Blame it on the burka
Explaining religion to a 4-year-old can be tricky, Marlon admits.
Stuck in a 2010 construction-related traffic jam the other day my precious alone time was invaded by an interesting debate on the radio regarding Monsieur Sarkozy’s intention to ban the burka.

It got me to thinking about my three daughters and the sanctity of their bodies, their sexuality, religion and the rest. Personally, I think religion is a man-made system to keep the great unwashed in poverty and eternal guilt. Having survived a staunch Catholic upbringing and realising that Il Papa was living in exorbitant luxury while his flock suffers all over the globe, I decided to ditch religion as a sick joke.

Anyway back to the burka. So we’re in the lift in a department store and a woman wearing a burka comes into the lift pushing a pram with a cute baby ensconced. Hannah, then aged about 4, steps back in shock. I did not notice it, but the lady saw her reaction and said ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to be afraid.’ I tried to smile at her in understanding, but I’m not sure if she noticed.

Later in the car I had to explain to Hannah why the lady was wearing such an interesting garment which also hid her face. Not wanting to betray ignorance or disrespect to her faith, I said to Hannah that it was her choice to wear it and in that way honour her religion.

I told her about Catholicism and all its interesting little guilt trips and threats to burn in hell if you did not conform. We also talked about the billions of Chinese and Indians who probably don’t know or give a hoot about JC. All of whom are going to hell in a Vatican-embroidered hand-basket of-course. And of-course there’s the Mayans, the Eskimos and God-knows how many other cultures who are all going to hell because they have not embraced the one true God.

‘So what should I do, Dad?’

‘Well, I’ve come to understand that there is indeed a God and we’re all probably praying to the same God, we just call him/her by different names and we choose to worship him/her differently. Learn as much as you can about all the religions and spiritual paths out there and choose the one which makes the most sense to you. And if you want to wear a Burka, that’s cool with me, baby, as long as it is your choice.’

Good advice? Or should I have told her that if she didn’t eat her vegetables she was going to burn in hell because there were starving children in Ethiopia, like my grandmother used to tell me?

Does explaining religion to a preschooler get you confused? How do you handle it?

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