a rainbow does not make up for the annihilation of mankind

Ark on Mount Ararat By Simon de Male

The other night Kid2 wanted to read the story of Noah’s Ark. We have an older children’s copy probably first published sometime in the 70s. It was my husbands when he was a child, and as great flood stories are common in many cultures, I figured why not.

I did my best to read in a non-judgmental tone. Paraphrasing here, as book is back on the bookshelf and really, we all know the story, if you need a refresher, you can find it in the Bible, Genesis 5:32-10:1.

Noah and his wife live together with their children, and one day God tells Noah to build an ark. So Noah goes about building an ark, and collects two of each kind of animal for the ark.

So far, so good. Although Kid2 notes “thats a lot of animals.” Yes, yes it is.

Then God gets angry and sends a lot of rain and floods the world and kills everyone — except Noah and his family.

Kid2’s eyes got big. “That God is mean.”

I can’t say I disagree, after all “That God” just finished drowning (almost) all the the inhabitants of the earth simply because “they angered him.”

So Kid2 and I brainstormed better ways of dealing with people who anger you, then we worked our way to the end of the book.

God shows Noah a rainbow and promises not to kill all the humans again.

Kid2 does not think a rainbow makes up for mass drowning, and wanted to be assured it was “just a story.”

Yes, Kid2, it is just a story.


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“how many gods do we have mommy?”

The other day, on our drive home, my eldest spoke up about his day:

Eldest: We went and saw the -th-grade play today. It was about a blue god with a big beard.

Me: Do you know which god it was?

Eldest: No. I only saw it once. (pause for a second or two) How many god’s are there mommy?

Me: It really depends on which religion you follow. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all have one god. The ancient Greeks and Romans had many. Different religious traditions have different views of god and gods.

Eldest: How many gods do we have?

Me: How many would you like?

The little one, who has been listening to this, pipes up: ZERO!

Eldest: One. The blue one with the big beard.

Little one continues to chant: ZERO!

Me: That’s fine, you can have one, or none, or as many as you like.

The eldest seemed okay with this answer. The little one seemed pleased too. Then they started talking about farts. Because, farts.

How do you handle these questions?

In the Beginning

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


A few times a year our Sunday School teacher would sit us down and have us open our Bibles to Genesis and we would read two accounts of the creation of man, starting with Genesis 1:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.  Genesis 1 KJV edition, emphasis mine

Genesis 1 was the correct story of man’s creation, Genesis 2 being the myth where man was made from mud and woman from man’s rib. In Christian Science Adam never awoke from his “dream” (when God put him under to make Eve), and that is why we perceive there to be in and suffering in the world.

I never got an answer on why God didn’t wake Adam up (so much easier to blame a talking snake and a woman), and I never got a firm answer on anyone in Christian Science about what I learned (or didn’t learn) in school about biology, evolution or creation science. I was allowed to drift and be influenced by a local Christian Radio station that regularly talked about the Grand Canyon as being evidence of Noah’s flood. I’ve since become pickier about my scientific sources, and more curious about other traditions’ creation mythologies.

As part of my goals to introduce my children to other religious and mythological traditions in a non-indoctrional way came across In the Beginning: Creation Stories from Around the World by Virginia Hamilton, illustrated by Barry Moser.

I’ve started reading some of these stories with the children and we’ve been talking about them.

The first story we read was The Pea-Pod Man, Raven the Creator where man emerges out of a pea-pod and meets Raven who can transmogrify into a humanoid and make little animals, and a companion woman for man, out of clay. Death does not enter this story, but little animals (and woman) out of mud do.

We also read about Death the Creator and Quat the Creator, both stories introduce death as being caused by some sort of stupidity. In Death the Creator, it is because the God Alatangana kidnaps Death’s daughter and marries her, and Death demands one of their children.

In Quat the Creator, Quat is one of twelve brothers born from the stone-mother Quatgoro. Quat was the eldest and he made little figures out of clay and danced life into them. One of Quat’s younger brothers, Tangaro the Fool, carved little figures out of wood, danced life into them, and then lost interest and buried them, about a week later he unburied them but they were stinky and rotten, so they had to be buried again. Because of Tangaro’s actions death entered the world.

