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When children ask...

(75 Posts)
thatbags Sun 25-Aug-13 08:48:17

Some great writing on when children ask 'Is god real?'

Lilygran Sun 25-Aug-13 09:30:27

You know what this 'great writing' reminds me of? The 'witnessing' that born-again Christians are sometimes heard to make. You don't see much of it these days in this country unless you are tuned in to a particular kind of literature. It makes me wonder if both coming to faith and leaving faith are similar revelationary events? The waking up to the certainty of some thing or some idea......

j08 Sun 25-Aug-13 09:35:38

The original thing is very sweet - the four year old giving his heart to Jesus. grin Sounds like my younger grandson.

Sorry, did n' t get any further than that.

j08 Sun 25-Aug-13 09:38:53

Not really laughing at my GS there (although you would if you heard what he prays for!)

Joan Sun 25-Aug-13 09:46:10

I loved the little 6 year old who said "I don’t really believe in God, I just want to.”

I guess that was me as a somewhat older child. As an adult I tried and tried, but religion wouldn't take. I'm a happy atheist now, and so are all my family.

JessM Sun 25-Aug-13 09:48:14

Slightly off at a tangent, but we walked past a little girl fishing off the jetty yesterday with family in attendance. Someone must have said something like "you have to let the sea go out before you can walk to the island"
Heard her say "Do you have to let the sea go out nana?" grin

Greatnan Sun 25-Aug-13 09:49:48

I always answered my children's questions as honestly as I could, whether it was about sex or religion, using language I knew they would understand.

whenim64 Sun 25-Aug-13 19:24:19

During my grandson's baptism in a catholic church this morning, the priest said several times that christ had risen. My four year old grandson whispered to his uncle 'why does he keep going on about prison?' grin

Iam64 Sun 25-Aug-13 19:41:43

Fabulous wheni'm! I remember singing when shepherds washed their socks by night, religiously as a little girl. I was probably 7 or 8 before I realised I'd been singing the wrong words..... Like Greatnan, I always tried to answer my children's questions as honestly as I could, using language they understood. Does anyone else remember for Posy Simmons cartoon in the Gruaniad in the 70's. The children's hamster died, the parents explained rationally what happened, as did their parents friends and relations. Until grannie arrived. She organised a funeral, they gathered special things to go on the grave, and made a cross to go at the head. Prayers were said. Grannie explained that all is well, hammy has gone to heaven. The final scene was the group of children, all agreeing they liked grannie's explanation best.

thatbags Sun 25-Aug-13 19:43:51

when, brilliant! grin

I'd forgotten all about starting this thread. I thought the first article in particular was very good – touching and honest, with a good long term outlook.

vegasmags Sun 25-Aug-13 20:23:49

Not to mention Glady the cross-eyed bear!!!

Mishap Sun 25-Aug-13 20:28:59

Answering such questions is never easy I found.

Try a very sick 4 year old in the middle of the night - suffering from severe whooping cough complicated by chicken pox - "Mummy, why doesn't god make me better?" - why indeed? A bit of a facer after several weeks with no sleep agonising over a sick child. Knowing that she was getting god up to her eyeballs in the village school and not wanting to get into a deep discussion in the middle of the night whilst clutching a bowl of vomit, I said "I'm sure he would if he could." Definitely a cop-out. I am not proud of that.

But, more seriously, it is hard to deny children what has comforted generations of human beings - but integrity demands that we must be honest. Life is tough and religion can be a comfort to many, but children need to be gently made aware that all is not sweetness and light and that we are on our own and have to find and make our own happiness around us.

The half truths that we use to try and shore things up cause children no end of problems. When they later become exposed to the idea that the existence of god is not something that everyone believes, they are left wondering why their teachers and/or parents had presented these matters as fact.

Where has grandpa gone? - he has returned to the star dust in the heavens where he and all of us come from. That will do for now I think. It is factually correct in that grandpa's molecules are back in the atmosphere, but it has a poetic slant that makes it less daunting.

whenim64 Sun 25-Aug-13 20:46:03

I went to Jodrell Bank last week and enjoyed one of the science talks with lots of children. It was great to see their enthralled faces as they learned about the Big Bang, how neutrons and protons help to make a nucleus, particles that stick together to make planets and cosmic dust, and black holes from imploding stars. If that lot, and more, can capture the imagination of children whilst giving them a realistic account of how life evolves and where they go to at the end of life, who needs religious explanations?

vegasmags Sun 25-Aug-13 20:59:47

when I took my DGS and two Gnieces to Jodrell Bank last year for the science talk. At the Any Questions stage, the 9 year old girl asked : Are you a mad scientist? Give our lecturer his due he took it on the chin, replying that he was indeed a scientist and that his family often told him he was mad. It was one of those Earth Gape moments grin

whenim64 Sun 25-Aug-13 21:14:11


nanaej Sun 25-Aug-13 22:11:09

My father apparently sang: From fig tree unto fig tree his army he shall lead! (well he lived in Palestine..there were lots of fig trees about!)

