Why was Darth Vader fired? That was the question my tiny four year old, big eyed Bean, asked me one night as I kissed her goodnight after watching Star Wars together. It took me by surprise and for a brief moment I was confused till I realized that she as referring to Darth Vader being cremated.
Hilarity of the way she asked the question aside, I answered the best I could in that unexpected situation. I explained cremation and burial, cemeteries and tossing people’s ashes into the Ocean. As the conversation ensued, and as so often four year old’s tend to do, she came up with new questions to ask about death. She asked about what ways people die and why, so we branched out and I told her about disease and old age, accidents and battle. I avoided murder – she would have had to have asked specifically about that if I was to discuss it with a 4 year old! As more and more questions brewed in her mind and clipits of conversations heard about God sprang forth in her little memory bank I very quickly found myself in a pretty deep and intellectual conversation with a pre-schooler about death and religion.
I’ll toss in here (at this point) that I am an all and out atheist, so the conversation although thorough, was not biased to any one religion. I spoke about Jewdism and Hinduism, I spoke about Buddha and spirituality, God and Christianity. I spoke about pageans and about atheist. I described how different religious beliefs have different ideas about the after life or lack there of. I told her all that I knew and I told her when and what I didn’t know. By the end of the conversation she knew I didn’t believe and she had decided that she did.
There are two feelings that were born from this. The first was surprise that Bean wouldn’t automatically agree with me. After all, Pups bio-dad’s family is quite religious, as is her step-mom, and yet she has always been an atheist herself. Never “assume” – it makes an ass out of u and me, right? Well I did assume. And man was I wrong. What’s worse, I didn’t get it. How could Bean believe in something I knew very well wasn’t true. But the other feeling I had was pride at her capability to make up her own mind at such a young age. And how impressed I was that she stuck to her guns when I started laying out all the reasons why God doesn’t exist. She simply said “well I believe”. I caught myself early enough in the debate with her though and realized that if I was ok with her believing in Santa and fairies and magic >; how could I judge her for believing in God? Especially since my modo for the past few years has been “if you believe than that’s all that counts. Nobody can take that away from you, and you get to choose. If it’s something you believe to be true, than it’s true to you.”
We have an understanding now. She and I still don’t agree, but we also don’t force our beliefs on to one and other – no matter how scientifically proven they are… 😉 – However, even as an atheist I have to admit that having a bit of faith in the house is refreshing. More than fairies or Santa or even God, this kid believes in things. Things she has never actually seen or touched. And that my friend is powerful. Not just because she has autism and this proves once more that people with ASD’s have more to offer than is still assumed – but because she is one of the rare last believers. She isn’t cynical, and she still trusts in ideas and dreams. She doesn’t need to see proof on a Youtube video about something…anything or hold it in her hand; when she feels hope, she still feels hope sincerely. When she wishes, she knows it might come true.
I can’t get enough of this kid.