The Doubter's Dilemma
But maybe that's an incomplete picture. Maybe there's something between and around and inside all six billion of us, and maybe that something knows every hair on each of our heads. Maybe we are not anonymous. Wouldn't that be outrageous? And beautiful?
Faith is the tallest order, the toughest nut: the humbling of yourself before purposes you don't—and cannot ever—comprehend. Let's face it, believing that there is a God who might get involved in your tiny little life is beyond anti-intellectual. And this is why I doubt. But when I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that there's doubt within my doubt. And every time I remind myself of that, I think of Voltaire's confounding line: "Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one." So I let my parents share their faith with our children. When we visit Philadelphia, where my parents live, I let them take our daughters to church. At night, my mom gets the girls on their knees and shows them how to cross themselves and position their hands and bow their heads. It is a lovely sight, and I would never discourage it. Of course, when we get back home to California, the girls are loaded with new ideas and questions they're counting on me to answer.
Claire, who is a senior in preschool, recently asked what lights are made of. After I told her something about electricity and filaments and Thomas Edison, she said, "In church, they said Jesus is a light." Georgia, a first grader, reprimanded me for saying "Oh my God." "God is a bad word," she said. To which I heard myself say, "Oh no, honey. God is not a bad word. God is a very good word." Both girls have asked if they could be the Holy Ghost for Halloween.
Regardless of where I am on the spectrum from atheism to theism, I'd rather my girls be grounded in something, even something that seems too good or crazy to be true. This is why, when the girls ask me about God, I say that people believe all kinds of things and no one really knows, including me, but that I hope. Then I tell them what my husband, with tears in his eyes, recently told me: I say being with them is the most spiritual experience of my life—the highest high, the deepest yes, the most staggering gift—and that gift must have come from somewhere.
And what about all the little gifts, the everyday stuff like a good cantaloupe or a great public school teacher or the rebate check coming just in time? For that, I've taken to saying grace. At the dinner table we all hold hands while I talk about our friends, our family, our health. Then my husband, generally prompted by my raised eyebrow, says a prayer for the people we know who are having trouble. The girls mostly tolerate all this (sometimes adding a thank-you for a Popsicle or a playdate) and look forward to saying "amen," after which we take turns rising from our seats to do a family wave, as if the home team had just scored.