Learning from my Daughter about managing relationships

The limey daughter continues to teach me. Often the lesson is simply that as a person, I am impatient and not adequately equipped for the title of father of the year. However, occasionally it’s a valuable life lesson that I wish other members of the human race could learn too. One such lesson was last week and comes in the form of the challenges of relationships, especially ones where there is a fundamental difference in what is accepted as real.

Like all girls in school, my daughter has a friend, a very good friend, her best friend. They have lots in common, including an interest in Minecraft that borders on obsession. One day my daughter confided in me that she was worried about her friend. It turns out that her friend had made a wish, a wish that she would get to feature in a video by their favourite Minecraft YouTuber. Not only that, but the friend had invoked some sort of fairy style ritual wish that requires a full moon and some other special elements and so it was guaranteed to come true.

My daughter was worried that the friend would be very disappointed when the wish failed to come true and she wasn’t sure about how to handle that level of upset because of the consequences in relation to belief.

Well, the allotted time came and went and the wish didn’t come true. The belief wasn’t lost; instead a new wish was made, with greater fervour.

Can anyone see where this is going yet?

The parallels to religion are plain and that didn’t escape me at all.

What did impress me most about my daughter was that in our conversation her overwhelming concern was that her friend was going to be disappointed, upset even, and she didn’t want that and she wanted help in addressing that. My daughter is confident that fairies are a myth, but this was secondary to her concerns for her friend.

Fixing the beliefs of her friend were not the primary motive.

Oh how often I have read and participated in conversations where the overwhelming desire is that each party convinces the other that a certain belief is right or wrong. Whatever happened to care and concern first?

Over the years I have struggled much with religious rhetoric, both for and against. There are many times when I read atheist and Christian comments that I deem as being too harsh or cutting. These conversations with my daughter have brought this to my mind again and reminded me that it is way too easy to dismiss the impossible as preposterous and ignore the person we might be hurting as a result.

Granted adults tend to be more complicated than young school children, however, the principle still matters. Care for the person first, telling them fairies aren’t real can wait.

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Who cares about atheism?

Jonny has accurately summed up my position on the subject as well so on that basis I’m reblogging his post because I consider it intelligent and well thought out.

Leaving Fundamentalism

Some of my Christian readers like me because, they say, I am an atheist but not a New Atheist. I appreciate their support, but I think I might actually be one of those nasty Gnu Atheists. I think I should clarify my position.

I’m thinking about all this because I’ve been asked to review a book called Godbuster: Banishes all known gods. I haven’t read it yet, and I’ll reserve judgement until I have, but at first glance, I’m not sure how a book like this is going to be useful.

When I stopped being a Christian, I was not happy about it. There are a great many Christian tropes about atheists: they’re just too proud to submit to God; they’re just angry at God; they’re just too selfish to stop sinning; they hate God. None of those were true of me at the time. My heart was not…

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Steve Chalke and Gay Marriage

For my non-british readers, Steve Chalke is a well-known Christian. He is founder of the Oasis Trust (http://www.oasisuk.org/) and is generally well respected. I heard him speak on various occsions during my Christian years and my memory is that he was engaging and humorous and his attitude one of compassion.

Last year Steve Chalke made  a public declaration of his support for gay marriage (http://www.oasisuk.org/article.aspx?menuid=31887). I think Steve makes it clear that his motive is compassion in the style of Jesus and not legalistic application of religious attitudes. I think he should be applauded for this because he shows where the anti-gay stance is painful and destructive and for Christians to continue to be so vocal about that is to continue to cause deep hurt.

When I look back at my own Christian journey I, I do wonder how I would have fallen on this issue. I wonder about it often and I still struggle to decide. I certainly was anti-gay for a long time and I certainly struggled with the balance of behaving towards a gay person as though they were just any other person. Most of the time I think I managed okay but the cognitive dissonance was a challenge at time. I did soften over time so I do wonder if I would have supported Steve if I’d remained a Christian.

