How I Lost My Fear of Reading My Daughter Bible Stories

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post about my concerns about reading Bible story books to my daughter Sally.

Any atheist parent with religious relatives will have to figure out how to deal with the Bible story books their children will inevitably be given for birthdays and Christmas. This is something that’s been on my mind lately because a Noah’s Ark board book has suddenly become my young daughter’s favorite book.

Some atheist parents may just return Bible themed story books when their children receive them as gifts, and that’s fine, but I didn’t want to do that. Now I know I could just read them to her and not differentiate between them and any of the many other stories she reads, but I’m not sure she’s old enough to understand myth yet and I’m still, I think, a bit gunshy about the whole thing.

So I’ve taken a different tack altogether. I just change the books’ content. My daughter can’t read yet, after all. (Is this where I put an evil smiley?)

The comments section of that post lit up with readers urging me not to be so worried, to just read them to her like I might any other story. This was one post where I felt like I gained a lot from the comments. You were all right. My main concern at the time was that Sally had no concept of God, so I wasn’t sure what she would take away from the books, but I was letting my old baggage carry over. Just because Bible stories were something more than stories to me growing up didn’t mean there was any reason they would be more than that for Sally.

At the advice of commenters, I both bought some books of mythology from other cultures and began reading Bible story books to Sally in the normal fashion. I began loosening up about the whole thing. A story is a story, I told myself resolutely.

What with Christmas approaching, I thought it best to read her the nativity story. I knew she would be exposed to elements of it here or there, and hey, it’s an important part of Christmas for many Americans and she ought to know that. Cultural literacy and all that! The only thing I’ve added to the regular words is explaining that when it says Jesus was “the son of God” it means he was “a very special baby” [edit for clarity]. She enjoyed the story and has asked for it a number of times since I first read it.

Well, just the other day I heard her “reading” the nativity story to her baby brother Bobby. (She’s in preschool, so she can’t actually read yet.) Anyway, Sally had it turned to the page of the annunciation, when the angel appeared to Mary to tell her she would have a baby, and here is the fragment I overheard her say:

…and then Mary’s fairy godmother came…

You remember that Sally’s on a princess kick, right? Yeah. I turns out that she doesn’t see the story about Mary and Joseph as any different than the stories about Ariel, Repunzel, or Cinderella. And why should she? As Christmas approaches I’ve also read her stories about Santa. She’s currently convinced Santa is real. Also, the other day we were talking about mermaids, and she informed me that they are real too, and absolutely not pretend. Fairies too, she said.

See, Sally doesn’t differentiate between stories about princesses or Santa and stories from the Bible. Peter Pan? Joseph and his coat of dreams? The Cat in the Hat? The Polar Express? They’re all just stories right now – stories she apparently thinks are all real, of course, but she’ll grow out of that.

And so, somehow, I’m not afraid of confusing Sally by reading her Bible stories anymore.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Kelly

    I think it may be a little strange for her to grow up too in the dark about religious customs(not just Christian, bit other religions too), but I guess she’s only four now, right? My younger cousin saw me in the musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and I think she still doesn’t have a clue where the story came from.

  • Tracy

    And, actually, reading a lot of myths and stories from multiple cultures is what initially led me to believing less and less in god/religion. I saw how similar the bible stories were to stories that I was told were “myths” and therefore “not true”. I just didn’t see how people could say these stories over here are “myths”, but these (very, very similar) stories over here are “true facts” with a straight face.

  • ronalon42

    My daughter’s kindergarten class is learning about telling the difference between real and make believe. It is typically a series of pictures and they are told to color the real ones (or vice versa). I hadn’t thought much of it, except I thought it was a really good age appropriate exercise for building critical thinking. Then the other day she told me that if a man dies and comes back to life it is make believe. I had no idea where that specific example came from, but I beamed and told her she was exactly right. She followed it with “talking snakes are make believe.” Curious now, I asked her what the snake said and she said she didn’t know, but snakes can’t talk anyway.

