Stage 2: Mythic-Literal Faith

God is a Supernatural Judge of What I Do

Most people in this stage are six to twelve years of age.

When children reach school age, they start to understand the world in more logical terms.  The developing ability to think logically helps children in this age group to order the world with categories of causality, space, and time; to enter into the perspectives of others; and to capture life meaning in stories. One sees the world through the structures of one’s needs, interests, and wishes.

This is the time when the meaning-making stories of the community’s belief systems are learned: Bible stories, morality tales, hero myths, etc. These stories communicate meaning and significant truths in a simple manner even children can understand as they tend to have emotional resonance.  At this stage, such stories are understood concretely and literally; that is, children tend to believe these stories are literally true.  There is little ability to step back from the story and formulate an overarching meaning. The stories are important simply because they are “our stories.”

A Stage 2 faith has learned to distinguish real from make believe. Justice is based on fairness, with rewards and punishments given based on adherence to moral rules. The person in this stage is better able to take on the perspectives of others. God is thought of in anthropomorphic terms, i.e., described with human qualities and actions. Later in this stage children begin to have the capacity to understand that others might have different beliefs than them, and so it can often be accompanied by a tribalism that, on the positive side, gives the child a sense of belonging, but on the negative side can create suspicion toward people who are different.

Even though this stage is common to early childhood, many people stay at this stage for life.  At best, in adulthood, this stage reflects a simple piety with a humble, dutiful attitude toward faith leaders and moral norms.  At worst, in adulthood, this stage reflects an angry kind of us-vs-them fundamentalism that persecutes those who dare to think differently.

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