After Steve came public on his stance, my wife and I discussed the matter. She is, and always was, more liberal in her Christianity than I, so when I said that I couldn’t see any moral reason for objecting to gay marriage, she agreed. Our own sexual preferences don’t come into it here. Neither of us harbours any same sex attraction and we accept that we don’t get to dictate to others what their sexual attractions should be.

Evangelicals don’t do Gay

Well, Steve’s decision has now resulted in his organisation being kicked from the UK Evangelical Alliance (http://www.christianitymagazine.co.uk/Browse%20By%20Category/features/Evangelicals%20divided%20over%20EA%20split%20from%20Steve%20Chalke.aspx). As I type this, I am unable to link directly to the EAUK website, the page is perpetually loading so they clearly have a technical issue.

When I was first aware of the EA and involved in Evangelical churches my view was that they were forward thinking and relevant churches, not at all like the unmoving and staid Anglican church I was attending at the time. Evangelical churches welcomed healing and praying in tongues, I knew a gay Christian who attended one with his boyfriend and they were more than keen to rip out pews and put in comfortable seating and use the sanctuary space for other events not immediately associated with worship.

It was evangelical churches that were attracting new Christians, because they met the needs of the people and they engaged the issues of the day.

I can’t help but wonder what went wrong.

These days the evangelical churches are the ones associated with legalistic old ideas and it’s the liberal Anglican churches which are seen as accepting of people of all types and being more concerned with their needs. It’s the evangelical church that is now the staid bunch, adhering to an old idea that the church has the authority to tell every how they should live their lives. Ouch, that was a hard sentence to write, because there was a time when I certainly would have defended that attitude and said that yes, the church absolutely should tell people how to live their lives.

Times have changed.

I think there are parts of the church that will become irrelevant and ignored if they continue on this road. Either that or they’ll become little more that much maligned cult sects.

Vegetarian Carnivores

One element of creationist theology that I never made my mind up about was the idea that there was no death before the fall and all animals lived in harmony together. The conclusion from this is that predator animals, like Lions, did not eat meat. Instead all animals ate the available fruit and vegetable matter. I guess that eating an apple or grass doesn’t count as death.

Would a tree being felled not have counted as death either? I have yet to see a creationist comment on vegetation dying counting as death in this context. One would guess not and so since they ignore it, I will too.

I do know that in my creationist days I did ponder about animals eating animals before the fall and how fitted in with what we read of the pre fall world. It is a challenge on which the bible says nothing. What creationists believe on the matter is inferred, something that should be done very cautiously.
Answers in Genesis has a post on subject where they confidently state that animals where vegetarians before the fall (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/origin-of-attack-defense-structures). One example this article suggests is:

chameleon tongues could have been used to reach out and grab vegetarian foods

This strikes me as a very inefficient method of getting food that literally hangs there waiting for a passing animal to pick and eat. Some fruit can also be stubbornly difficult to pull off the stalk. Sadly, like all pre fall animals behaviours, there is simply nothing that can be pointed at as evidence to inform this, or any other, suggestion. The creationist throws it out there as a possibility, maybe even a belief. It is almost as if they are challenging the faithful to contradict them.

I can’t find the post now, but on another creationist blog I read, the writer postulated that plants may have had the right nutrients that today’s carnivores didn’t need to eat meat because their dietary needs were satisfied by these plants. Quite why the animals and plant kingdoms had to change so much as a result of the fall is never properly explained.

The justification behind this idea is that Genesis says that there was no death before the fall. Yet, on another literalist blog I see that this idea is called into question (http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2009/06/04/was-there-death-before-adam/). If creationists want to maintain that pre fall animals did not eat meat then the need to come up with something that is more substantial than a loose and questionable reading of Genesis.

