Via RichardDawkins.net comes an article about Bible campers who each received a "phone call from God" as part of their camp experience. The comments on the article have many atheists chiming in with the kind of outrage you might predict: "...lie to children in order to brainwash them...", "...despicable when adults are so deceitful and manipulate little children this way", "title of this article should be 'still lying for jesus'", etc. Oh, they're not wrong. But I had a different reaction, one that might surprise you:
Why do I say that? Because this is putting Jeebus firmly in the same camp as Santa Claus. Which sounds great to me.
The only reason it's cute when we have kids sit on Santa's lap or pretend to mail their letters to the North Pole is because we assume that as they start to grow up, they'll start to realize the absurdity of the whole charade. Even young children can smell bullshit when you have to explain to them that, "Oh, yes you're right that Santa can't possibly be at every mall at the same time. See, that's just Santa's helper!" Ironically, the charade itself becomes the first frayed threads that start to unravel the entire mythology. If there were no Santa-at-the-mall, there would be no corresponding realization of the implausibility of Santa-at-the-mall, and the myth of Santa might last just a little bit longer in these young minds.
These kids getting the "phone calls from God" are seven, eight years old according to the article. It won't be more than another year or two on the outside that they realize it wasn't actually a phone call from God, I would think.... and maybe that will be their first inkling that something doesn't smell quite right.
It's probably beyond the average ten-year-old to identify the flaws in Pascal's Wager, or to recognize the arbitrariness of their own beliefs in relation to the beliefs of children in another part of the world, or to spot the problems with the Cosmological Argument (most ten-year-olds in fact are quite swayed by the much more simplistic Teleological Argument). But your average ten-year-old knows that "phone calls from God" are fake. Your average ten-year-old may even go on to think, "Hmmm, now why did the adults at the camp bother to fake that phone call from God, if they knew I could just pray about it? I wonder..."
So I say, go for it. This kind of absurd shenanigans demystifies and deromanticizes God, and potentially invites some rather "inconvenient" questions -- and in my book, that's a good thing.
(Side note: This reminds me of my vision of a distant post-Christian future where there are kiosks at the mall where once a year you can take your kids to get First Communion pictures, complete with a comically dressed Pope -- or Pope's Helper, as the case may be -- wafers shaped like Dinosaur Jeebus, a variety of optional photo packages, etc...)
Talking to Bozo
4 hours ago