    I wonder if the teacher is being purposefully subversive or if it is coincidence.

    Funnily enough, she also believes in fairies and Santa and all that, though I see her starting to figure it out. She likes believing in make believe things right now but she doesn’t take it seriously – I can tell discovering the truth about Santa will be something she feels good about, not upset.

    • http://complicatedfeelingsabout.wordpress.com Katherine

      I’ve read that children start to develop a real sense of the difference between “real” and “pretend” around six or seven or so. Building critical thinking is great, but it seems strange to me that teachers would try to teach the difference between real and pretend shortly before children arrive at that developmental stage. I wonder if it helps them to be better at it when they get there? Or if it makes any difference at all? Or if it can be used as an indoctrination tool? (like, if you teach them what is “real” and what is “pretend” before they can discern for themselves, you could maybe quite easily introduce the idea that some things, like virgin births etc, that will look pretend using logic, are actually quite real. obviously it sounds like your child isn’t at risk for that, but it seems like something to be aware of.)

      • Seda

        Unfortunately, people don’t always a real sense of the difference between “real” and “make believe” even when they’re adults – I read awhile back that something like 40% of Americans believe the Adam-and-Eve Bible creation story is literally true. (Some of them even created a museum to celebrate it: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2007/11/12/your-creation-museum-report/) For instance, when my eldest son was about 4 or 5 years old, he was talking about dinosaurs and evolution in a playgroup we shared that included a couple of fundy moms, and one of the moms suggested, “Don’t you think they might have been created whole?” Trin’s response: “No! They evolved.” Very positive, 100% confidence in his voice. And very entertaining to watch the fundy mom guppy her mouth and try to think of a rejoinder.

        Boy knows how to make a mama proud.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com MargueriteF

    “The only thing I’ve changed at all is calling Jesus “a very special baby” rather than “the son of god.”

    When you read Greek myths, you probably don’t change them to say that Heracles was “a very special boy” rather than “the son of Zeus.” The Christmas story should be no different. In Christian mythology, Jesus is the son of God, but the more you read to her, the more she’ll realize that lots of mythological characters were supposed to be the child of some god or other. The Hebrew and Christian myths are not unique– there are innumerable other myths with similar elements– and that’s the big thing you want your children to take away from these stories eventually.

    • Steve

      The difference is that nobody treats Greek mythology as real these days. But children are constantly surrounded by people who tell them that Christian and Jewish mythology are real. Children also tend to trust authority figures.

  • http://www.quicksilverqueen.com Anne — Quicksilver Queen

    Haha, that’s great. I’ve been a little trepiditious (is that a word??) about how my daughter is going to be exposed to Xtian culture at my inlaws’. My fear is they are going to try and indoctrinate her (they are fundy-lite) as she gets older.

  • http://nwrickert.wordpress.com/ Neil Rickert

    Off on a slight tangent:

    When my oldest child was ready to start school, we had to decide which school. The neighborhood public school had a bad reputation, and we worried about him being beaten up.

    We enrolled him in a neighborhood catholic school. You can imagine that was a troubling choice for non-believing parents.

    It turned out that we need not have worried.

    We did scrape up enough to transfer him to an expensive private school, a few years later. That was mainly a concern about the quality of education, rather than a worry about indoctrination.

  • ronalon42

    I change stories a bit when I read, to provide better clarity and context for their understanding. So for a Hercules I might say that he was the son of Zeus and a super hero. For Jesus I say that he was born and people believed he would be a king who would make their world better.

    As she is learning to read I will follow the words, but then stop and explain. I still don’t read some stories because I just don’t think they are appropriate – The Flood and Crucifixion for example.

    She now knows of Jesus as a baby that has to do with Christmas, but she doesn’t care much and vastly prefers Santa stories which is fine with me.

