If God exists and other dilemmas

Modified from Flickr
Modified from Flickr

So, does God exist?

Don’t worry, I am not actually asking you that. I am merely quoting my eight-year-old who chose to pose this to me the moment she got off the school bus on Friday afternoon. To be honest, it threw me off balance and I am ashamed to say I chuckled at the question. Not because I found the question funny but the fact that an 8 year old would be asking me this never crossed my mind.

Once balance had been restored to my rattled state, I responded with, “What do you think?”

Yes, you see, I believe in the new parenting practice of answering a question with a question, because, clearly that doesn’t annoy anyone, especially kids. Her grumpy face creased further into a frown and she said, “I am not sure. Dev told me that he does not exist and said I am stupid for thinking he does.”

Now, my amusement turned to thoughtful contemplation and I looked her in the eye. In a soft voice, I asked her, “The question is, darling, what do you want to believe? That he exists or that somebody else says that he does not?”

She crossed her arms over her chest, her frown dissipating and responded, “I would like to think it over.”

Delight overcame everything else and I hugged her tight, the matter shelved for the moment.

We are all walking that tightrope between faith and disbelief, aren’t we? I am not talking about God’s existence or the lack of the same, but our belief systems in general, be they emotional, social or psychological. We rarely give the other person the benefit of the doubt and choose to label them as ‘stupid’ or ‘unwilling to see my point of view’ if their views contravene ours at a given juncture.

I think it has to do with the validation principle, most visibly so on social media forums, I notice. A person posts an update, a blog post, a tweet declaring an ideology. What are they actually looking for? Do they want others to validate their point of view or respectfully oppose the same? I sense that the latter is not taken too kindly. We are such creatures of social acceptance that we do not want people to disagree with us. Doing so would mean that there is a possibility that we are wrong. And that is anathema to our comfortable shells of existence.

Working on this has done a lot for me this past year, both as a writer and as a person. If I pose a question, I lay myself open to criticism and opposition. That’s where healthy debates lie. That is the foundation for growth. That is the nub of the spiritual path I have carved out for myself.

It would have been infinitely easier for me to have answered my daughter with a simple, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to a seemingly innocuous question at this age. But, by doing that, I’d be negating her need to question, her ability to see things from another’s perspective and most crucially, her desire to explore her own path.

