6-year old wisdom.

Yesterday at school my daughter’s little friend told her that Jesus made us all. My daughter is her mother’s daughter… and her father’s daughter- and she doesn’t take bullshit silliness off of ANYONE. Doesn’t matter if you are just 6.

So- she politely informed her little friend that:

1.  Jesus didn’t make us, in fact- Jesus isn’t real.

2.  Just like Santa, the tooth fairy, and the Easter bunny aren’t real.

3.  Magic isn’t real.

4.  People came from animals because she saw this in the museum.

Game over. The rest of her first grade class was rendered speechless. Because we live in the bible belt- I’m almost certain that I’ll get some interesting email about this today.

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51 thoughts on “6-year old wisdom.

  1. What an interesting post, I’d be proud of her, too.

    BUT….

    I can’t help but wonder, though, how my child would have responded to yours. We are practicing Catholics. Both my husband and I are in the science field, so we do believe and teach evolution at the dinner table/at museums, etc and don’t take parables in the Bible literally. Most of our friends, and therefore. their children, don’t identify with any organized religion. The exception is a family with a Jewish dad and ex-catholic mother who are raising their kids Jewish (ie. no Christmas), however they don’t attend Temple. In a nutshell, my kids are kind of the “odd one”. To my knowledge, he hasn’t been involved in any philosophical discussions..but it would be good insight to how I am parenting…eh?

    I am in no way judging you…we all have to figure out for ourselves what makes sense and what makes us comfortable.

    You’ll have to keep us posted on feedback you get from other parents, though if they are all pretty closed minded about things, then I assume they would all be about the same.

    Again, great post.

  2. kik-

    I think it is up to every parent to teach their child about the world and answer their child’s questions truthfully and honestly as they can. I sincerely hope that her little friend took his questions home to mom and dad and got a truthful explanation, and with multiple view points… some might say that 6 is too young for this, but I personally don’t think so.

    I recall distinctly my older daughter announcing that there is no God- at which point we had a very long discussion about how she might think that but not everyone does- that there are many different beliefs about ‘god’ that people of different religions have, and what that might mean.

  3. That is awesome! I wish I could have been there to see a 6-year old telling it like it is. I hope you’ll keep us posted with any responses!

    There was a similar post on Everything and More yesterday that also made me laugh.

  4. That is just sad. Did you give her a Dawkins Award for atheist evangelization? At some point in her life she will come to the understanding that naturalistic explanations are never sufficient.

  5. Steve-

    If my daughter chooses, when she is old enough to reason for herself and can consider all the options, to believe in a higher power- that will be her choice. Until then, DrMrA and I will teach her the evidence, as best we know it. I would like her to make her own decisions based on actual evidence- it is, in my opinion, not a good idea to get evidence and testable hypotheses confused with faith.

    I don’t suppose you would care to share with me what you think naturalistic explanations are not sufficient for, and why not??

  6. I love the fact that she said “people come from animals” but I guess that’s only because I see the image of a stuffed [dead] buffalo with a 6 year old girl pointing at it saying “i come from that one”. (The science/animal museum I lived in when I was a kid had a dead buffalo as the first thing you saw when you opened the doors…. )

    As for the rest, since I have long forgotten how I ended up praying before I went to sleep when I was 6 in a household where noone believed in God, I don’t know 😉

    Oh, please post any follow ups. I would love to know what happens, if anything!

  7. Chall-

    I actually think she meant some sort of ape- because she did a demo for me this morning of what she saw in the museum and it was standing on two feet- and she was demonstrating how it was holding its baby…. just like a human would.

  8. What? I’m totalling cancelling my wisdom teeth extraction–I’d been counting on the Tooth Fairy leaving something good.

    Probably good that your daughter learns early that not everyone agrees with her. Maybe she’ll figure out how to talk to people like Steve who apparently think that other people’s beliefs are his business to “fix”. FSM knows I never have.

  9. Dr. J.-

    Sorry to burst your bubble about the tooth fairy, it was bound to happen sometime though… I can’t believe your parents lied to you like that… geez. 🙂

    I’ve got another story about the son of a friend of mine who is the same age as my older daughter (10 1/2). Until last year he believed in the elaborate myth of Santa Claus that his parents built up for him. Then one day he got in trouble at school for lying about something, and there was a big trauma, he got in trouble with his parents- of course. Ironically that very evening he decided to ask his dad whether santa was real, or whether his parents were just making the whole thing up. His dad, just having given him a talking to for lying, was in a difficult position…

  10. Pingback: Debunking nonsense à la first-grader « Mario’s Entangled Bank

  11. Mario-

    Right. Thanks for the link- I had a look at your blog- that’s cool stuff that you do … that I, as a veterinarian, find fascinating…Mario’s blog can be found here!