There are more wonderful stories, including (but not limited to) First Man Becomes the Devil – Ulgen the Creator, Turtle Dives to the Bottom of the Sea – Earth Starter the Creator, Spider Anase finds Something – Wulbari the Creator, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky – Divine Woman the Creator, In the Beginning – Elohim the Creator.  The Frost Giant – Imir the Creator, The Sun-God and the Dragon – God Ra the Creator, First Man, First Woman – Yahweh the Creator. 

As we read, we talk about how these ancient cultures were trying to explain everything happening around them, and answer the big questions: where did we come from, why do we die, who or what created us, what is going on in our world. We are also noticing similarities in the stories — there is a lot of mud-building and stupidity.

Some of the stories are strange and dark, which makes sense, life is strange and there are dark moments that need to be explained. Where did we come from? We emerged out of a pea-pod! We were made from earthen or little mud figures (this is a popular one). How did death enter the world? Someone was foolish and buried little wooden people. Someone was disobedient and listened to a talking snake. Someone married Death’s Daughter without his permission.

In the Beginning is a wonderful resource to explore a wide range of creation stories. I highly recommend it for children and grownups of all ages who are curious about other culture’s creation stories, and in learning how our ancestors explored the answers to life’s big questions.

Return of the Mormons Part 2: Religion, Guilt & Motherhood

For part one: Saint Kat of the Sparkling Water


Mormon Missionaries often inspire unintended lines of thinking (I’m pretty sure they never intended to push me to secular humanism) and this time was no exception. Something about the afternoon’s encounter bugged me, and it took some time to sort out why. Then I found it:

They noticed that the kids had come to the front door, and started their spiel on how Mormons honor their mothers, and how motherhood is the most important job, and they really respect that. I got the impression they were saying what they thought I wanted to hear, their religion reveres mothers, and their version of God and Jesus makes family important (or something.)

They were, intentionally or not, trying to guilt me into joining their religion because it was the best thing for my family and my children. Because, as previous missionaries have implied, if I don’t raise them properly with a relationship with Jesus, we’re going to spend an eternity separated from God. This is one of many points on which the Missionaries and I disagree.

I’m sorry Missionaries, you picked the wrong angle. My children have played a huge part in why I left Christian Science — and why I have not sought out another religious movement. From Kid1’s difficult transition into the world, to the ER trip for a sprained elbow, and any number of other incidents, I could not put myself, or my children, through the pressure to demonstrate healings that often never materialized (or that just got better with time because the human body is amazing.)

I am going to do my best to instill freethinking humanist values in them. We are striving to raise children who think for themselves on religious and ethical matters, and who are generally kind, empathetic people. I think this is a much more reasonable goal than telling them they can control the weather with their mind, or Invisible Sky Daddy Loves them (and is a completely sadistic bastard — see Job). I want my children to understand the world, and to be empowered to make truly informed decisions. I don’t see any religions offering that. Do like the Noble Eightfold path, but I see that as more of a philosophy than a religion.

Yes, motherhood is important, family is important, I can agree with those things. Yes, I take steps to make sure my family is safe, and I put our familial interests first. Yes, I’d like the best for my children (actually I’m ok with “good enough” because really, “the best” is often an unattainable goal that will only bring stress and misery and that’s not helpful for anyone).

This is one of the very few places Ms. Eddy and I can agree:  I don’t feel motherhood should be the pinnacle defining feature of women if they don’t want it to be. You know, consenting to being a mother, and the choice to become one (or not). I have a complicated relationship with motherhood, my first pregnancy nearly ended with my untimely demise, and I lost a close friend shortly after the birth of my second child because she didn’t feel I was appropriately appreciative  of my children. They’re wonderful, and I love them, but I’m not going to post that everything is sunshine and rainbows. Apparently I didn’t sugar-coat my Facebook posts with enough appreciation for the fact my then-two year old TPed the living room for her liking. I digress. I don’t know enough about Mormon theology and church structure to comment on their views, but the way these young men latched on to the motherhood trope was slightly off-putting.

