Playground Theology

Did you know that kids discuss religion at the playground? I had heard this before from another like-minded mom, yet it still caught me off-guard.

We had an early release day last Friday, so we met friends at the park. I chatted with my friend, while half-watching my kids play with other park-dwelling children, impressed with the affable interactions.

Until I overheard a conversation between Zach and an unknown child– we’ll call him Sunglasses.

About 10 minutes later, Sunglasses gathers his people, never once noticing two adults sitting 5 feet from his grouping.

Let’s get ’em!

I intervened with the mom-stink-eye before the angry mob could take their playground torches after my unsuspecting heathenlets.

“I find playground discussions of religion and politics rude. And none of you needs to go after my children. In America we get to make our own choices about whether we do, or do not, believe.”

Disgruntled, the mob slunk off to another part of the playground, though never out of my complete line of sight. Sunglasses, having elected himself town crier, continued to inform other playground attendees of our non-theism; I assume to protect the unsuspecting from the atheist cooties.

Okay, that’s probably unfair. In all honesty, the horror that continually crept into Sunglasses’ tone and expression seemed to result more from astonishment than disgust.

As if the child had never before met an atheist, let alone an atheist child.

Because I was curious (and worried) the car ride home was a question/answer period between Zach and I:

How did y’all end up talking about religion? He asked me where we went to church and I said we don’t go to church.

Um, do you actually pray to Santa? [Rolling his eyes] No.

And finally:

Do you have questions or concerns about what happened today. Well, yeah. The kid (Sunglasses) asked why we don’t believe in god. I just told him that we believe in polar bears because we can see them, and they are the only real things living in the north pole, but if the ice melts they won’t be able to live there anymore.

I stop listening for a minute while I consider how his rejection of the santa myth has gotten mixed up with global warming.

But mom? Why don’t we believe god is real?

Exactly the sort of off-the-cuff question I want to answer while trapped in a car with a 5 and 3 year old on a late Friday afternoon.

Now, since I’m totally proud of all the things I didn’t say:

  • Um, because I don’t believe in Zeus?
  • Every major religion has some sort of creation story. If you line all the religious text in a row by date, you can literally see the overlap.
  • Because if Adam and Eve beget all of earth’s population as the bible said, it means lots of incest, and that makes me feel icky.
  • Of course, anthropologists have found human remains in multiple places, and the whole no-plane/car thing made travel pretty tricky. Thus it’s logical that Adam and Eve didn’t parent everyone.
  • Also, paleontologists find and catalog fossils, but in no religious text does can one find mention of really massive lizard-type animals with big teeth and small arms. You know– dinosaurs. And– NO– dinosaurs and people weren’t hanging out together; the Ook and Gluk book is fiction.

Instead, I answered, “Well, did you ask sunglasses boy why he DID believe in god?” Well, no. I’ll do that next time.

I mean really, at 5 isn’t the honest answer always going to be something like because my parents told me so.