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Quote of the Day: “Please Will You Tell Me How God Began?”

aa milne

Elizabeth Ann

Said to her Nan:

“Please will you tell me how God began?

Somebody must have made Him. So

Who could it be, ‘cos I want to know?”

And Nurse said, “Well!”

And Ann said, “Well?

I know you know, and I wish you’d tell.”

And Nurse took pins from her mouth, and said,

“Now then, darling, it’s time for bed.”

Elizabeth Ann

Had a wonderful plan:

She would run round the world till she found a man

Who knew exactly how God began.

She got up early, she dressed, and ran

Trying to find an Important Man.

She ran to London and knocked at the door

Of the Lord High Doodleum’s coach-and-four.

“Please, sir (if there’s anyone in),

However-and-ever did God begin?”

But out of the window, large and red,

Came the Lord High Coachman’s face instead.

And the Lord High Coachman laughed and said:

“Well, what put that in your quaint little head?”

Elizabeth Ann went home again

And took from the ottoman Jennifer Jane.

“Jenniferjane,” said Elizabeth Ann,

“Tell me at once how God began.”

And Jane, who didn’t much care for speaking,

Replied in her usual way by squeaking.

What did it mean? Well, to be quite candid,

I don’t know, but Elizabeth Ann did.

Elizabeth Ann said softly, “Oh!

Thank you Jennifer. Now I know.”

— A.A. Milne, Now We Are Six, Explained

Was Milne an atheist?

My father waited until I was twenty-four. The war was on. I was in Italy. From time to time he used to send me parcels of books to read. In one of them were two in the Thinker’s Library series: Renan’s The Life of Jesus and Winwood Reade’s The Martyrdom of Man. I started with The Life of Jesus and found it quite interesting; I turned to The Martyrdom and found it enthralling. . . One Man! Mankind! There was no God. God had not created Man in His own image. It was the other way round: Man had created God. And Man was all there was. But it was enough. It was the answer, and it was both totally convincing and totally satisfying. It convinced and satisfied me as I lay in my tent somewhere on the narrow strip of sand that divides Lake Comacchio from the Adriatic; and it has convinced and satisfied me ever since.

I wrote at once to my father to tell him so and he at once wrote back. And it was then that I learned for the first time that these were his beliefs, too, and that he had always hoped that one day I would come to share them.

(Christopher Milne, The Enchanted Places, p. 144)


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    Reference to The Thinkers’ Library triggered long-forgotten memories for me. My father was raised in strict nonconformist x-tianity, as were most of his generation in Wales, lots of rules and restrictions and hellfire preaching and no alcohol. But he saw deacons going to the back door of the village pub in the week with a jug to buy ale and then saw their wives bruised faces….we were not well off, but he always managed to find a little spare money to buy Thinkers’ Library books, published by The Rational Press and as a child, I remember seeing him read and re-read T.H. Huxley, J Huxley, Bertrand Russell, Joad, Darwin etc etc and think they must have been a real lifeline for him. He never quite accepted I got born again in my teens, and were he still alive, I’m sure be very proud I’m now on the same side that he was.

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    My dad read me a lot of Winnie The Pooh as a child, along with other children’s classics, like Narnia and Alice in Wonderland, but we always came back to Pooh.

    My dad was a closet atheist who knew quite a bit about the bible, being an english professor. He didn’t talk about his non belief, my older sister believes (or appears to) and Daddy could really make the story of Jesus’ birth come alive on Christmas Eve! he did that for my sister, because it made her happy.

    Somehow it comforts me to know that Milne, like my father, didn’t believe.

    PS this is the same Autumn, I’ve just changed my e-mail

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    Appalachian Agnostic

    Wow! So the real Christopher Robin was an atheist. We probably would not have been allowed to watch Winnie the Pooh at our house if that had been a well known fact.

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    I would not have been allowed to read or watch Winnie the Pooh had my family known Milne was an atheist. I always loved Eeyore – he is my favorite.

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