  12. Ha!

    I think that people should be taught to question authority and dogma early in life. If someday they decide to embrace religion, then good for them.

    oddly…I saw somebody wearing a blue lab coat today….hmmmmm

  13. Pinus-

    Absolutely, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    About that person in the blue lab coat- wasn’t me- I’ve been trapped in my office,… writing… writing…and writing some more…

  14. That is just sad.

    No. What’s sad is that people continue to wreak pain, suffering, death, and destruction all over the fucking world because they believe in ridiculous wackaloon Bronze Age motherfucking fairy tales.

  15. Prof in Training- there is no shame in agreeing with physioprof. There has indeed be a whole lot of bad in the world perpetrated in the name of religion. Its sad really. I can’t think of any wars/death/destruction and hatred perpetrated in the name of atheism.

    (and if anyone brings up Stalin right here- I’ll sic physioprof on you bigtime… and delete your comment thereafter, and you know why.)

    And Steve- those who have blind faith in something I find a little odd for pointing a finger of REASON at anyone.

  16. Priceless, drdrA.

    I’m afraid of the day my own daughter gets sent home from school for causing a similar scene… She’s only three, but religion (as in Judeo-Christian religion) has already come up, because it’s unavoidable in our country. I’ve told her that “God” is something some people believe in… But no, mommy and daddy don’t believe in it. That’s where we’ve left it for now.

    And I wouldn’t have encourage Santa Claus on her, but her father got to her first! (he likes that kinda stuff)

  17. DrDrA: I know he’ll find it surprising, but I actually agree with PhysioProf on most things 🙂

    It seems that you and I (and PP to a more profane degree … never thought I would ever see the words “motherfucking” and “fairy tale” in the same sentence) are all on the same page. As an atheist, living in the bible belt has been an, ummm, interesting experience. I’ve had several debates with friends who simply fail to comprehend how I can not believe in their deity of choice (or any other non-existent figment of one’s imagination) and I find their insistence that one day I will see the light to be insulting.

    I respect the beliefs of others (even though I think it’s a form of brainwashing in order to subdue and control the masses) and all I ask in return is that people of faith respect my position.

  18. And Steve- those who have blind faith in something I find a little odd for pointing a finger of REASON at anyone.

    First, it’s not a question of “blind faith”. I have a clear understanding of that in which I believe. Secondly, the concepts of faith and reason are certainly mutually compatible. We have been given a mind and an intellect, and it’s a shame if we choose not to exercise them properly.

  19. My favorite 6 year old told me confidently and confidentially that she knows what the F-word is. It’s fa-gina.

  20. Props to your kid, drdrA. And of course, to you and MrA.

    Steve–
    The concepts of faith and reason are NOT mutually compatible. They may be in your mind (based on the addled redefinitions of concepts per convenience, that is typical of organized religion) but do not try and generalize for the rest of us. Faith is defined, by the dictionary, as “Belief in the absence of proof”. This is diametrically opposed to “reason”.

    BTW, I’m sure you have a clear understanding of that which you believe. And I’m sure there’s no rationalization involved therein! The same racist and misogynistic people who wrote and re-wrote the ‘holy’ books that religious people follow also used to believe that the earth was flat and was the center of the universe. They killed people for thinking otherwise. But I’m glad that your faith can help you see past all such evidence.
    Believe what you will—just stop being condescending toward the rest of us poor stupid folk, will ya?

  21. I guess the thing that saddens me the most in all this is the bitter emptiness I see in most atheists. Look at Dawkins or Hitchens, there’s no beauty or pleasure or grace there. That’s non-naturalistic thing, I suppose, that isn’t reflected in modern atheism. If there is no God, nothing outside of ourselves, then there’s no reason to work to benefit others. If it comes down to “blind faith” or empty nihilism, I know which I’ll choose.

  22. Yo, Steve, I suppose you realize that all those scientists out there trying desperately to alleviate human suffering through their research are almost all atheists. Yet here we are, working for less pay, working longer hours than most of the rest of the population, trying to benefit others. How does that happen? Because belief in fairy tales has nothing to do with loving and caring for the rest of the species.

