Yesterday, I received a comment from David, who asked me to perform a little experiment. He wanted me to ask my 3-year old son where the sky came from, and the birds. David felt certain that my son would answer “God,” even though we’ve never taught him about God.
I thought this was a great idea. My wife did too. We were honestly very curious how he would respond. And I actually want to thank David for this idea — it was a good one.
So when I got home yesterday, my wife and I took my son aside and asked him where trees come from (I couldn’t remember David’s specific suggestions). My son said, “In the summer!” Remember, he’s only 3 :). So we said, “Yes, we see trees in the summer, but where do they come from?” His reply, again, had to do with summer.
So we tried asking about the sun. Where did it come from? “In the summer,” was his response, but we tried again. My wife said, “Yes, we see the sun in the summer, but we also see it in the winter. Where do you think it came from? How did it get here?” He finally seemed to understand what we were asking — I don’t think it had ever occurred to him to wonder about any of that before. To him, everything is just here. So this time, he answered, “I don’t know.” But he didn’t seem bothered by that answer — it really didn’t seem to phase him at all. We let him get back to his Play-Doh after that.
I know David might be disappointed by this, but I hope it won’t bother him too much. When I was a Christian, I don’t think I would have attached any real significance to it. And as I said, we’ve never told him anything about God, or Jesus, or religion at all. Whenever he’s seen a Bible, he’s simply called it a book. About a year ago, we were taking a walk through the neighborhood, and he saw a small statue of an angel in someone’s yard. He called it a butterfly. He’s just had no real exposure to religion.
This has been interesting for me and my wife. When we left Christianity, my son was just around 20 months old, but we had stopped believing around the time he was 1. It just wasn’t enough for him to absorb anything. My daughters, however, were 7 and 5 when we left (younger when we stopped believing), so there was more of an impact on them. I’m not sure how they would answer the question David posed. In the end, they would also probably say “I don’t know.”
I’m okay with that — it’s probably the best possible answer. And if they grow up and become theists, I’ll be okay with that too. I’ll want them to make that decision. I know that what my wife and I think will make an impact on them — it would be ridiculous to pretend that it won’t. But we always make a point of telling them that they’ll one day make up their own mind about these things. And no matter what they decide, it won’t change our relationship with them.
Anyway, I thought it was interesting enough to take this from the comment thread and move it to its own post. Thanks again to David for coming up with the idea.