“Mom, why do you take me to church? There’s no God.” My eleven-year-old son spoke, a floodgate opened in my head and I went off to do some soul-searching. Why did I take my children to church when I was religiously-challenged and confused myself and had no real spiritual home?
During childhood, I attended Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist and Baptist churches. I was kicked out of bible study classes for my very verbal skepticism. My father never attended church and my mother did so occasionally. I was baptized at age sixteen.
During my first year of college at a Dominican college, I took required theology classes. Later, I became an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church online.
I once dated a former Catholic priest and attended Catholic mass. After that, I studied both Nichiren and Tibetan Buddhism.
I finally realized and accepted that I’m simply spiritual and walked away from organized religion, taking away what I needed from various religions. I’m a “hard” or a “strong” agnostic. I don’t know if God exists or not and have no way of knowing.
If God exists, it’s clear to me that he doesn’t want to make himself known in any tangible or concrete way. One might say that God is revealed through the ordinary, the extra-ordinairy and the miraculous. If God does exist, I’m cool with that because I’ve tried to be a good person and live accordingly.
So, what did I tell my son? I said “Maybe you’re right and there’s no God, but maybe you’re wrong and God exists”. He then asked me why it mattered, if a person is good? Next, he said, if the world came to an end and God chose to save the good people that we’d be fine, but that if God only saved the good people that “believed” in him only, then God was wrong and selfish.
I gave him definitions for “religious”, “devout”, “pious” , “agnostic” and “atheist” and asked him which he was. He answered, “Atheist”. A few days later, I asked him the same question – what are you? He again answered, “Atheist”. He never went to church again and I didn’t push the issue. He’s now almost a grown man, still atheist and somehow he is still a good young man; loving, moral and righteous and his two best friends are a Muslim and a Catholic.
When talking to children about God or religion:
1) Be honest.
2) Explain and discuss.
3) Listen to child’s responses and questions.
4) If you don’t know something, say so.
5) Don’t push your child to believe something you’re uncertain about.
6) Respect your child’s intelligence, logic and insights.
7) Be open to exploring other religions with your child.
8) Don’t get angry if they don’t agree with you.
9) Realize that a child will grown up and may chose another religion or no religion.
10) Never give vague, open-ended answers such as: “It’s just God’s will” or “Because the bible says so”.