Friday, April 06, 2007

"God is a placebo"

I had a very interesting talk with my 14 year old student from South Korea after school yesterday. I was giving him some extra help with his reading comprehension for Anne Holm's book, I Am David. It's a story of a 12 year old boy who escapes from a concentration camp and makes his journey across Europe in search of freedom , safety and his identity - who he really is. We reached the chapter where David is thinking about God and the existence of God...and how and why he should have faith and pray.

My student suddenly said, "In Korea, sometimes doctors give people a sugar pill and tell them it's medicine. What's that called?"

Puzzled, I responded, "Oh, you mean a placebo?"

"I guess so."

"Anyway, why do you ask?"

"Because I think that's what God is."

"Hmmm...That's interesting. Why do you think God is a placebo?"

"Because people believe in him, but he's not real. They just need something to believe in. He doesn't help them but they think he does. I don't know. I just don't believe."

What a wonderfully interesting conversation to have with a 14 year old boy. I was really intrigued by his words. The funny thing is that I assumed he was Buddhist or something, but he's actually Catholic! His parents practice Catholicism. I grew up Roman Catholic, and followed the religion pretty well since my grandmother is a very pious woman. In my 20's, I began looking at other religions, trying to decipher which made the most sense to me. The more I delved deeper into the different religions, the more I became confused. I found that there were many aspects of various religions that I really liked. If only I could take snippets of each and base my faith on that. Seriously. Though there are lots of conflicting ideas in Catholicism, Buddhism, Judaism, and many other faiths, I found bits and pieces of all that I really respected.
I ended up marrying someone who is Christian (although, Catholics are Christian as well) of a different denomination. Anyway, the whole conversation really interested me, since my student is Catholic, but believes God is a placebo. Interesting! That's one clever kid...don't you think?


Diesel said...

I think that the belief that God doesn't exists is the placebo.

Chrissy, come play in my caption contest again!

Chrissy121875 said...

That's very interesting, Diesel. Wow...the more I think, the more my head hurts! Can you believe a 14 year old Korean student came up with "God is a placebo"?! I find it so interesting to think about...the workings of his mind and how/why he came up with that argument. I, of course, didn't try to convince him of any one particular truth or belief in any certain faith. I think it's up to him to decide what he believes in. I'm still shocked and impressed at the depth of the discussion. I'm also trying to figure out if I'm reading too much into his argument and whether or not it's the language differences that perhaps made me think that this was actually a deeper conversation that it was. Ah well.

Neil said...

Whatewver you think, your student is one bright kid.

Chrissy121875 said...

Neil: Hi there! Yes, he is one clever kid! That's for sure!

japanmanpete said...

God is a placebo! That's great! Are you sure this kid is 14 and not a 40 year old Theologist? BAH!

Ms. Mamma said...

What diesel said is even more thought provoking. I mean it gives license to our *^&@ed up culture(usa). Violence. Do whatever you want because God doesn't exist. It doesn't matter how we treat others etc.

Yes, that 14 year old started this little thread a rocking.

Chrissy121875 said...

Pete: Hey there :) He's definitely 14! Although, he does come up with some good ones every now and then!! He really knows how to think outside of the box.

Ms.Mamma: I totally agree with you. What Diesel said was pretty profound. (Did you mean it that way, Diesel?) Ms. Mamma, I think it's so sad that if people have nothing to believe in, they don't always feel the need to respect others or that there are consequences for their actions. Violence, hatred, etc...This world can be a scary place to raise kids. Barring this fact, there are a lot of beautiful things in this world (like love, new life, spring, random acts of kindness). Whoa...I think I'll sign off because I'm totally contradicting myself. But you know what I mean, right? :) Sort of?

t said...

He is a smart boy to come up with something like that.

Anonymous said...

Adults often underestimate the thinkings of children. As an educator myself, I realize that a lot can be learned by listening to the words of the young. Good for you, Chrissy, for being such a great teacher. I also think it was great of you to not try to sway your student's thoughts one way or another. That takes a lot of skill to not attempt to impose thoughts or opinions.

