Some months ago, as we were in that golden moment before going to sleep, my eight year old daughter said she had figured out something that she thought I should know. "You and Mom are Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. I just figured it out by myself. I hope you and Mom aren't disappointed." I talked to my wife after the kids were in bed and she told me she'd gotten the same news earlier in the evening.
We have talked about beliefs and God around the dinner table, and my wife and I have shared our thoughts on religion (in general) and have told our daughter that everyone has to choose for themselves what they believe.
When my daughter shared her insight about these other make-believe beings, my impulse was to ask her if it made her think about her belief -or disbelief- in God. I didn't. But I was reminded of the short story by the Spanish theologian and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno. In San Manuel Bueno, Martir he tells the story of a village priest who, in the end, does not believe in heaven, hell or even God. San Manuel keeps this secret from all the church faithful -the entire village- so as to allow them hope, solace and comfort. "Why take away these?", he asks.
I am not sure my impulse reacting to my daughter was correct. Indeed, the classic definition of alienation is when humans are separated from the product of their own labor, that is to say, it is made apart, alien from them. To be told that the world is the creation of some bearded guy in the sky rents the material world away from each of us; it is the ultimate alienating act to believe in God.
But I digress, perhaps. My daughter will, I am sure, choose what to believe about god in due time, and I am OK with not interfering too directly in this important journey.