For many reasons, I’ve been loath to label myself according to my lack of religious beliefs. Atheist certainly fits, but it’s not a label I feel reflects who I am as a person, so I don’t go around flaunting it or anything.
When it comes to my daughter, I’m even less likely to want to label myself — partially because I’d rather she not categorize herself too quickly. It’s fine if she wants to adopt a label, of course, but it should come from her own feelings and not from a desire to belong to one tribe or another.
For a long time, my husband and I didn’t even mention the various tribes. When we talked about matters of faith, we just used the term “beliefs.” (“Some people believe this… Some people believe that…) But, as time has gone on, we’ve begun to label various religions a bit more often, pointing out that people do use their beliefs to identify with others.
At 9, Maxine now fully grasps that different families belong to different religions. And luckily, she has friends from various religious groups — Catholics, Christians, Jewish and Hindu — so she doesn’t appear to feel “left out” of any one faith.
But apparently she has been thinking about the whole idea of “having a religion” because, a few days ago, I overheard her talking to her 5-year-old cousin Jack about it. Jack’s Dad is Catholic and sometimes Jack attends Mass, though his parents are careful not to label him, either.
“Do you believe in God?” Maxine asked Jack.
“Yes,” Jack said, but then waffled on that, mainly because of the damn logistics of it all: “Well, actually, no. Because if God was all around us, wouldn’t you run into him sometimes?”
“I don’t know if I believe in God,” Maxine said. “That’s my religion.”
Then she added: “No one knows if God is real. Some people think they know. But they don’t.”
Never a dull moment around here.
In other news, why the hell did we bother paying a designer to create my book cover when Maxine was perfectly willing to do it herself? Please note that God is in the details — or, rather, one specific, o-shaped detail.