Monday, March 22, 2010

On Coexisting (Or, God is Gray)

In my blogs, I try to balance the nostalgic and the sentimental with the tongue-in-cheek. But today, I wax a bit serious. Please forgive my transgression as I tell you about the other day in the car, on a gloriously beautiful South Florida day, when I got sucked into the following conversation with my spiritual son and my scientific daughter. (Warning to sensitive readers: This one's about God.)

Son: Who invented the word “stupid”? Did God invent it?
Me: No, people invent words to describe things they experience.
Son: But God made people, right?
Me: Yes…
Son: So why did God make people stupid?
Me: (after contemplating the most honest yet least judgmental answer I could come up with) I guess it’s just part of being human sometimes.
Daughter: (setting her own record for waiting to jump in on a conversation) God’s not real.
Son: How do you know that?
Daughter: You can’t prove that God’s real.
Me: (finally proud to have a kick-ass response to my know-it-all daughter) But you can’t disprove it either.
Daughter: You can’t prove it.
Me: You can’t disprove it.
Daughter: Soooo! You can’t prove it!
Me: You’re going to have to brush up on your debate skills if you’re going to be a successful litigator some day.
Daughter: I don’t want to be a Little Gator. I want to be a Seminole! (referring to the Florida State Seminoles and thus cementing her desire to do exactly what her die-hard University of Florida Gator-fan father would resent)

I gave up the debate because when driving a car, it’s often hard to tell whether the moral argument or the semantic argument is worth battling. However, my children’s differing views on God are a minute-scale example of how the rest of the world feels about the issue. And if two children from the same upbringing can’t make peace with their differences and learn tolerance, how in God’s name can the rest of the world?

Admittedly, my husband and I have probably confused the kids quite a bit. I mean, we don’t send them to religious school yet enforce the observance of the holiest days of the year. And my husband breaks away from his upbringing every Saturday morning to partake in Zen meditation at a local Buddhist temple. He explains that one practice is not in conflict with the other. But when you’re a kid, gray is a hard color to see, since black and white are much more easily recognizable.

At this time, I’d like to mention my own difficulty in distinguishing between God and organized religion because I believe that belief in the former does not require affiliation with the latter. I see the purpose of organized religion and can acknowledge its benefits. But get me on my soapbox (or my blog) and you’ll hear me scream from the highest heights my disdain for what we do to each other in the name of religion. We hate each other, insult each other, and even kill each other over who is right and who will be damned, when the truth is that nobody knows the truth. We all get by on our faith (or adamant rejection of faith, which is a belief system all its own). And as long as we are kind to each other and respect each person’s right to free will, what difference does it make which compass we use to guide ourselves down that road to good living?

On my car, I have a bumper sticker that frequently attracts inquiries of where I got it. It says, “Coexist” and is written in a variety of symbols from religions all over the world. I believe in this philosophy whole-heartedly. And when my son, daughter, and I finally arrived home from our outing, I walked them around to the back of the car and pointed to my bumper sticker.

Daughter: But you can’t prove that God exists!
Son: I don’t want to coexist with her!
Me: (in exasperation) Oh, my God!

As we walked into the house, I reminded myself that they are immature eleven- and nine-year-olds.

So what’s the rest of the world’s excuse?


  1. I love this! I, too, am spiritual but distrust organized religion. I was very involved in a church, only to see people who thought they were "closer" to God use that "position" to judge others, and it made me sick. In the words of Rodney King, can't we all just get along?

    Love the commentary at the end - sounds like my family!

  2. Amen, Sista! Although I find great solace and peace in my "organized religion," I sadly acknowledge mine (as well as others), have failed many. All the more reason to believe in God. As I heard from the pulpit this weekend, "You cannot outsin God's mercy." (not meant to sound like a challenge!) p.s. Love your bumper sticker.

  3. That ending had me laughing out loud! Love it. :)

  4. My favorite blog so far! Beautifully written. With Love, your Juddhist husband

  5. Love this! And I think that bumper sticker is great, I haven't seen it before and I really like it. I am with you, always amazed at how my kids think, and very spiritual without leaning heavily on organized religion. I can definitely relate.

    I have an award for you on my blog :)

  6. Okay this had me laughing & thinking seriously - LOVE IT!

    I am much like you on the organized religion. I do understand the need for fellowship, people need people. But I also have issues with man's organized religion. I work at my dayjob with a man who has great faith. He knows the Bible in & out, he works hard to see the good in everyone, he attends church every Sunday but NEVER ask him what religion he is (then again DO ask). He will answer this: I am a Christian, religion is something that man uses to excuse certain choices he wants or has made.

    I have always loved this answer.

    As for your children...goodness help you in about 3 years. ;o) Thanks again for a great post.

    Visit My Kingdom Anytime!