If experience has taught me anything, it is that in questioning the comfortable truths lies our true salvation.

 ~~~

Yeah Write #196

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50 thoughts on “If God exists and other dilemmas

  1. I think it was very wise of you to answer your daughter with a question so she can learn to question, reason, and make up her own mind…much more empowering for her. 🙂 I wish that everyone would be tolerant of other peoples’ opinions and beliefs: can you imagine? There would be no war! ) <3

  2. This is so wise, to teach your children to answer these questions for themselves. They will questions their parents’ opinions later, anyway. 😉

  3. So much love and admiration for this post and your response to your sweet daughter.

    I believe in those questions with a question as well but, at 19 months, my daughter hasn’t come to that yet.

    Sometimes I wonder if it’s not harder on children to give them the choice to lay down their own choices. I’d never force my own beliefs on my child but I do wonder if it takes away anything important from their childhood.

  4. Loved your answer – It’s truly upto us what we want to believe. This topic is such that people always tend to have extreme views on both sides of the spectrum and that more often than not can lead to some problems or the other.

  5. I like the way you handled the question from your daughter. I think people most definitely do not want to be argued with and their social media interactions are simply platforms from which to spew their thoughts. That part is fine, I guess, but the unwillingness to consider they may be mistaken (or, in matters of perception, that others simply disagree) can make social media a pretty unpleasant place sometimes. Thought-provoking piece here.

  6. What a question. One that most of us ask over and over at different moments of our lives. I struggle with those FB posts myself. I have had people become quite belligerent if I even pose a question… don’t do that anymore.

  7. This is so, so wise – both the post and your response to your daughter. We have spoken a lot about this in our home, partially because I love exploring belief systems and partially because like you, I have a child with an enquiring mind. Well, at least it was enquiring. At 9, he knows for sure he’s atheist except that he believes in the Greek gods 🙂

  8. This was great. That’s probably about the best answer to that question you can give a child.

    I know that i do not know the answers to the big questions like that. I’m not even close.

    Why bias a kid by giving a lousy answer?

  9. I love your answer to your daughter. So true. As is your point that life is filled with questions of what we believe and why. And there are usually people who agree with us and many more who do not. But the true value is being comfortable in our believes and allowing others to express theirs. Well done mama.

  10. Very well articulated Shailaja. One thing I have noticed is how I have grown year by year along with my 6 year old. I have come to understand and respect that a child can very well have a mind of her/his own and need not be in agreement with your belief system. Parenting, I believe, has many lessons for me as a parent. My kid is 6 yr old and I am also a 6 yr old parent 🙂

  11. You handled the question very well. We really need thinking and questioning children and youth. Thank God for parents like you 🙂 An excellent post, Shailaja.

  12. I had a similar experience with my son. He asked me to tell him whether God was really real or pretend real such as Iron Man. After a few back and forth questions, he was frustrated and wanted me to tell him what was the real answer.. too much formal schooling I think. He was quite adamant on knowing the “answer” and said he didn’t know anything about it so I have to tell him. Quite difficult to handle that one!

      1. I eventually managed to convince him that the answer will come to him someday. I don’t think he understood what I meant but I was quite adamant on not giving him a ready made answer. I find myself questioning him a lot these day.. counter questioning as you put it. One day he told me that I don’t need to light a diya in front of God because he can see everything and he doesn’t need a lamp. Point noted.

  13. Thought provoking, indeed!
    And, as so many have said here, I too am impressed by your parenting skills. Giving children the freedom to make their decisions and form their own opinions, instead of forcing them to follow our ideologies…in fact, I wish we all would give each other a chance to come to conclusions instead of blindly following popular beliefs.

    1. We always grew up in a family that encouraged questioning and analysis. It was a deeply religious family which later veered towards the spiritual and I am glad to say that it has moulded our thoughts in the right direction. I hope so, at least 🙂

  14. I feel we human beings always know deep down that nothing – absolutely nothing – is absolute… and all our perceptions, conclusions, findings are relative to ourselves. This kind of creates a need (though not deliberately realized), to share our experiences with others and seek their approval – hence the expectation of hitting like button on Facebook (or similar cases on other social media forums). Why, even when we hear a joke, we have the urge that others should hear it and laugh with us, which is seeking approval in a way. Same can we say about blogging and finding commentators as well 😉

    BTW, I wrote something recently on a “remotely similar” topic, hence sharing with you ….
    http://www.sandeeppatil.co.in/reflections/religion/india-perception-of-science-and-ancient-hinduism/

    1. Agree on that. Nothing is absolute. Only the fundamentalists believe so. See where that leads- attacks, anger, forcing people to accept what you say. Not a nice scenario. If we can bring up our children to believe that there is always scope for healthy debate, I think we would have done our bit towards moulding the freedom of spirit.

  15. With so much negativity around I am sometimes skeptical about posing questions. The answers are sometimes so frightening and frustrating. I love healthy debate, when both try to understand each other views, but not try to change them.
    I love your parenting tricks too, might be useful in future 🙂

  16. I love the way you deal with your child’s curiosity! I do admire kids who think and debate without blindly accepting the politically correct information that their parents conveniently feed them with.
    As for the Facebook updates, I agree, a lot of these have to do with acceptance issues….and sometimes people do go overboard with their insecurities reflecting in their replies.

  17. Loved your response to Gy, not to mention this tactic to be used in other situations as well :). I had a recent chat with D about God, and it was tough as I hate to lie about my beliefs but didn’t want to put it in black & white for her as well.

  18. I am amazed at how similar our approaches are to sticky questions of similar nature by our children. I remember doing a post on a similar question that my younger son had posed to me. I will fish out that link for you later. But you know I completely agree with your thought that we ourselves go through a range of opinions on this topic. Yes, we seek validation, at least from s few in my case. 🙂 But blogging for me is so interesting because it lets me hear different opinions. Of course, for me it matters that you convey your different opinion in a decent mannet. If your intent is to pull me down or insult then I hit back. Else I do love a difference of opinion. 🙂

    1. Glad to see we’re on The same wavelength here. I think we all seek validation and there is nothing really wrong with that. What does seem lacking though is a general openness to criticism or an opposing view point. If that could change, think of the possibilities!
      Love the post you shared on The conversations between you and your son. ?

    1. Yes, I also think I have my dad to thank for that. He never really GAVE us the answers. Instead, he would turn the question back on us and make us arrive at our answer. Very annoying when we were kids, I assure you. But infinitely useful as a life lesson. So, end of the day, I am grateful to him 🙂

  19. Interesting points, Shailaja. Also, I like how you ‘cleverly’ incorporated the ‘Facebook status updates and blog posts comments’ into this question. As for the God part, I don’t know. I’m spiritual and I believe in the existence of a higher power Whether is a he/she/omnipotent/omnipresent – i don’t know and I don’t care. The challenge is when others try to force their perspective of God/Posts/Beliefs/feedback about writing and so on onto the others. It should be more of a ‘this is my opinion based on my experience’. Anyway, there I go off in a tangent.

    1. You know how clever I can be, right? 😉 I am actually not asking if anyone believes in God. To me, That is a very personal thing, as are many other things. But when I pose a question that is loaded, will I be ready to face the possible ramifications? That is the real question here. 🙂

      I like your statement, ‘This is my opinion based on my experience.’ Very well said.

  20. Very interesting topic. Loved how you dealt with it and allow your daughter to make up her own mind. Eventually we all walk our own path in our own way.

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