This would be a great time for them to take a leaf out of the science handbook and propose a method by which this mechanism can happen and what, if any, evidence might indicate it. When that is done, the evidence can be looked for and the idea tested. Until that happens the suggestion of vegetarian lions is not and can not be taken seriously.

This is another example of how creationism is not only not scientific, it is simply interpreted guess work.

Daddy, why don’t you come to church anymore?

I knew the question would come eventually. I have been kidding myself for ages that my daughter would accept the status quo and not question it until she was an argumentative teen. At that point we could discuss the issue properly. I don’t desire having a deep conversation with a pre-teen about how god is a lost concept and the combination of science and logic have reduced the chances of his existence to little more than highly improbable.

To be honest I have been afraid of this question. Afraid because I simply did not know how she would respond to the only answer I could give. That is, “Daddy doesn’t believe in god any more darling.”. I have pondered on what lies I could tell to divert the issue, but one thing that the limey daughter is good at (along with pretty much all children her age) is perpetually asking “why” until she gets the answer she is seeking. So the fear of being caught trying to lie my way out of that one has been there too.

So here I am, thinking back on the conversation we had had yesterday and my current situation. I am still out of work, life at home is occasionally stressful, the worry about how much longer we can manage before things get really serious is present and looming larger. The depression that I mentioned at the start of the year (https://confessionsofayec.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/good-riddance-2013/) is still lingering in the background ready to swallow me up at the slightest hint of trouble. If there is one thing I desire to avoid, it is to add the fate of my eternal soul to the imagination of my daughter, there are other more pressing matters that we face daily.

Until the point she asked the question, it had been a great day. We found a way to purchase a cheap Kinect for our XBOX 360 to replace the one that broke a mere 2 months outside of its warranty. This is a purchase guaranteed to add pleasure to the household; it also served to clear the unused Wii and Wii Fit Board from my office as they went in part exchange. In addition, daughter and daddy were on their way to a ski centre to have a ski lesson and toboggan session at a bargain offer price. These things need grasping when there simply isn’t the freedom to spend money on days out.

So, after a few seconds of utter panic, not helpful when driving, I answered with the truth, that I no longer believe in god. She asked why I don’t believe. I knew that would be the next question, I panicked for longer and said that I don’t think it makes sense for there to be a god. I could have gone on about how I think the science of evolution makes the god hypothesis impossible. I could have explained how I used to believe in a literal creation. I could have said lots, but I wanted a short conversation because the subject of the limey daughter’s own beliefs is still a subject that Mr and Mrs limey are processing. Making our daughter the battleground for our conflicting worldviews is not somewhere either of us wants to go.

The limey daughter does get evolution though, science is something she has great interest in and recently she has been hovering up the Horrible Science series of books in the school library. These are her bedtime reading of choice. It is not unknown for her to come out of her bedroom and call me from the top of the stairs so that she can share a science fact she has just read. I can get cross with her she does that at a time when she is supposed to be settling down to sleep. I want to encourage excitement in nature and the workings of the world around us. If I use her thirst for scientific knowledge to explain how my faith was undermined, who knows what the result will be? If only I could tell the future.

Daughter accepted my explanation and the conversation moved on, we continued to talk about the upcoming ski lesson. We had a wonderful two hours together, getting very hot and tired. Afterwards we came home and enjoyed some more XBOX time, using the new Kinect of course, since mummy limey had and evening at work. All in it was a great day we had together, but I am wondering what she thinks of my non-belief and when she will raise it again. I fully expect her to and more than anything, I want it to be something that she feels she can raise. The worst result will be if it is seen as a taboo subject.

As I type this on Sunday morning, a time normally reserved for me to have my alone time at home, to write, or study or read or whatever, daughter is in the living room playing. She decided this morning that she didn’t want to go to church. Mrs limey thinks it is because she is still tired from yesterday, that’s possible, but I can’t help wonder if there is another reason.
So, the question I have been fearing came, yet the world didn’t end and life has not changed. If only all my fears could turn out to be so harmless.