Okay, so we don't have to get out of the house in time for Mass on Sundays. Nobody has to keep their good clothes clean for church. I won't have to budget for the big bucks some people will be shelling out for First Holy Communion dresses in a few year's time. But there's a lot of explaining.
When Dash was born, one of B's aunts sent us a very nice Usborne edition Children's bible, with the explanation that she knew we were pretty religious. This was interesting, and also, clearly, not actually true, though I suppose we both had been at some point in the past, and she had attended our church wedding, so she wasn't being unreasonable. But by then we were busy not baptizing our firstborn into the Catholic - or any - Church, so we looked at it with some degree of distaste.
It's sat on the bookshelf ever since, because it does have lovely colourful illustrations. The only other book about God that we have is a really beautiful nativity story, with raggedy-winged angels in big boots, and text that's all but incomprehensible to the children, as it comes straight from King James. I like to read it to them at Christmas just for the poetry of the words, and explain the pictures in my own way.
So one day last week, Dash pulled the children's bible off the shelf and asked to read some stories from it. He's old enough to understand much more now than when we first talked about the concept of God - God as a type of superhero, God as possible fact and possible fiction, God as putative but not necessary creator of everything. So I told him that most of what was in the first half of the book - the Old Testament - was probably not true, or was what people had made up from old, old stories; while what was in the second half had more weight of fact and provability behind it to the extent that we know Jesus was a man who did exist and who was put to death by the authorities because they didn't like that he was stirring up trouble and trying to make change among the poor people.
He and Mabel enjoyed reading the stories of creation, the Garden of Eden, Noah's ark; and then some from when Jesus was a baby and a young boy, like when he was lost and they found him preaching in the temple to the elders. We didn't go as far as his death, but I said we'd read it nearer to Easter.
I'm presenting the stories, especially the Genesis ones, as just that: stories. I have told the children that some people believe that they're absolutely true, and I've also told them that - unlike with God, where everyone gets to make up their own mind - those people are wrong when they believe it. Science is not an option, it's plain fact, by definition. I don't want them to disrespect anyone's beliefs, but I can't in good conscience tell them that when people choose to believe that dinosaurs walked the earth with man, or that the seas were created in one fell swoop on a Tuesday, or that the first woman was made from the rib of the first man, that it's okay and they can believe that too if they want to. It's not.
Creationism is not an issue in Irish schools. Partly, I think, it's because evolution isn't anywhere on the curriculum - or at least, it wasn't on mine anywhere - but also because the average Irish Catholic has no difficulty with the concept of metaphor. We are happy to take God or leave him, and simultaneously understand that the earth was created over many millennia yada yada fish, monkeys, apes, humans.
So I'm happy to keep reading the bible with my children, and answer their questions as well as I can, and try to help them understand that these stories are good to know, just as much as knowing their fairy tales and their nursery rhymes, because they're part of the fabric of our culture and our history, and because they often come up in pub quizzes. Beyond that, it's up to them.
(I hope I don't have to put a disclaimer here about how everyone's entitled to their own beliefs and I don't wish to offend anyone with this blog post. I would be quite surprised if any reader of mine is a die-hard Creationist, but if you're out there, I'm sorry for saying you're wrong. You are, but if I was having a conversation with you I would be polite and not mention it, and do my best to respect the other tenets of your faith.)