  23. Juniorprof said explained it so much better than I could awhile ago:

    http://juniorprof.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/i-dont-find-this-helpful/

    As has been said, in this country, you cannot avoid religion. Its especially obvious in this political year, where, if you believe in the separation of church and state, then it shouldn’t be an issue, but yet it is.

    For me, the struggle between the rational and blind faith is a constant I know that what works for me won’t work for anyone, and truth be told, what makes sense one day doesn’t always make sense down the road. (think cancer, death, suffering etc).

    In my first lab, at the age of 16, the PI was a nun (at an all girls college in W. Pa). I spent the summer at the bench, an experience which has led me to this career path. I guess I also resolved for myself, that if a woman who has chosen the “church” as her primary profession can be a successful scientist, then it shouldn’t be an obstacle for me.

    BUT…to bring it back around to little kids and their beliefs and how we shape them, I still stand by my statement of pride and praise for your daughter Dr.dr.A. She spoke her mind, and dealt with the response (or lack thereof)…AND, and perhaps this is most important, she shared the experience with you.

  24. It’s interesting that the fundamentalist strain of atheism has become so prevalent recently. I came out of a fundamentalist protestant church and as I look around I see the same awful bitterness in the Hitchens/Dawkins crowd that I heard from Jerry Falwell and his kind. Just as spiteful, just as angry. “It’s my way or the highway and if you don’t believe/disbelieve then you’re going to hell/nothingness.”

    Same song, different verse.

  25. Steve-

    ‘is the bitter emptiness I see in most atheists. Look at Dawkins or Hitchens, there’s no beauty or pleasure or grace there’

    Ok, you lost me. I’ve never met a ‘bitter’ and ’empty’ atheist. I am fortunate to have a wonderful family, great and caring friends, a job I enjoy, a community that I participate in and give back to. My friends- who also don’t believe in the supernatural- are equally fortunate, caring and wonderful people. I don’t need the supernatural to feel fulfilled.

    As for Dawkins- I find his work as a biologist- perhaps you haven’t read any of his other books outside ‘The God Delusion’- to be quite beautiful. But then I have a fascination for the complexity of the natural world, and I don’t need an explanation for everything.

    But its the last thing that you said up there that makes me REALLY angry. ‘If there is no God, …. then there’s no reason to work to benefit others’. I’m disgusted that you would imply that people need God to motivate them to treat their fellow human beings with respect and dignity, and to help out when they see that their fellow human being needs help. I’m saddened that we ALL, religious and non-religious- don’t see helping others as a BASIC HUMAN VALUE… which to me has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with belief in the supernatural.

  26. Kik-

    Each individual deals with tragedy and difficulty in their life differently- I myself have deeply religious relatives- who have been through some serious horrors of life- in my wildest imagination I can’t see how they survived and respect their choice to be religious. So- I’m not meaning to denigrate that at all.

    However, these same individuals do not use religion to explain absolutely everything, including science, the orgin of species, common descent etc. For all their religiousness- they have not lost their common sense and ability to look at the evidence.

  27. If there is no God, nothing outside of ourselves, then there’s no reason to work to benefit others. If it comes down to “blind faith” or empty nihilism, I know which I’ll choose.

    Are you really this fucking stupid, or are you just a pernicious motherfucking liar?

  28. My kids have these conversations with their friends, too. They do — if folks think 3 year old’s don’t talk about this stuff they’re wrong. Ours have little conversations around their lunch tables about whether God exists. They even did an experiment: proposal: if god exists, then if you say “jesus god, please clear the hurt from my owie”, your owie should stop hurting. They tested it out, and now, my son reports that they don’t believe in god anymore, ’cause it didn’t work.

    Now, my son was an athiest to start out, and I suspect the catholic boy he was doing the experiment with has not had his faith irretrievably damaged.

    But, clearly, they’re talking and thinking about it.

    We’re open about our beliefs with our children, but we also, in general, tell them not to volunteer opinions unless they’re asked. The 7 year old listens to that suggestion. The 4 year old, not so much.

  29. Cath-

    Ah- Its ok, part of the price of talking about these subjects. I think it is a really good idea for us scientists to remember that in the academic environment that we work in we circulate in a population that is the most educated 5% (probably even less) of the population. Unless we actively recognize that fairly frequently, we forget what the other 95% thinks.

