Friday Night: Daddy, What’s God?

When your child asks you about God, it feels like you are being grilled on your beliefs. Never mind the tricky “Do we believe in God?” The straightforward “What is God?” can provoke palpitations. “Well, umm, God is the Supreme Being, God is the Prime Mover… umm, God made the world?”

Even the simple question, “Daddy, how do you spell God?” prompts anxieties and repressed rationalizations that had been largely buried since middle school. Is there a dash? What websites might help me explain why I spell it the way I spell it? Maybe I should change the way I spell it.

I’m doing some writing with my kindergartner. I didn’t expect a kind of Spanish inquisition.

Well, as Monty Python ably pointed out, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Its main weapons are fear, surprise and, in this case, a paranoiac misunderstanding of your child’s needs. All she needed was a very practical spelling of a noun to get her from one side of the paper to the other but, of course, press a nerve and we jump.

Much of father-daughter–perhaps all human–conversation goes this way. They ask a question, we project our own fears and wishes onto it and provide a semi-intelligible response which is then undercut by the next comment. The virtue of having God as a subject in the dialogue is to render the absurdity of human interaction that degree more obvious.

“Daddy, should God be bigger or smaller than these dinosaurs?”

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Dan FriedmanDan Friedman is the award-winning arts and culture editor for the Forward. He has written for the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal and Da Ali G Show and he is currently writing a book about Tears for Fears.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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