THE BLOG
05/02/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Putting away childish things

Who was it who said we shouldn't tell children fairy stories, things that aren't true? I disagree. My grandchildren all love made up things, strange things, things "beyond the present world". Love pretending that odd things like flying and magic can happen. Love, in fact, stuff that children have always loved.

But we stop, don't we, pretending about most of this stuff? Either when they ask a question, perhaps with some encouragement, or just let it slip away, embarrassed, when their friends spill the beans, one by one they lose belief in Father Xmas, Tooth Fairy and other fairies, Easter Bunny, witches and wizards, Superman, things that go bump in the night, and all the rest of the imaginary furniture of a child's world. And as parents, grandparents, we might regret the loss of belief in fantastic things, while appreciating more signposts, along with new teeth and pencil marks of height creeping up a wall, of a child maturing, growing wiser. Might in fact be a little worried if beliefs in unreality persisted too long, would drop big hints if a child was really still believing in obviously untrue things beyond, say, the age of seven, perhaps eight.

Except, in some cases, where the beliefs involve the obvious untruths of whichever religion the child has been indoctrinated with. Then the parents want the children to keep understanding as children, thinking as children, and never to put away these childish things.

Does it matter if grown people keep on believing in things that a seven year old child, given freedom of thought and action, would dump into the wastebasket along with the tooth fairy? Yes, of course it does, because if you can get an adult to keep on believing in untrue things in this area you can get them to believe untrue things in any area. Enter creationists, and tea-baggers, and climate change deniers, and birthers, and truthers, and WMD in Iraq, and death panels, and the global war on terrorism, and Obama is a socialist, and all the rest of this childish rubbish that is constantly being trotted out these days by children in adult bodies.

Going to take a long time to turn around this barrage of unreality that is corrupting political systems designed in and for more enlightened times. A good place to start would be to let children dump religion when they dump all the other fairy stories from their mental furniture.

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