Parenting Beyond Belief: Greekology and the Regular American God

June 10, 2009

Dale McGowan(HNN's Parenting Beyond Belief column provides a forum for humanist parents and parenting experts to share their wisdom, advice and knowledge of parenting and family issues. Edited, and sometimes written, by Dale McGowan, the monthly column features guest writers who provide information and support about issues affecting freethought parents and children in the 21st century.)




(My daughter Delaney, aged seven, takes Bulfinch's Mythology down from my office shelf and starts leafing through.)


DAD: Mm.

DELANEY: Are there any people in Greek who still believe Greekology?

DAD: Not any more. Well…actually there are a few. But mostly not.

DELANEY: I don’t get how anybody can still believe it. You said people climbed up to the top of Mount Olympics and didn’t see any gods.

DAD: Well…if you believed in something like that, and somebody hiked to the top and said your gods weren’t there, what would you say?

DELANEY: I’d say they were hiding. (chuckles) Or invisible.

DAD: HA! Perfect. (She continues rummaging the shelves.)

DELANEY: Oooh, this one’s nice.

DAD: Yeah, I like that one. It’s called the Book of Common Prayer.

DELANEY: Who uses that?

DAD: The Church of England.

DELANEY: What!? I thought England believed the same god as the regular America god.

DAD: Yeah, it’s…well, there are different churches that believe in the same god but in different ways. They just do little things different.

DELANEY: Like what?

DAD: You remember the thing with the wine and bread? Some churches think the wine actually turns into the blood of Jesus, and the bread…

DELANEY: …is his body, yeah. I thought they ALL believed that.

DAD: Well, some of them believe it’s just supposed to make us think about his body and blood. But some think it really, exactly turns into his blood and body when you eat it.

(Long pause.)

DELANEY: Okay, I have a question. (pause) Where do people get these ideas? How do they…how do they think of stuff like that?

DAD: Different ways. This one they actually got from the Greeks. They used to think the spirit of the gods lived inside bulls and goats, so they’d take the animals up on top of a hill, slit their throats and drink their blood. They said they were taking the god into their bodies. So when the Christians…

DELANEY: Oh. My. God.

DAD: What?

DELANEY: That is just COMPLETELY disgusting.

DAD: But…you didn’t seem freaked out about drinking Jesus’ blood…

DELANEY: Well that’s people blood. I’m already full of people blood. I could drink a little more.

Dale McGowan, Ph.D., holds degrees in the arts and sciences from UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of Minnesota. He is the editor of the 2007 book Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion