HOST KID: Why do you think megalodons are extinct?
ME: Which ones were the megalodons?
HOST KID: The giant sharks big enough to eat whales. The dinosaurs went extinct because of the flood, but a flood wouldn't have killed a giant shark. So what made them go extinct?
ME: Um. Well. That's a really good question. Maybe the megalodons went extinct because their favorite food sources got too scarce? That happens to some big predators now, even in the ocean.
VISITING COUSIN: Maybe the megalodons lived too long ago...
HOST KID: Hey, you know Jesus. Stop acting like that.
ME: What was your dog's name again? Does Toby know any cool tricks?
We ended up doing Google searches on my Droid for pictures of live megalodons, because if the flood couldn't have killed them, maybe they weren't really extinct after all. Considering the worldview the kid has been handed, his efforts at making the parts fit together are pretty logical.
When Gareth and I got home, he was full of questions about the great flood, and why I wasn't worried about live megalodons. The only Noahs Gareth knew about were kids his own age. So, once I'd explained that there were lots of different flood myths and this was just one of them, I told him a story.
Once upon a time, there was a man named Noah who had just one favorite god. In fact, he liked his one favorite god so much, he didn't think any others existed, so he just called his favorite god God.
One day, Noah's favorite god got really mad because too many people were acting like meanies. He tried to tell them to stop, but they wouldn't. So the god went to Noah, who had always been a really nice guy, and said, "I'm going to drown all these people and start over. You need to build a boat for your family and a lot of animals. You need two of every kind, so there can be a mommy animal and a daddy animal and baby animals after the flood is over."
And on it went in that vein, with asides about other stories with other survivors favored by other gods, and archaeologists who think the whole thing was a result of the Mediterranean connecting traumatically with the Black Sea. Gareth was a little off-put by Noah's favorite god killing all those people just because he was mad at them.
"I think it's weird, too," I said. "But that god is a complicated guy. There are stories about him doing very kind things, too. Noah's favorite god is our neighbors' favorite god. Remember your god manners, and be courteous about your neighbors' gods."
Gareth knows the key protocols for being polite to dogs and cats, but we're just beginning to work on how to be polite about religious stuff. Don't steal the flowers from Mommy's shrine to her storytelling god (Dionysus), offer first fruits from our tomato plants to the goddess who turns yard scraps into good compost (Hekate), and when you meet somebody whose gods confuse you, say something like I don't understand, rather than something like That makes no sense. You might learn something. And it's okay if, like Daddy, you think gods are only in stories. Stories still matter.
He considered all this, and said, "What if Noah's favorite god made a very dry laser, so there could be a rainbow in the sky forever?" And then he started running laps around the living room, making up stories to himself about gods with lasers.