My boy started quite the conversation with me yesterday. It came out of nowhere, just as were leaving the house to go for an evening stroll on the beach.
“Why do some people believe in God?”
“Well,” I hesitated, searching for the right way to explain this to a seven year old, “people tend to see patterns even when none exist. So, for example, imagine you and I are having a conversation. You say something to me and then I get mad. Really mad. And right at that moment lightning strikes. You might think that I caused the lightning. And then imagine that the same thing happened again. You would have even more reason to believe that I control the lightning, even though I had nothing to do with it. You might see me as a ‘god’ of some kind.
“People tend to see patterns like this and think there must be a mind behind these kinds of coincidences. They think that ‘god’ or whatever is controlling events.”
“Oh,” he said. We left the house and drove to the beach. I figured he had lost interest by now. But as we walked along the alleyway that serves as a beach access, he started up again.
“One time when we were in San Diego on the beach, Pops [his grandfather] told me that God created everything, and I pointed at some guys who were building houses and said, ‘Those too?’ and he said, ‘Well maybe not everything.'”
“Yeah,” I replied, not sure how much he wanted to keep talking about this subject.
“Did you ever believe in God?”
“Well, because some really smart people that I respected convinced me there was a god.”
“Why don’t you believe any more?”
“Over time it just didn’t make sense. They say that God is all powerful and good. But then bad things happen. He can’t be both all powerful and good if bad things happen. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either,” he agreed. “You know what I don’t get? How could something come out of nothing? I think that nothing can’t be something because then it wouldn’t be nothing.”
“I’m with you, kid. You’ve just hit on one of the great mysteries of life. The current best theory we have for how everything started is the Big Bang Theory. That says that all stuff, the earth, the sun, all the galaxies, everything, was shrunken down into one very very tiny dot. And then it exploded. Who knows why or how. So some people say that God must have been there all along to make the Big Bang happen. Other people say that that’s just punting because it raises the question, How did God get there in the first place? The answer people give is that God is eternal, he was always there. But that could also be the answer without God — stuff, whatever, was always there and then the Big Bang happened. We don’t know why or how, really.”
Remarkably, my son’s attention span hadn’t reached its limit. This surprised me to no end.
“I just don’t get how something could come out of nothing. That’s just…I just don’t get it.”
He repeated this several times, really perplexed by it, and then…
“Hey, Dad, let’s throw sand on this crab!”
The kid had really struggled with the hard questions. In my recitation above I’ve barely changed the actual dialog we had last night. I was amazed at how articulate this kid was on the deep questions of life. (He is not generally…ah…shall we say, this focused on…well, anything.)
There are a lot of morons out there, on all sides of all issues (e.g. atheist morons, Christian morons). But somehow this conversation gave me a good measure of hope in my boy that maybe, just maybe, he won’t grow up to be one of them.