Dina said...

i agree that we often underestimate the minds of kids. Your student is a very bright boy and it is very important that you didn't try to change his opinion or devalue his thought.
I actually agree with him to some degree. People really just need somthing to believe in, some sort of grounding in order to feel a part of a community. Both hubby and i feel that need and have been looking for the right temple to meet our is not easy to find something you are completely comfortable with and that is often why people don't end up following at all.

doggy mama said...

Wow, that is a very deep thought for a 14 year old! Impressive! I think that no matter what age we are, we should always explore and question different beliefs... if nothing else, to become more enlightened and informed.

Pinks & Blues Girls said...

How incredible! As much as I am sure he is learning from you, how nice that you are able to learn from him, as well. Children and young adults have such profound capabilities that many adults too often overlook. You're clearly not one of these adults!

Happy Easter, Christine!

- Sharon, Pinks & Blues Girls

kim said...

Kids do come up with darndest things. But it seems to be that we're the ones who're darned amazed by his logic. Hope he's enjoying life on Manitoulin, Chrissy. Let him read "Five People You Meet in Heaven." I'm curious to hear what his opinions on this are. Ciao!

Chrissy121875 said...

Oh...he's smart for sure! Sometimes I think he's too smart for his own good! LOL! (or for MY own good!)

Yes, I agree with you. Adults often overlook the intelligence of kids. I can't stand it when adults patronize kids and treat them as though they were "simple". Sometimes kids come up with really witty and bright comments. Adults can surely learn a lot from kids if they just stand back and listen :)

Oh, I totally agree with you. I would never ever try to impose my beliefs upon someone else or try to change their beliefs. I think that eventhough kids get their basic beliefs from their parents, they should be able to learn and discover what they truly believe in on their own (later on in life, when they're old enough to). I often struggled with Roman Catholicism when I was in my early 20s. There were many aspects of the religion that I wasn't comfortable with or didn't agree with 100%. I think that it's so hard to say "I'm this religion and that's what I believe in 100%". I also felt like the biggest hypocrite saying I was a certain religion and not following it completely. John and I go to church on Sundays (we go in spurts of not missing church for weeks and then things get horribly busy on the farm or with the student living with us and we miss church for a month).

I love your comment. That pretty much sums up what I think too. Oh, and my student does come up with some mind blowing thoughts sometimes!

Yes, sometimes I wonder who is learning more from whom! I'm constantly learning from my students. It's incredible.

He's thoroughly enjoying life on Manitoulin. That's the problem! LOL! We suspect he's having more fun with friends than actual studying! LOL! *sigh*

Ken said...

Hi Chrissy,

I'm over 50 yo and have been thinking a lot about god, religion, my own atheism, etc in the past few years. The phrase "God is a placebo" didn't even occur to me until a few minutes ago, and google led me here.

I believe we're going to need a lot more bright kids like that. (Diesel, I can tell you that atheism sure doesn't feel like a placebo, but feels like hard medicine. Still, I cannot believe in something just because it feels good.)

God or no god, I am sure that we humans have to solve our own problems ourselves. This is where I'm currently stuck. People ask "Where does morality come, if not from God?". I see this as an absurd question, since I believe that God was invented by people, and so was the morality they say came from God. Men in robes wrote it! (Btw most scripture written by men in robes has serious problems presenting morality and goodness with consistency.) Sorry to gab on like this... my main point is that it is necessary, but very hard to write absolute rules about how people should behave towards each other. "Thou shalt not kill" is a good start, but even that rule isn't absolute.

As flawed as scriptures are, they are easier to swallow as a placebo, and at least they are an important, human specie's starting point.

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City girl moves to the country, falls in love, and marries a farmer. She tries to incorporate her city ways with her new country lifestyle and blogs to keep in touch with friends, family & students who live far, far away :) Can this city girl go country? Watch as she learns all sorts of exciting things about life on the farm and in a small rural community. *UPDATE* We are now parents! Our baby girl was born on Nov. 11, 2008 (at 28 weeks gestation- 12 weeks premature, but she's quite the trooper)!!!
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