Even though we are not religious, I always planned to introduce Anna to the Bible and other stories from great religions of the world. Since I am a lot more familiar with the Bible (vs. Koran or Eastern religions), I decided to start here. She went to a church-based school for the first 6 months of her preschool life, so she was “somewhat” familiar with some of the stories and sometimes came up with funny and unexpected questions. Now I decided to take her religious education into my own hands, since it’s important for me that she understands where her parents stand on this topic. So before we started reading, I had a talk with Anna. I told her that very many people in our country believe that events described in these stories actually took place. We respect their views, but in our family we happen to believe that they are very old fairy tales containing great lessons for mankind. Anna perked up when she heard “fairy tales”, and we plunged into Creation story. She listened to it without a single question and wanted to listen to the next story which happened to be Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. First of all, she was shocked by the fact that God didn’t create Eve together with Adam. She asked why he created couples for everyone, but not for Adam. She said, He will have no friends! Then she was really frightened by the anger of God when Eve and Adam ate a fruit of knowledge of good and evil (I won’t go into my personal bafflement over the whole story here). She said, Why would God be so angry with anyone? I tried to explain that it’s not just that Adam and Eve didn’t listen. They listened, but then they broke their promise, and it’s worse than not listening. Then she asked if God forgave them. I said, Umm… he gave them a second chance.
Next day we read Noah’s story, and Anna’s dislike became even stronger. I guess God of Old Testament really comes across to young children (who don’t go to church) as an extremely strict parent who constantly tests and punishes, even people who “listen”. The story of Abraham and Isaac was the last straw. The author diplomatically said that God “wanted Abraham to give Isaac to him”. Anna wanted to know what it means. I explained that God wanted Abraham to kill his son to prove that he is loyal to God. I admit that it’s hard even for an adult to take, and that was the end of Bible stories for Anna. She told me to take this book away, that she doesn’t want to read any more scary fairy tales and that God is really scary. Somehow she missed on “merciful” message in these stories completely – maybe we will try a different version of Bible stories a bit later (closer to Christmas) and start with a more cheerful (at least in parts) New Testament.