Christian Mythology for Kids

Christian Mythology for Kids

I bought this book for my daughter, who is now almost 11 months old and not yet old enough to appreciate it. However, I have benefited from it enough to make the purchase worthwhile even if she never reads it.

christianmythologyforkidsThe concept behind this book is to introduce kids in secular families to the Christian stories without exposing them to the dogmatic and ham-fisted fundamentalist/evangelical interpretations of those stories. But this book is not just for kids. Going back and rereading the stories as an ex-Christian has been incredibly entertaining and therapeutic. And not only does it go into the Biblical stories but it also tells the extra-Biblical traditional stories about the fall of Lucifer from heaven before the creation of the world and it explains the ideas of heaven and hell  (and purgatory and limbo) and the final judgement. Ideas that are so clearly mythological, but when you have been indoctrinated with them from early in your life it can be hard to see that.

The book has also reminded me of some old stories that I’d almost completely forgotten. One of my favorites is Jonah and the Whale. So much of the fundamentalist interpretation is wrapped up making apologetics for the notion that a man could survive inside a fish — for three days no less — that the myth is ruined. Seriously, trying to interpret a myth as actual history ruins it! When you look at this story as a fable, clearly there was someone (who knows who) who was trying to expand the idea of God’s concern to the people of Nineveh — the capital city of the empire that had swallowed and scattered the people of Israel and Judah. Before this story the enemies of Israel were usually just destroyed wholesale. Here, Jonah is told by God to go to Nineveh and warn them that they have displeased God and they will be destroyed if they don’t repent of their ways. Jonah hates the Ninevites and does not want to do it and tries to run away to sea and this is where that side story about the fish/whale comes in. Jonah finally learns he can’t run from God and ends up being a street preacher in Nineveh for a few days. Forget the impossibility of Jonah surviving being eaten by a fish. How about an entire empire capital city listening seriously to the crazy ramblings of the “end is near” guy? #thisneverhappens Anyway… since they do repent God does not send the promised calamity and Jonah is pissed. He wanted to see some punishment! Ah, poor bigoted Jonah.

Reading these old stories as myths and not stuffing them into a literal historical interpretation (or as a supposed foreshadowing of the future coming of Jesus) has been very beneficial to me as an ex-Christian. The book also has a beautiful illustrations. I highly recommend it.

Read More

Missionary Stories and Reflections

For a brief time in my childhood, I thought God had called me to be a missionary. I was raised in a church that put heavy empasis on missionaries and missionary work, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that I would think this. I read lots and lots of children-oriented missionary books about kids who went to far off places and meet interesting people and had adventures while leading the lost to Jesus. Our church had regular “missionary meetings” on Sunday nights were we’d listen to stories from missionaries and sometimes sample food from different countries. In the end, I think what I really wanted was to travel the world. The thought of trying to ‘witness’ to anyone who might be hostile about Jesus scared me tremendously. However I found that when I talked about Jesus to people anywhere near my home I found that pretty much everyone who lived near me already knew about Jesus and wasn’t hostile at all. They didn’t even ask any of the hard questions I feared like “Why should I believe the Bible?” or “How could someone be punished for my sins 2000 years before I was born?” Besides being teased in school for being a “goody-two-shoes” going around the neighborhood inviting kids to Vacation Bible School I faced no hostility at all. Despite what I assumed about the mean kids being lost heathens, it turned out that they pretty much all of them came from Christian families and some were even proud of their faith and practice. And despite the fear of some Evangelicals about the persecution of Christians in public schools, the bullying I faced had nothing to do with my religion.
All the same, being rejected hurt so I tended not to risk it. And then I would feel very guilty about it because I was sure I wasn’t ‘witnessing’ as much as I should. I would pray fervently for boldness to witness but that never worked. I sometimes would get a feeling passing a house that God wanted me to go witness to those people but then when I went to knock on the door no one would be home. There was no way to distinguish these feelings from my imagination. I longed to actually hear something — ANYTHING — from God that I could be sure of. Even if it was a call to drop everything and live in a dirt hut somewhere in Africa. But God, and every hint of actual supernatural activity that could be distinguished from imagination, was conspicuously absent. I wanted to be convinced like Paul in Romans 8:38-39. Surely, if Paul could be convinced, I could be too. This realization that I was not convinced, and that I wanted to be convinced, was a first step for me on a road that I seriously did not expect to lead to atheism.

Read More

9/11 Reminiscing

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile. — Kurt Vonnegut

It’s been 15 years since the attacks of 9/11. I was 21 at the time, just coming into adulthood. Even though I live several hundred miles from New York City, it had a profound effect on me. In the confusion before we knew what was happening–not just the towers but also an attack aimed at the Pentagon, and who knew if there would be more–I realized that if the US Government was overthrown then the Constitution would be nothing more than a historic old piece of paper. So much for our precious Constitutional rights. We can’t ever take that for granted.

Later, after initially taking part in the uptick in nationalistic religious fervor, I realized that being willing to die for one’s beliefs is not a good thing. Faith is dangerous, and unquestioning belief can motivate people to do terrible things. Just a couple years later, I identified as an atheist.

Read More