  • J-Rex

    That’s awesome.
    It’s funny when you see how kids naturally respond to religious stories by putting them in the same category as other stories, you begin to realize how much it was forced on you as a kid. There really is very little concern about them taking these stories seriously because they never do that with any other story, or they’ll do that with all stories and let them go around the same time.
    I really should have been suspicious when hearing Bible stories and realizing that the make-believe stories and the “true” stories sounded way too similar.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    I’m so anti-Santa right now. I believed way too long and I’m just not happy with level of deception. My parents taught me about God being real because they believed he was real. But why did they teach me Santa was real AND give me more evidence for his existence than even God’s? I’ve pretty much decided to specifically teach my kid Santa is pretend.

    • smrnda

      I didn’t grow up with Santa, but it always struck me as mean and sadistic. I mean, if you tell your kids about some god, at least the adults really do believe in the god in question. With Santa, it’s more “wow, it’s so cute! You can tell little kids anything and they believe it!” I mean, the level to which you can convince kids that something is real when it isn’t is a terrifying thing and no joke. I just don’t think deception can ever be cute or fun or anything, and I’ve always had a no BS policy when it came to telling kids about what was real or not.

      Plus, I can feel that you could be very embarrassed and felt betrayed that you parents duped you – deceiving a child for ‘fun’ is more about the adults getting to believe that kids exist in a state of idealized innocence. Adults want kids to be naive and trusting so they do what they can to keep them that way. I could go on and on, but that’s enough.

      • http://complicatedfeelingsabout.wordpress.com Katherine

        Yes this. I discovered the truth about Santa at age four and I was mad as hell. These were my parents, the people that I trusted the most in the whole world and relied on for everything, and here they were lying and deceiving me, and convincing themselves that it was somehow for my benefit – to make Christmas more “fun”. It was just so obviously about them and not about me.

        For the rest of my childhood I had a much healthier relationship with the Santa Claus myth. I understood it was a story and make believe, but on Christmas eve we would joke around about it and pretend to believe. When my parents were getting tired and wanted to just put the damn presents under the tree already, they would implore my sister and I “you guys better go to bed so Santa can come!” It worked out really well, except when my second grade teacher tried to have a friendly debate about Santa Claus, and I ranted about how children SHOULD understand that their parents loved them and got them presents because of that love, not some creepy bearded stranger. I possibly made some kids cry and got in some trouble.

        I also objected to the Santa story because he was so obviously a stand-in for god with all that “see you when your sleeping” crap, and god was someone I fervently believed in as a child, despite growing up in an agnostic home.

      • Ms_Morlowe

        I also believed in Santa for AGES, but I’ve come out of it with the opposite viewpoint– while I was definitely mad as a child for being lied to, I love the idea of Santa Claus and how special it all was. I love the tradition of writing letters to Santa Claus, and leaving carrots and fruit cake by the chimney, and I love that magic was so real to me then. It was a bonding experience with other children– not as ‘what did Santa bring’ but we went mad with creating theories for how Santa got to all the children in the world in one night (concord jet, with reindeer painted on the side), how the letters got to Santa (we burned ours, and said that the smoke carried our words to the North Pole). Looking back now, I have such good memories of the magic of Santa and Christmas that I definitely want to give the same to any kids I might have.

        The realisation about myths was the same for me: I’m Irish and grew up with Fionn and Deirdre and the Children of Lir and all that, as well as all the Bible stories, and I believed in both in the same way: it’s hard to explain, but after the age of around 8 or so, my understanding of both was that they didn’t historically happen, but they’re still true, and I’ve no idea how that ever made any sense to me. My understanding of Santa was the same: he wasn’t real, but he was true.

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      I’m going to teach my kids that Santa is everyone’s imaginary friend, and possibly either a Time Lord or a member of the Q Continuum.

