’t sit well with theists because I posted this comment to a community (through an iPhone app), just to measure the reactions it would get. Every atheist response was positive, obviously, because this line of thinking matches theirs. The theist responses include things like,

I’ll pray for her.
Any argument can make sense if your exposed it it long enough.
Keep praying for her salvation..never know when the Lord will take place in her heart πŸ™‚
Very sad…
U can believe in both, it’s called creationism.
Evolution makes less sense. She’s 8.
Put her in a Christian school if you can
Poor kid.
Shmucks!

To every single response, positive or negative, I informed replied that I had bought my kids the Giant Evolution Playmat from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. That neutral reply was argued by theists as being an easy influence on young minds, while atheists applauded the introduction of science and reason to the children.

Well, the religious debate aside, I found something else about her comments to be most impressive. First let me set the stage: we were not talking about evolution, science or God this morning. We were driving to Tae Kwon Do (March break camp) and I was talking to her older sister, sitting in the passenger seat, when she just announced it from the back seat. When she said that she lied about believing in God I really paid attention to that. I am very atheist. Their mother is an atheist as well. Everyone else in their lives are theists, including my wife, so I wondered whether she was bowing to some social pressure(s) or not. Well, she answered that when she followed up with, “…I wanted to believe…

Ah, I can relate to that. It really is a nice thought. It would be nice if there was a benevolent creator who takes care of us. It is hard to go against the grain on a topic like this. I’ve been doing it for most of my life, despite my mother’s prayers for me. And, going back to kids being impressionable, it is hard for a kid to say that they don’t believe in God when their classmates openly ridicule them for it. There is a need to fit in and be accepted, and in their school, whether my kids are two of very few white people, being atheist and white is a challenge.

My remedy for the comments from those other kids is to let my kids know that they can believe whatever they want, just as those kids can. No matter what another person says about you, it doesn’t actually change who you really are. To help them understand that concept I illustrate it with examples like, “If someone calls you fat, you don’t suddenly become fat. If that were true you could call yourself a Hawk, sprout wings and fly around.

So I really respect her ability – at 8 years old – to openly admit a lie (told to herself) followed by the accompanying truth.

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