christianity: a security blank with thorns


When my 3-year-old asked some probing questions about death recently, it occurred to me that if I was a Christian, the answers could tumble more freely from my mouth. “Grandpa’s gone to live in heaven with Jesus. When we get to heaven, we’ll all be together again.”

“His body is still here but he doesn’t exist” doesn’t quite bring the same sense of easy answers, hope and happiness. How do you explain to a child with such a vague grasp on the basics of life, what it could mean to not exist? How much easier would it be to say we will all see each other again in a place of eternal bliss?

Here’s how I managed my way through it:

  • giving her examples of things she’s seen dead, like snails and birds
  • explaining that most people die when they are old, tired and sore, and ready for it (I think it’s too early to deal with the absolute tragedies)
  • explaining the natural cycle of life of all animals, like in this video

Like most children, she was less perturbed by the answers than I was in finding them. I’m sure I’ll learn as I go on this one.

But as I pondered the seemingly easy security blanket that Christianity might provide, I remembered some of the thorns, that even as a child, could bring a serious dose of discomfort:

  • believing that if you don’t behave appropriately, or ask for forgiveness in the right way, you’ll be tortured for eternity
  • believing all the people you love who don’t share your religion will be tortured for eternity
  • believing that most of the people you see around you will be tortured for eternity along with almost all of the people in other countries you see on television who will never have the chance to even get to know about your religion because their leaders chose the wrong religion
  • believing that there is an evil invisible spirit trying to trick you into being bad
  • believing that you could be possessed by any number evil invisible spirits who will make you do bad things against your will
  • believing that your god has the power to take away the suffering of people you see around you, and in the world at large, but he usually has a plan that doesn’t involve helping in any way
  • believing that at some point in the past, killing little animals made your god happy
  • believing that your god shows his love to humans in rainbows, after murdering almost every living creature on earth because he didn’t like the way they behaved after creating them in the knowledge they would behave like that
  • believing that images of someone being tortured to death are a reminder of how good your god is
  • believing that gay couples and unmarried couples are breaking your god’s laws, and would have been justly killed in prior centuries
  • believing that women are inferior to men, that they should stay silent and submissive, and that men are naturally in charge of families and churches

I’ve probably made my point by now. But feel free to add any other of nasty thorns that confuse children while they are feeling comforted that we’ll all cheat death and live happily ever after. Quite frankly, however starkly I explain the basics of existence, it’s got to be more comforting than Christianity.

Thanks to Myisleofserenity for prompting me to think more on this topic.