And my brother's classic was Once in Royal David sooty stole a candle shed

At school in assemblies it was out policy to say that 'That is what Christians /Muslims/Hindus/Jews believe' when talking about deity / religious beliefs. If a child asked me directly I always told them i was an atheist..mostly they did not know what it was but were happy to get an answer!

Jendurham Mon 26-Aug-13 00:40:27

My 11 year old grandson knows that Grandad is ashes now, but I had to take him to Beamish to show him what ashes look like. I wasn't going to show him the real thing. He knows that Grandad is part of the world around him, part of the energy in the sky and the stars. Then we go and sit on Grandad's seat and he says, "Goodbye, Grandad," every time we leave.
Then he thinks he's a blackbird as that was Grandad's favourite bird, until he sees the blackbird eating worms. Grandad was vegetarian!

shelby75 Mon 26-Aug-13 00:48:05

Several months ago, teen girl declared herself agnostic. Happy she can make up her own mind about these things.

Jendurham Mon 26-Aug-13 01:18:01

The grandson I was talking about has autism. You have to be careful what you say to him, as he takes things literally.
He was at the local village school which is CofE, and is going to the local Catholic Highschool in September. Whatever he's told he forgets quite quickly, so he's unlikely to be converted. His mother has taught in a few catholic schools, and has not been converted from thinking religion is rubbish. However, she has to tell the pupils what some people think, and she tells him that not everybody believes in God, but some people do.
His 6 year old sister is singing Easter hymns at the moment.

Greatnan Mon 26-Aug-13 07:08:07

I taught in a Catholic comprehensive school - I had to attend assemblies to keep an eye on my remedial class, but it was understood that I would not take part in the hymns and prayers. I was surprised when I was allowed to draw up my own syllabus for Health and Personal Relationships to include the various forms of contraception. The Chairman of the governors was a priest but he was quite happy as long as I told my classes what the Catholic church's teaching was. Several mothers approached me on Parents' Night to say they were very grateful for the information!
When my pupils asked me directly if I believed in a god I had to reply truthfully but I didn't criticise their religion as that was not my place.

MiceElf Mon 26-Aug-13 07:32:11

Quite a consensus on this thread, but I just want to make one or two points arising from some comments on here.

Religion (and I'm speaking about Christianity - I wouldn't attempts to say 'This is what Hindus or Muslims believe because I would never dream of speaking on behalf a tradition about which my knowledge is superficial) is not about comforting stories. Many many Christians are quite agnostic about the concept of life after death, and anyway, it doesn't matter. God is beyond time and space to the idea is meaningless.

And the central idea of Christianity is emphatically not about some future la la land but about how we live our lives here and now. The key texts from the gospel, for those who are interested are 'The Kingdom of God is within you' and 'Love one another'.

Aka Mon 26-Aug-13 07:43:53

Knowing you are a stickler for correct terminology Greatnan I think you'll find that the word 'remedial' isn't acceptable in education these days.

Gorki Mon 26-Aug-13 07:52:20

I think Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy confuse the issue but no-one seems concerned about denying their existence. My children never believed in FC :their presents came from us and friends they were told. When it came to questions about God I explained that I did not really know but I believed he existed and then I pointed them in the direction of Jesus whom I felt more sure about. As youngsters they could be taught that he was a very good and kind man who cared about everybody and then later they could deal with the question of his divinity when their minds could comprehend abstract ideas..

Aka Mon 26-Aug-13 07:54:12

What do you do when a six year old announces that he thinks god is a myth?

Gorki Mon 26-Aug-13 08:05:45

That is a very interesting question Aka. It depends on what is meant by the word myth. Myths can be true in the sense that the story of Adam and Eve can be regarded as a myth to explain how sin came to exist. It sounds like the 6 year old is pretty perceptive and half way there. I would tend to agree and leave it at that point for a while.