Out of the Mouths of Babes and Skeplings

29 Dec

Greetings and welcome to the new-and-improved Cupcake Atheist.  We are very excited about our new home here at wordpress and about the total redesign.  It is much, much more cupcakey thanks to my designer who took the time to spice up this blog even while smack in the middle of the holiday hustle and bustle.  Please feel free to say howdy in the comments section and to subscribe to follow this blog via email.

For my first blog post in our new home, I must brag a bit.  My little boy is a thinker.  My husband and I are both atheists, but his grandparents are super religious.  I’ve had a couple tense conversations with the grans about boundaries in terms of sharing their faith.  In my view, any sharing at all is completely inappropriate knowing that my husband and I are openly atheist and anti-theist.  Well, apparently all of the boundary discussions were totally unecessary.  My little guy can handle things just fine himself.

My husband and I celebrate winter solstice, but lest we be left out of the family festivities we accompanied the grans to a gathering on xmas eve.  They were worried about making it back home in time to attend a church service that evening.  As we were leaving the gathering and getting buckled in the car, I (out of politeness) asked if they thought they would make it back in time for church.  My son piped up then, and this is the conversation that followed:

Boy child: You want to go to church?  Why?  To learn about god?

Granna:  Yes.

Boy child: But god isn’t real.

Granna:  He is real to some people.

Boy child:  Have you ever SEEN god?

Granna:  I see god all around me.

Boy child:  [more persistent this time] But god isn’t REAL!

At this point, I interjected and gently let my son know that he had made his point.  But silently, I was bursting with pride.  Here is the kicker, though.  I wasn’t necessarily proud of my son’s insistence that god isn’t real.  He gets that from listening to my husband and myself. He was simply regurgitating what he hears us say in the same way a child being brought up in a religious household would say the opposite.  What made me the most proud was the way he questioned what he was being told.  “Have you ever seen god?”  Beautiful.  Without really understanding the importance of what he was doing, my little almost-four-year-old was exercising critical thinking.  He was asking for a bit of evidence.  This was preschooler skepticism in action.

I was equally satisfied with my mother’s responses.  They just served to reinforce my impression that religious people don’t understand why it is they believe what they believe.  Let’s break it down, shall we?  “He is real to some people.”  Um, no.  God is either real or not.  God either exists or not.  God cannot be real to some people and not to others.  I think what she was trying to say is that some people believe in god and some don’t, which is true.  But still, that doesn’t say anything about the plausibility of god’s existence, only that some people buy it and some don’t.  Next: “I see god all around me.”  Again, nope.  People see nature all around them and they don’t understand how it all works.  Instead of turning to science or skeptical inquiry to help them make sense of things, religious people fill in the gaps of their knowledge with a deity.

When we were safely back home and the grans were on their way to sing hosannas, I grabbed my little skepling, looked him in the eyes and told him how proud I was of all his questions.  I told him he has a good brain.  I never want him to be atheist just because his father and I are atheist.  I want him to think through things and arrive at conclusions based on facts, evidence and reason.  As he grows, I expect that his questions will become even more insightful.  Whatever the future holds, I am one proud mommy.





6 Responses to “Out of the Mouths of Babes and Skeplings”

  1. roguem80 December 29, 2010 at 3:26 am #

    Love it!

  2. cdpeters01 December 29, 2010 at 4:59 am #

    …and, as the proud Daddy, I have to say that the best part was the simple logic of the questions. It shows that belief in something (not just god) without evidence is illogical. If even an “almost-four-year-old” can see that fallacy, then why can’t more adults?

  3. Gary December 29, 2010 at 7:13 pm #


    that is great for a four year old to articulate. I often wonder if kids are hard wired for skepticism and we just beat it out of them. I have some religious friends who told me how their child wanted to test the tooth fairy theory. They had to use threats of no money for teeth to dissuade her.

    • winchestre December 29, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

      Gary – I see what you are saying. I vacillate between thinking that we are all natural-born skeptics and it gets beaten out of us or the opposite – that belief is our default and that our minds have to be trained to think critically. That is why when it comes to things like santa and the tooth fairy, Spock and I don’t do anything to actively deceive or dissuade the kiddo’s belief. We want to see if he can figure things out on his own. And when he does, he gets praised for using his brain.

      I have to give credit where credit is due, however, in that the grandparents did not freak out. My mom tried to calmly answer his questions as best she could. It’s just that religion doesn’t have any answers. *sigh

  4. Lisa December 30, 2010 at 1:55 am #

    Beautiful! Great post.

  5. Summer February 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Parents wonder why their kids stop listening to them as the kids get older … I think it is because the kids figure out that their parents have been lying to them since they were born!

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