I don’t want my children to be raised in a (patriarchy-heavy) belief system that thinks it is okay to push their views on everyone. Missionaries, I try to respect your views, but I disagree with them, and I don’t think you should be lobbying to have them legislated across the country (this applies to all church lobbying groups, not just Mormon ones). Please keep your opinions on what should be happening to my body, and in my bedroom, to yourself. Whatever you do, don’t even consider asking if I’m considering having more children (to their credit, these missionaries didn’t, although past ones have).

I’m not interested in joining a religion that has numerous active ex-support sites. I’m finally at a place where I can “out” myself as having grown up in CS to a select group of never-in-CS friends, where I can talk about some of these issues without bursting into tears. I’m working on building a network of ex-CS to help support those who are questioning, leaving and who have left.

Dear Missionaries, I know you think you’ve found the right path, and it may be “right” for you, but it isn’t the right one for me. Thank you for handling my criticism and rejection gracefully. Next time, I suggest you bring water, wear sunscreen and get a good hat. It is hot out there.

Surreal morning conversations at the play yard

I’m starting to think I need more coffee before I do the school run.


(me) Today is Thursday, right?

(a dad at the school play yard) Yeah, it’s Friends, and Steinfield tonight, remember when we used to do that?

Not really, I wasn’t allowed to watch TV. I occasionally snuck some on Wednesday nights while my parents were at church.

There is so much going on with that sentence.

*grapples with the obvious age difference between us and my parental TV restrictions*

Your parents had TV restrictions?

Yeah, that’s why I watched it when they were at church.

Your parents really liked Jesus?

Not exactly.

*raised eyebrows*

They were Christian Scientists.

We’re taking the kids to Boston for the weekend to show them the Mother Church.

Don’t forget to take them to the Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity. Just be careful you don’t catch anything. They don’t vaccinate.

As a community aren’t we supposedly believe that too. *wink*


On one hand it was refreshing to not have to explain what Christian Science was (one of the mothers is convinced I should get in touch with Katie Homles), on the other, it was an all together too surreal conversation.

 

the God Delusion

One of my goals for this year is to read my way through a stack of books that have been sitting on my desk for months now. They are about atheism, religion, philosophy, science, social issues, parenting, and a few works of fiction. We’ll see how far I get. 

This post contains some affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


I finished reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Dawkins, while obviously well educated, and a brilliant scientist, does not come across as the sort of person I’d like to have over for a small dinner party.

I feel many of Dawkins’ ideas have merit, however I feel they are often better expressed by people other than Dawkins himself – I much prefer how some of these ideas are put forth in McGowan’s Parenting Beyond Belief, and I prefer Dennet’s style in Breaking the Spell (it is worth noting Dawkins cites Dennet’s work several times).

The first two chapters offer preliminary introduction and background on religion and God(s). Dawkins focus is mainly on the Big Three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, with Christianity receiving special attention because it is the one he is most familiar with.

I found Dawkins’ “Arguments for God’s Existence” Chapter 3 to be shallow, perhaps this was intentional. Why put up good arguments for a deity that you don’t believe in? Chapter 4, “Why there almost certainly is no God” was slightly better, I enjoyed his Ultimate 747 argument (p. 113).

The Roots of Religion, Chapter 5, was a most interesting read. Dawkins’ speculates on Darwinian imperative, advantages of religion, group selection, religion as a by-product of something else, psychological priming, and closes with a discussion of Cargo cults of the Pacific.

Chapters 6 and 7 deal with morality, and the changing moral zeitgeist. He touched on the idea that our morals are of Darwinian origin — we have an evolutionary imperative to be moral. Dawkins also poses the question if there is no God, why be good? Dawkins goes on to elaborate on this point on p. 227

It seems to be to require a low self-regard to think that, should belief in God suddenly vanish from the world, we would all be come callous and selfish hedonists, with no kindness, no charity, no generosity, nothing that would deserve the name of goodness.

Old and New Testament morality take a hit in Chapter 7, while it used to be acceptable to stone adulteresses, that is now frowned upon. As Dawkins sees it, the Bible hasn’t changed its position on the issue, our moral zeitgeist has. People who were considered progressive in 1902 would not be viewed as forward-thinking in 2001.