      • Sheena

        Santa as a Time Lord is brilliant. And would explain why only a few people have actually seen him…

      • Rae

        Yes, if I have children, they’ll figure out that Santa isn’t real when they figure out that Time Lords aren’t real… that would also solve the “Don’t tell your friends that Santa isn’t real” problem.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com Basketcase

      My mother got all offended when I mentioned that we may not teach our pending child about Santa. Apparently, “you cant do that to my grand-baby”.
      We can do whatever the hell we want!
      We have agreed that if we DO “do” Santa, it will only be as the stocking filler – providing lollies, chocolates and small gifts. That way, you can tell them from the start that he is not really real, and that its just a fun tradition, AND this mythical being doesnt end up getting all the credit for the best presents!

      • Monika

        I am very very torn about the whole Santa thing. I want my daughter (now 3.5) to enjoy the Christmas myths about him and to fit in with her little friends and it seems mean to outright tell her he isn’t real. I have real problems lying about Santa directly so I think if she asks if he is real I will answer honestly (or say “what do you think?”). But I also want to let her believe for a little while longer.

        I was more firm when she was smaller! But when she told me this morning firmly that Santa was real I didn’t want to contradict her. Is that wrong?

    • Leigha

      I believed in Santa until the middle of elementary school (age 8 or 9?), despite otherwise being a bit ahead of the curve in separating fact and fiction, and I got made fun of for it quite a bit. If parenting was a one-person endeavor, I would absolutely not teach my kids that he’s real, but my boyfriend (we’re planning on getting married but haven’t gotten officially engaged yet) wants to and thinks the only reason I’m against it is because I was teased (it’s not; I don’t like the idea of lying to children in general, the teasing is just added incentive). So I’m torn. I think we’ll probably tell Santa stories and watch the movies (the same movies as when we were kids, and as when our parents were kids, because for some reason they seem to have incredible staying power), but if they ask me about it I’ll tell them the truth–that it’s just a story, and it’s only for fun, or that Santa represents the spirit of the holiday but isn’t actually a real person. Something like that.

  • http://allweathercyclist.blogspot.com/ JethroElfman

    Oh sure they’re cute now. I did the same, and it worked well when my mom came over and would quiz them on bible stories to make sure they were being raised properly. But when they became teenagers, they were perplexed to discovered that grandma actually believed all this stuff. One thing I hadn’t managed to teach them was which topics not to discuss with grandma. So they would lay into her about how the earth couldn’t possibly be 6000 years old, and that evolution was real. and that the dinosaurs didn’t die out because there was no room on the ark.

    And I totally sold them out. Asked by grandma my children were such radicals, I blamed the school system. Which was ironic since they had attended a private Christian school. I’m not ready to tell my mom that they got the heathen doctrines from me. She’s mad enough at me already for having become a liberal.

    • Rosa

      yeah, I’m thinking the “special baby” thing is better than what we did, which was “it’s a story that Christians believe in” because now the 7 year old says to his cousins “but that’s just your story, other people believe different stories” and it does not make the grownups happy.

      of course if my atheist husband would come out to his mom it would be slightly less of a shock to her. Oh well.

  • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

    Since we’re doing a chronological study of history, I’m also wondering how to approach this. Our family is Jewish. How do you teach the Jesus story as culturally relevant while including “but we don’t believe that”?

    • smrnda

      This might not work for young kids, but it might be worth thinking of why the Jesus story would have become so popular. You can also compare Jesus to other Jewish figures who were reported to have performed miracles or legendary figures from Hellenistic culture. If you borrow enough from different sources, you’re likely to come up with a popular legend that will have broad appeal.

    • Steve

      Why not just say that there are lots of different religions and the Jesus one the most popular one in the western world?

    • Sarah

      I don’t think there’s any need to say “but we don’t believe that”. Just teach them about myths from cultures all over the world and teach them the difference between myth and fact, and likely fact. One handy tool is lifelike fiction. For example, it’s onvious Jack and Annie don’t really travel in tme, but do they exist? What about Ramona? Everythg in her stories could happen, but is it non-fiction? What about archaeology?

