Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lies and lying liars

Bartholomew, at Bartholomew's notes on religion references this Guardian article which reports that today's children stop believing in such things as elves and fairies around age six, whereas their parents (i.e. us) had continued to believe in such supernatural creatures until age 10. He says:

I was always more interested in the likelihood ghosts and aliens than in elves and goblins, but one wonders if the above findings do suggest a decline in childhood creativity and curiosity. If so, one wonders what that might mean for instilling either scientific curiosity or religious beliefs in older kids.

Personally, based on my own experience, I would guess that this is because many parents no longer lie to their children about the supernatural. And as far as I can tell, again based on my kids and their friends, it's not harming their creativity or capacity to feel awe for things much greater than themselves in the least. The natural universe is at least as interesting as any fable. And fables can be just as interesting and instructive when they are presented as such.

I vividly remember feeling like a fool when I found out there was no Santa Claus and feeling terrible resentment towards my parents for lying to me. I suspect that those kind of lies were directly responsible for the lack of trust in adults that I developed young and carried with me, often with unhealthy results, throughout my teen years. I mean, if they lied to me about ghosts, why the hell should I believe them about cigarettes?

My kids and their friends, on the other hand, seem to trust us much more than we ever trusted our parents and they enjoy the holidays just as much as we did when we believed in ghosts, goblins, Santa, and the Easter bunny. Perhaps that's because we don't tell them ridiculous lies. Yes, that might explain it. When dealing with children, honesty begets trust. Lies beget suspicion.