Chapter 8 focuses on the damage that has been caused by religion. With subheadings that include (but are not limited to) Fundamentalism and the subversion of science; The dark side of absolutism; and How ‘moderation’ in faith fosters fanaticism it is clear where Dawkins’ is going, trotting out the worst examples of what religion has done in modern times. It is a disheartening read at best.

Children, Abuse and the Escape from Religion is the focus of Chapter 9. Dawkins briefly touches on physical and mental abuse – focusing on Catholic priest sex scandals, the baptizing and kidnapping of children of non-Catholic parents, and female genital mutilation. The topic of circumcision (which is also genital mutilation) is not discussed, nor are the deaths of children under the care of radical relying Christian Scientists – I suspect this is less of a problem in the UK.

Dawkins also focuses on the issue of children being given religious labels. To him, saying a child is Catholic is as preposterous as saying a child is Marxist. I agree with him, the child is a child of Catholic parents, and the child should be free to choose (or reject) Catholicism. Many religious practices would likely die out if it was not for indoctrinating children at an early age.

Relating a Supreme Court case pertaining to Amish children, Dawkins points out that the Amish children never volunteered to be Amish; they were born into it and they had no choice (p. 331). If they had a choice — and we given all the facts — would they choose to be Amish? They don’t get to find out, as the Supreme Court decided the parents’ fundamental right to freedom of religion outweighed the state’s interest in educating children. Dawkins is openly disgusted, and I am horrified.

I am not sure what to make of Chapter 10, A Much Needed Gap. Dawkins speculates

Does religion fill a much needed gap? It is often said that there is a God-shaped gap in the brain which needs to be filled: we have a psychological need for God …. and this need has to be satisfied wether God really exists or not. But could it be that God clutters up a gap that we’d be better off filling with something else?

Further in the chapter he recognizes religions power of consolation, which while it undoubtedly offers, does not necessarily make it true. Here Dawkins’ mentions Dennets’ belief in belief vs. belief in God, and how if you don’t believe you’re encouraged to continue to profess until you do (I tried this with Christian Science, the result is miserable failure). Chapter 10 has more interesting thoughts, and concludes with the analogy that religion is like a burka limiting our vision.

I hesitate to recommend The God Delusion. While Dawkins’ ideas have merit, I feel that his target audience is already affirmed atheists who have made up their mind and are looking for arguments and evidence to support their views, he provides this in spades. The person fully indoctrinated by their religious beliefs is unlikely going to change their mind after reading his work.

The Belief Book

This is another one of the books that has been sitting on my desk for longer than it should have. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for your support of kindism.org


I don’t remember where I first heard about The Belief Book by David G. McAfee and Chuck Harrison, but I do remember coming across very positive things about how it explained religion to children.

 The Belief Book is a slim, 74 page paperback, aimed at “readers and thinkers of all ages, including kids and kids at heart.” The nine chapters (including introduction and conclusion) map out the path questions take to becoming religions.

People have questions! They form stories to help answer them. These stories are passed along from generation to generation and gradually they become beliefs. These beliefs are people’s creations, they create myths and gods, which go on to become religions.

I appreciate the simple, straightforward manner in which the information is presented. I also like that they define the words they are using to clarify their points, and provide examples of the way the words are used, for example on page four they define Believe, God and Religion:

Be-lieve:
verb

  1. To think a thing is true or that something is real. “Dave and Chuck believe definitions are important because they have seen many people get angry or upset because they disagree about a word’s meaning.”
  2. Trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something. “Dave and Chuck believe definitions are important and they believe in always telling the truth.

They also define words in the text, such as “logical” on page 30.

A mix of the things you’ve tried, like Brussels sprouts, and the stories you’ve heard, have led you to some beliefs that are log-i-cal. Logic is what makes sense based on the facts. Dave and Chuck think that following the evidence and looking at all things with a logical mind is the best way to get good answers to big questions!

 The Belief Book is a quick, fun, simple read, that touches on really big ideas. I will probably read it to the children at some point in the not too distant future — most likely the older one, it is still a bit advanced for the little one, and once they’re reading on their own, I’ll probably put it on their bookshelf for them to discover.

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