      I don’t gtpet how being Jewish makes any difference? Unless you mean you’re religious, in which case good luck lying to your kid about that one particular myth being the only special one out of all of them.

      • smrnda

        The concern is probably because Christians try to recruit Jews all the time. Christians have their own interpretations of Jewish scriptures, and at least me, the Christian way their look at the scriptures is based on trying to interpret them to back up Christian ideas, not in accordance with how Jews understand them.

  • http://prairienymph.wordpress.com prairienymph

    My oldest told me the other day that kids at her school were talking about Santa. She told them “you shouldn’t talk about Santa like he is real because that might hurt the feelings of the kids who don’t believe he is real.” Huh. I think we’ve told her not to talk about Santa to kids who believe in him but it was an interesting twist she found.
    I have a child who doesn’t believe in God, Santa, or the Easter bunny. She is convinced that fairies, unicorns, elves and leprechauns are very real. I’m still confused as to why.

  • Eric D Red

    If you pick the right biblical stories, it could keep her from becoming at all a believer.

    Like the story of Lot offering his daughters up for gang rape, and God finding him to be a good man. Or his nameless wife being turned to salt for looking back (a much worse crime, apparently). Or what his daughters did later. A nice little bedtime trilogy.

    Or god telling his people to kill every Cannanite man, woman, child, donkey and chicken, except the little virgin girls.

    Or the flood. You can even find children’s books about this, but you’ll have to fill in the missing bits about everyone dieing. That seems to get overlooked.

    She might not sleep too well, but you won’t have to worry about becoming indoctrinated.

  • Kevin Alexander

    When my son figured out that Santa was just a story I told him to keep it to himself. I told him mostly little kids believe it but some people believe it all their lives.
    Then I told him Jesus is like that.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    Do you have a good bible story book to recommend for children Sally’s age? (My daughter is preschool age as well.) I’ve had issues with some of the books I’ve found that change the story, or in an older book depict dark-skinned people as the wicked ones and the “good” Bible characters as white. Racism, much?

    I’d also love to find a children’s book that has Hebrew/Christian myths alongside myths from other cultures.

    • Monika

      Yes please – request seconded. I’d love to know what books on mythology in general you are finding good. I haven’t had a real search yet but the ones I have come across are all a bit heavy and too old for my 3.5 year old.

      • Rosa

        we started at maybe 4 with the first Susan Wise Bauer Story of the World history book. In the course of teaching “Western” history it has a fair bit of Egyptian and Babylonian mythology, and quite a bit of actual history of the evolution of monotheism. The story of Akhenaten, who tried to establish monotheism in ancient Egypt, made my son righteously indignant, and it’s easy to refer to it when talking about how various parts of Europe and Africa became Christian via political conquest now that he’s older.

        It treats Christian myths as historical, but that’s easy to change when reading aloud, and easy to explain to a child who can read.

        Other than that i don’t have any solid recommendations – i’ve found collections of folktales arranged by region to be pretty good, but the myth collections for kids tend to be either boring or cartoonish.

  • Miranda

    I’m a long time reader but a first time commenter–I’m only commenting on this post because a lot of the comments seem to revolve around the myth of Santa Claus and the betrayal they felt after finding out (or being told) that he wasn’t real. Well…for me it was more of a victory in proving something empirically wrong. At the time I was on a real Sherlock Holmes kick, so I “investigated” and realised that the same colour wrapping paper that was on our presents was the same as the wrapping paper in the barn (we had a barn finished into a workshop/play area!) and that both my parents would suspiciously disappear into the barn around the same time every year. When I finally confronted them, and they admitted it, I was ecstatic for some reason. Additionally, I had another “good” secret to keep from my three younger sisters. To me it was fun!
    That being said, I do recall with vivid dismay my feelings of utter and absolute betrayal when I first read Darwin’s works and realised that my entire life I had been lied to about evolution and the world. My deconversion process was excruciatingly painful and filled with the sort of betrayed fury that people here are talking about with their disconnect from Santa!
    Libby Anne: I really love reading your articles and I make sure to check your blog several times a day. It’s become significant reading for me now! I recently finished reading Nailed (longer title, not sure how to italicize), and my foray into the blogosphere has been widened by your comment section and your links to other people who have very valid but stifled things to say. Thank you for helping me feel somewhat less alone this Christmas! I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences some solid validation from reading your blog.
    Merry blogging, and I hope to see much more from you in the future!

