Like this, for example: "God made the world".
Shocked I was, I don't mind telling you.
Context is probably needed here. A week or so ago, right in the middle of my martyrdom to the burned leg (it was still weeping and hadn't yet crisped up), my mum brought my nephew over to see me. He's five years old and, of course, he's hilarious. What five year old boy isn't?
I'm not a gooey type about children. On the whole I much prefer animals. But I do like my nephew. He's in my top three kids that I like to spend time with for a few hours before leaving them to go back to my nice, quiet house.
We went to Cafe Rouge for lunch. I don't go there very often, partly I think because I worked at the Solihull branch about 12 years ago and they paid me something like £2.50 an hour and kept the tips. I do hold grudges, it has to be said.
I didn't realise that Cafe Rouge in 2011 is akin to a fucking Wacky Warehouse (not that I've ever been to one, but I've been to something that I'm reliably informed is very similar and it involved hundreds of screaming, snotting, oozing children hurling themselves around the place). We were wedged in between two families who seemed to have at least 15 children each (on closer inspection it was three), all of whom were yelling, crying, chucking chips around and generally making me feel uncomfortable.
And then my nephew said, and I quote: "Children shouldn't be allowed in here if they are crying."
After I high-fived him we talked a little about stuff. You know, school and Star Wars and things. Mum told me that he's been selected as Joseph for the school nativity. I understand, from observing gushy office-mum behaviour in the past, that this is a Great Honour.
I asked him whether he was pleased. He said: "No. I don't wanna. I don't like Mary."
We couldn't get out of him why he doesn't like whichever unfortunate lass who is to star opposite him but he was very clear about the fact that: "jesus is a doll", and said this phrase with such derision and contempt that my heart sang a little.
So I thought I was on safe ground when I asked him whether he believed in 'god'. I assumed he would roll his older-than-his-years eyes and say: "As if Auntie Debs, I would be taken in by such fairy tales and nonsense."
Instead he did that 'um' thing that kids do when they push their tongue in front of their lower front teeth. In the 80s it used to denote that they thought you were mentally inferior. I'm sure it doesn't now, what with it being 2011 and all.
I can only describe his expression as shocked when he said: "Of COURSE I do. He made the world."
After a short but intense conversation, mostly one-sided, where I explained to him the difference between provable facts and ridiculous stories made up to control people, I let the subject drop. With him. I turned to my mum and asked "What the fuck?", without using the word 'fuck' but wholly conveying it - a skill I have honed throughout the years of talking the lovely refined lady that she is.
She blithely returned that as he goes to a religious school - despite the fact that neither of his parents are religious in the slightest - that is what he is taught. On a daily basis. Now, I don't have a problem with people believing in things I don't believe in. I really and truly don't. If you have developed a theory and a rationale for believing that the world was created by a big man who lives in the sky, then fine. Go for your life.
I do have a problem when children are taught that one point of view is a fact, without recourse to other theories. Particularly when those people are five years old. An age where truth is imperative.
"Why does he go to a religious school?"
"Because the other ones in the area are horrible and this gives him the best chance to get into a good senior school."
"Well, what's the POINT of that if all he's going to come out with is a messed up view of religion as fact?"
Just as mum managed to completely steer me off the conversation (she just stops interacting with me until I have to eventually stop ranting) my nephew took a renewed interest. He said: "I think god put the dinosaurs there..." and looked mighty uncertain about it all for a second.
From this I take great hope. And when he's a couple of years older I'm going to show him some books I think he should read...