Recently, at D'Ma and DagoodS' blogs, there has been discussion of how open to be with others about deconversion or altered religious beliefs. We all make decisions each day about how transparent to be with others. Do we share how we really feel about the dinner our spouse made? Do we admit when we're hurt by some one's comment? Constantly we're weighing the cost/benefit ratio. We ask ourselves what will be gained by telling the truth. We wonder if anyone will be hurt. We ask ourselves if we can handle the repercussions.
Last week, my husband and I faced these questions when our 7-year-old insisted on knowing if we were the tooth fairy. Back at Christmas he began intense questioning about Santa and came very close to adamantly declaring that mom and dad were Santa. At the time, we were able to turn the questions back to him and deflect the matter. This time around, he was not to be easily assuaged. We had previously determined that we would tell him the truth whenever he had clearly reasoned things out and wanted to know the truth, asking us directly. We didn't want him to question his own reasoning abilities. We didn't want to continue long after it quit being a way to infuse magical moments into early childhood when pretend is a powerful way to understand and enjoy the world. Developmentally, my son is just not there anymore. He was using the scientific method to determine whether we were the tooth fairy. Though he is still young, he has outgrown the ability to suspend reality in order to hold onto his belief in Santa. We tested his emotional readiness to hear the news, hoping he might not really want to hear it. We did this by reminding him that the exciting mystery of not knowing exactly what the tooth fairy was like would be gone if we answered his questions. Though he chose not to find out the night the tooth fairy was to come, the next afternoon he let my husband know he was ready for the answer. Though he was saddened to learn that we played the role of the imaginary creatures, he readily agreed to keep quiet for the sake of his younger brother. He was quite proud of his ability to pretend along with the grown ups. Some times really are better than others for being open and honest.
This topic of sharing the truth came up in Sunday school class today when discussing our understanding of God and what we should share of that with others. Our teacher noted that he wouldn't share with college students struggling with their faith what he has learned from recent scientific scholarship about the impossibility of humanity descending from just 2 individuals (thus no literal Adam and Eve). Because this topic is important to me, I sent him an email. Here is a portion of it:
"Also, I was interested in your Adam/Eve comment and your tendency to keep some biblical scholarship to yourself to prevent ruining others' faith. That is a difficult topic and I do sympathize with the desire to protect peoples' faith. However, there is also a way in which we're setting people up to lose their faith by basing it on a misinformed understanding of scripture which mounting evidence in the sciences can easily refute. The more educated the believers are, the more likely their faith is to fall when they have no other framework for understanding the Bible than a literalistic one that can't withstand the scrutiny of biblical criticism, ANE studies, biochemistry, geology, astronomy, etc. Over time, people will become more informed. As you mentioned, there is already a shift in beliefs based on current understandings of our world. I don't know what the answer is, but people do need to get more educated. For myself, I find it increasingly difficult to attend a church which seems to ignore large swaths of academic literature across a variety of disciplines. The fact that we can't admit in class that we accept the scientific consensus that homo sapiens didn't originate from 2 humans really bothers me. I have to hide many of beliefs at church and pretend to be who I was many years ago. I save my theological questions for those few I have found at church and online who are not only educated about the relevant issues but open to considering them from a broader framework. I'm not really expecting anything from you by writing this, I just feel strongly about these issues and feel like you're someone who can tolerate hearing what I'm saying and perhaps be somewhat sympathetic to it. I would never say anything like this in class!"
Telling the truth is a bit like walking a tightrope. Telling it the right way, in the right time, to the right people is an impressive act to watch. Telling it the wrong way can be disastrous! What do you think? What have your experiences been?