    • B.

      I’m with you on the triumph of discovery (for non-religious figures, anyway)! That’s exactly the way I felt. I figured out the tooth fairy first. The way she wrote in response to my letters (yes, I wrote letters to the tooth fairy, and my poor mother had to climb over me to snatch paper and tooth off the windowsill) matched my mother’s fancy handwriting when I had sack lunches on field trips…. And then the rest fell into place. I could lord it over my sad, delusional younger sister with knowing smiles and silent shakes of the head.

      That, and I was an insomniac child who wandered downstairs in between the Easter Bunny eating his cookies and taking the card. Still not sure where my parents hid.

  • Karen

    The wife of a friend of mine, when her children were young, got really, really into Christmas. Those children are all grown now. A few years ago I was having lunch with my friend and his middle daughter, who confessed that all the children — even the youngest — wouldn’t admit they’d figured out Santa for many years, because they saw how much their mother enjoyed the pretend game and didn’t want to rob her of that enjoyment.

  • Karen

    That should have been “even the eldest”. Post first, proofread later…

  • Rilian

    –She’s in preschool, so she can’t actually read yet.–
    That doesn’t follow. Plenty of people can read before age 5.

    • Ray

      The average age for a child to read is 5-6. Though I think you may mean reading as in identifying written words compared to reading as in identifying written words that tell a story, which I going to assume what Libby Anne means.

      • Leigha

        Just because 5-6 is average doesn’t mean that no one can read before that (in fact, the “average” pretty much necessitates that some can). I was reading chapter books by age 5, and I cringed a bit at the implied “obviousness” of her not being able to read yet simply because she’s in preschool. But that’s because I’ve always been sensitive to the idea that children aren’t capable of doing/knowing things (the worst thing EVER for me when I was a kid was being patronized, and it’s still a problem for me nearly two decades later).

      • Leigha

        I’d like to add, there is NOTHING wrong with Sally not being able to read yet, or even with a six year old not being able to read yet. You are correct that 5-6 is the average for learning to read, and anything within a couple years of that is perfectly acceptable. As long as the parents are creating an environment in which the child is encouraged to learn to read (and it sounds like Libby Anne is doing this with her daughter), they’ll learn in time. I just wanted to second Rilian’s sentiment and say that, even before 5, some kids are perfectly capable of reading not just words but entire stories.

  • Rilian

    Speaking of santa,
    when we were four, my sister and I opened all our presents before my parents woke up, and we couldn’t understand why they were mad, because the presents were from santa to us, so what did that have to do with my parents?

    Also, I figured out when I was 5 that santa couldn’t be real. Before that I hadn’t really though about it, but then I was like, can someone really fly around and be invisible like that? Nah.

  • Noelle

    When I was 6, I started in on my mother about Santa inconsistencies. After half-heartledly answering a couple questions, she caved and said it was time I knew he wasn’t real. It was a fun made-up Christmas thing some families do. She was straight with me when I brought up the real questions, so I don’t remember feeling betrayed or anything deep like that. I was a little disappointed that Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy were all pretend games. It let a little illusion of magic out of the world, but I felt like a big kid getting the real truth. Then I was instructed to never tell my younger step-sister, who lived with her mom at the time but visited us for holidays, because she still believed. And we would all catch Hell if I spilled the beans. So I tested her gently every year to see if she knew. Finally, when she was 9 and I was 11, she’d figured it out. When I confided I’d known all those years, but wasn’t allowed to tell, she was pretty annoyed.

    My husband was a PK, and they never did the Santa tradition.

    My 6 and 8 year old have both been told it’s a story and a fun thing to pretend, but it’s not real. My 6 year-old has friends who still believe, so she tells me right back that he is too real. Just tonight during dinner she said, “some people believe in God and some don’t, some people believe in Santa and some don’t. I believe in Santa.” Then I quizzed her on the Easter bunny, fairies, leprechauns, the tooth fairy, and baby Jesus. They all got a pass except Jesus. I guess that one’s already too far fetched at this point. It’s a good thing we live far away from the religious relatives.

  • Katherine A.

    Children’s illustrated bibles always water down how terrifying the real bible stories really are. It’s the same with any fairy tales written by the Brothers Grimm. If you were to read the real fairy tales you’d be shocked. For example: Snow White was 7 when her Stepmother wanted her dead. She also wanted the huntsman to bring her the girl’s heart (sometimes lungs and liver instead) so she could eat it. Snow White was tricked by the Queen 3 times. The evil Queen was executed in the end- at Snow White’s wedding- she was forced to dance to death in red hot iron shoes. The children’s bibles focus on the cute little animals and forget the other cute animals that are not on the ark drowned. In the original Genesis story there is no mention of anyone else but Noah (and his family) being warned about the flood. God also tells Noah to bring 2 of every living thing to the ark. Then He seems to change his mind and tells Noah bring 2 of every “unclean” animal and 7 of every “clean” animal and bird. This becomes important later because after the flood, Noah sacrificed “clean” animals to God after he got off the ark. Noah also planted a vineyard, got drunk and naked one time, and cursed his son Ham, who saw him naked. People would be surprised.

  • http://thechurchproject.me Tracey

    Katherine A,
    That part in the Noah’s ark story with the conflict of number of animals points to the story having several versions which were later rolled into one. It’s among my favorite examples of what biblical criticism/scholarship tells us. I think Christianity would be better served if more groups embraced biblical criticism instead of decrying it.

  • Danielle

    Crap, my son is 5 and I haven’t even started on telling him about the bible. I keep procrastinating. I really like your take on it.

  • caroline851

    I think there is a gradation between ‘pretend’ and ‘real’ that contains shades of ‘important’. OK, so Santa is just ‘pretend’, at best a bit of fun. I never would have tried to make my children believe Santa is real, because if you did believe in him, what would you get out of it that was of significance in life? Science, obviously, is ‘real’. The Bible is trickier. Jesus really existed, but it’s up to you whether you believe he was the son of God: but the way he was born and the way he died tells millions of people something important about what is good and how to live your life. Bible stories have a moral and symbolic resonance that goes far beyond ‘make-believe’ – although good literature can partly share in this resonance – for instance Harry Potter is more significant than The Cat in the Hat.
    Although even the Cat in the Hat you could do a useful moral critique of – were the parents right to leave these two kids home alone? Why did the children think they had to let the cat in? What would you have done? Etc.

    • http://existingbetween.wordpress.com/ Joy F

      Santa actually was real as well – he was a wealthy Turkish man named Nicolaus that lived in the fourth or fifth century. Stories that got passed down got embellished and finally changed to fit the commercialism of America. In Germany for instance, people still celebrate December 6th as the birthday of St. Nicolaus. The Basillica in Turkey is not taken care of well, but that he was a man in history hasn’t changed. He was a good man who used his wealth to provide dowries for poor women and buy poor out of slavery. (How he became a symbol of materialism is quite interesting!) but why do we long for there to be a Santa? Isn’t at that deep down we love the stories? C.S. Lewis (who for some strange reason is beloved by evangelicals – I can only assume they haven’t read a lot of what he wrote!) said this, “I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical.” And went on to explain how mixing of myth to tell a story is just how people communicate abstract truth. Abstract is more difficult to convey than hard fact – he notes, why do the stories need to be historical to convey truth?

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