Monday, June 9, 2008

Quibbling about the Holy Ghost and Walking on the Moon

On the way home from Church last Sunday my ten year old daughter and I had the following exchange:

Me: What happened in Sunday school today?

Ruby: We had a lesson about the Holy Ghost.

Me: Do you believe in the Holy Ghost?

Ruby: Yes.

Me: So how do you know the Holy Ghost is real?

Ruby: Well, kind of like how I know that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I haven’t met him but I know he was a real person who walked on the moon. Or it’s like how I know Mars exists, I can’t see it but I know it’s there.

Me: I don’t think a person knows those things in the same way they know about the Holy Ghost. Neil Armstrong’s walk on the Moon and the existence of Mars are scientifically provable, but when you know there is a Holy Ghost, you know it in a different way – in a way that is not provable.

Ruby: Daddy, this isn’t very interesting, can you turn on the radio?

Upon reflection, I wonder if I handled this in the right way. I wonder about the following:

Is it a mistake to question how a child comes to know a spiritual truth? Is the assertion of spiritual knowledge good enough in and of itself, especially in a ten year old?

Did I do the right thing in attempting to help her understand the difference between spiritual and scientific knowledge as I see it?

Is it even accurate of me to say that spiritual and scientific knowledge are different? Are they close enough that is not worth quibbling over? Am I just splitting hairs?

Am I doing her a favor by preparing her for a later time when, I assume, she will compare empirical knowledge with spiritual knowledge? And as a result of my conditioning she will be less likely to be disillusioned and reject spiritual beliefs? Or am I simply prepping my daughter to become a secular humanist?

What do you think?