You’ve heard this joke, right?
An atheist was seated next to a little girl on an airplane and he turned to her and said, “Do you want to talk? Flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.” The little girl, who had just started to read her book, replied to the total stranger, “What would you want to talk about?” “Oh, I don’t know,” said the atheist. “How about why there is no God, or no Heaven or Hell, or no life after death?” as he smiled smugly. “Okay,” she said. “Those could be interesting topics but let me ask you a question first. A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff – grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?” The atheist, visibly surprised by the little girl’s intelligence, thinks about it and says, “Hmmm, I have no idea.” To which the little girl replies, “Do you really feel qualified to discuss God, Heaven and Hell, or life after death, when you don’t know shit?” And then she went back to reading her book.
Of course, we’re wondering why little Ms. Smarty Pants would 1. be so rude and 2. know herself why sh*t looks the way it does. We also know that, for things like sh*t, which we can see, feel, smell and even taste if we want, we can scoop the poop and take it to our favorite biologist or vet and ask them. Just because we don’t believe in made-up stories like Snow White, Cinderella and God, doesn’t mean we have all the answers. Yet, apparently, there is a misconception that we do. The real problem seems to be not that we’re talking to little girls on planes (how creepy is that?) but that we’re making believers feel very insecure about the things they think they know.
But I really didn’t mean to write about all. In fact, this joke has, like the tramp that it is, made the rounds on FB and blogs months ago. When I read it the first time, I rolled my eyes. It’s not personal. But when I found out that someone I know sent this joke to my kids, it then became personal because that person was using this as way to undermine me, to suggest to my kids that they shouldn’t listen to me because I don’t know sh*t. And it occurred to me there might be other parents out there who encounter this: friends or family members or role models who might take jabs at you through your children as a way to tell you and your kids that you’re wrong and they’re right.
Kids are not dumb. I didn’t attack the sender, although trust me, I had a few fantasies about using a taser. I had to remind myself what my goal is as a parent and what kind of representative I want to be for those of us who don’t believe. So I only asked my kids their thoughts about the message. The older kid told me, before I even asked, the reasons why the joke was “so stupid.” With the younger kid, I had to throw some questions out, “Does this seem realistic? What would the little girl know that the man wouldn’t? Is she acting like she has all the answers? Who does have all the answers? How is animal excrement the same/different from made-up stuff like fairy tales?” I know, with that last question, you’re probably tempted to say that they can both be bull-sh*t, but I wanted my kids to understand that there are things that are verifiable (like poop) and things that are not verifiable (like myths). Asking questions and teaching my kids to think below the surface is the best way I can protect them against future attacks. Because, once again, I don’t want to think for them. I just want them to think for themselves.
So here’s one for you: what’s the difference between the adult on the plane who wants to talk with a kid about why there is no god and the adult sending emails who wants to prove to a kid that there is a god?
I don’t know, but both are pretty creepy.