    As for the 8:52 comment, – I just am unable to understand why some people can’t find their lives fulfilling without having to have absolutely everything nailed down and explained.

    And as for God and helping others- well- most of the heavily religious people I know think poor people are lazy bastards that deserve what they are getting- how’s that for charity and caring for your fellow man? Its just sad.

    A couple of years ago I was the first person to stop at the scene of a car accident, a young mother with her 3 little kids in the car had been hit by another driver and she was sitting in the middle of the road with the car door open, shaking like a leaf- and the kids were crying. Several months before I had been in a car accident myself- and could really identify with her- I quickly pulled my car over ran across 3 lanes of traffic to reach them. She pulled out of traffic into the parking lot, I was taking care of the kids needs, we called the police, … and when things were calm- she asked me if I was ?a Christian? Of course I said no- and did it really matter.. it was very odd and sticks in my mind to this day.

  30. and when things were calm- she asked me if I was ?a Christian? Of course I said no- and did it really matter.. it was very odd and sticks in my mind to this day.

    This has also happened to me on several occasions after helping someone out. I tell them I am an atheist (after they ask if I’m christian) and they don’t seem too grateful anymore, like the devil just showed up to tempt them. Not that I care, but it is a weird feeling, to have someone seemingly very close to you for a fleeting moment then land on the other side of the earth. Freaks me out just a bit, but not nearly as bad as it spooks them.

  31. Fascinating how the most obvious conclusion of “hmm, i guess nonChristers do good stuff too” never seems to be the first one they reach for, innit?

  32. Probably because it is so unexpected. It’s interesting to note which groups are the first to disaster sites (e.g., WTC, Katrina or Ike) or the first to take medical relief to impoverished countries. It’s religious groups, not Atheist Alliance International or American Atheists. And they don’t do it to “win souls” but to relieve suffering. Who founded the great universities in the US and in Europe? Or the hospitals?

    I’m not saying that atheists can’t or don’t feel compassion, but Christians tend to put it into action better.

  33. Steve,

    As someone who was devoted and heavily involved in organized religion, Christianity, for the first thirty years of my life, to say that Christians respond better to human suffering is only a lack of knowledge of who is out there.

    What I’ve noticed about non-believers, now that I’ve been on both sides, is that non-believers do not need the community of other non-believers to feel justified. So there aren’t “groups of atheists” that form and do good things. They just do good things alone or as part of other non-religious groups, like the Red Cross or other community-oriented organizations.

    I used to believe that humans could only be compassionate and loving to others also because my religion taught me that we were innately sinful. But it’s not a sin to be human. And we do have positive innate attributes, like compassion and love for others, without a savior or salvation.

    The reason why Dawkins or Hitchens at times come across as bitter is because there are religious people who continuously make assumptions about atheists are just plainly untrue. As I said before, atheists have historically not had a need to be organized, so what seemed like a small minority was just unknown. There are a lot of atheists, agnostics, secularists, humanists — non-believers — in this world/country, and we’re more connected now because of modern technology.

    Your comments are offensive. Before I became an atheist, I was judgmental like you are. Now I am tolerant and compassionate because I realize I don’t know everything… actually, not much of anything compared to the collective knowledge that my fellow human beings possess. I’m so grateful for my exodus out of religion.

  34. jbrazin,
    Well put. That would seem to go against the notion that we are social creatures, but I can buy that. Sometimes the best argument against organized Christianity is organized Christians. There’s also a big difference between organized ‘church christianity’ and the Christlike life that is at the center of Scripture. I think many people see the former and reject the latter out of hand.

  35. To clarify, atheists are still social creatures. We just find community in different ways — like groups of friends, community and civic groups, family, etc. Still very social.

    I can say that while I do not believe in a god, personal or otherwise, what you call “God” I call love: a very real experience. So your comment about “the Christlike life” would be very similar to the kind of life I live, actually. I think you’d be surprised. Pleasantly, I hope.

  36. Jbrazin-

    Thank you for your excellent comments- you have put into words what I have been struggling to say- but couldn’t because I have not been on both sides- and I was never taught to believe that humans were innately sinful- and thus I find this concept rather foreign.

    And about the good works done by non-believers- very true- we tend to volunteer our time and give money freely to many community organizations- but not under the banner of any organized group.

    Thanks for participating in this dialog so effectively!

  37. Probably because it is so unexpected.

    Unexpected for bigots perhaps. This is no different from being surprised that women are engineers or black people are “articulate” or some gay men are out of shape, beer drinkin’, poor dressin’ good ol’ boys or….

    I mean dood, get real here. The first people into disasters are…wait for it, the good local neighbors and volunteers and emergency response apparatii. People who may very well be athiest or not and you’d never particularly know it until you ask your bigoted “are you a Christian” question. Not organized Christer groups…

    And just remember, our government structures and private sector responders in most cases are …secular. That’s right. Not based on Christian ideology of helping one’s brother but rather a rational social structure that has decided it is good and logical and a winning strategy to have a social compact of mutual help.

    While we’re talking historical winning strategies, how about that US of A, eh? One of the greatest “putting it into action” for good that I can think of. Not a Christian initiative, as you know, being so well informed on these topics and all.

  38. FYI Steve – numerous newspapers have covered before that the charitable givings of secular humanists and atheists typically dwarfs that of religious folk. A simple look around the nation also replicates this, funding for social programs (grade school funding, hospitals, shelter, food banks, emergency medical care, HIV services) bears a strong inverse relationship with the percentage of citizens in each state that self identifies as a fundamentalist or evangelical Christian. The idea that morality or charitable acts are associated more with Christianity is a quaint urban legend, but easily disproven (and no, I’m not going to waste the time looking up external links – as I’ve mentioned, such data is easy to find from a variety of objective and reliable research institutes and news agencies for anyone who bothers to look).

  39. Matthew,
    since you wouldn’t or couldn’t find it, I typed “who donates to charity” into a Google search and took the first response. the International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law, Volume 9, Issue 1, December 2006, says:

    Why does Giving America behave so differently from Non-Giving America? The answer, contrary to what you might be thinking, is not income; America’s working poor give away at least as large a percentage of their incomes as the rich, and a lot more than the middle class. The charity gap is driven not by economics but by values.

    Nowhere is the divide in values more on display than in religion, the frontline in our so-called “culture war.” And the relationship between religion and charity is nothing short of extraordinary. The Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey indicates that Americans who weekly attend a house of worship are 25 percentage points more likely to give than people who go to church rarely or never. These religious folks also give nearly four times more dollars per year than secularists, on average, and volunteer more than twice as frequently.

    It is not the case that these enormous differences are due simply to religious people giving to their churches. Religious people are more charitable with all sorts of nonreligious causes as well. They are 10 percentage points likelier than secularists to give money to explicitly nonreligious charities like the United Way, and 25 points more likely to volunteer for secular groups such as the PTA. Churchgoers were far likelier in 2001 to give to 9/11-related causes. On average, people of faith give more than 50 percent more money each year to non-church social welfare organizations than secularists do. [My emphasis]

    So much for ‘urban legends’.

  40. Matthew,
    On the other hand, I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with your statement:

    funding for social programs (grade school funding, hospitals, shelter, food banks, emergency medical care, HIV services) bears a strong inverse relationship with the percentage of citizens in each state that self identifies as a fundamentalist or evangelical Christian.

    In the context of government programs, you’re probably right. Government provides more (and bigger) programs than anyone else, secular or faith-based.

  41. In the US, your last statement is misleading, Steve. Our government IS a secular program. Do you understand this? Everything that government does (that is not a diversion or interference from religios, we are an imperfect system) is a secular activity. We do not agree to pay taxes to support those unable to support themselves because we are Christians or any other religion, we do it because we are in a secular social compact to do good things.

  42. I’m not saying that atheists can’t or don’t feel compassion, but Christians tend to put it into action better.

    Why do you christian wackaloon assholes constantly lie? Is it because your entire view of reality is built on a foundation of absurd fake-ass fairy-tale bullshit?

  43. Who founded the great universities in the US and in Europe? Or the hospitals?

    I’m not saying that atheists can’t or don’t feel compassion, but Christians tend to put it into action better.

    Did you read what JuniorProf wrote? It’s quite true, the majority of us scientists are atheists, yet here we are working our tails off to educate others. Yes, the univs were founded in many cases by religious people, but I guess they must be lazy or stupid because they didn’t really stick with it. (<–sarcastic reflection of your own bias.)

    And as for the greater visibility of Christians in relief efforts–yeah, DUH. Depending on whose stats you believe, the country contains between 75-90% Christians, and 1-5% atheists. So in fact, you should see, um, 15-90X more Christians than atheists. Which is probably about right.

  44. Pingback: Happy Hallo-Meme « Sun Dappled Forest

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