Sunday, June 14, 2015

Talking About God and Religion with a 7-Year-Old

Dear Jack,

            Your mom tells me you have some questions about God and religion. She says you and your grandfather have been talking about God. Your mom asked if anyone who has had little boys like you has any good ideas on how to talk to someone who’s 7-years old about God and religion. I said I’d like to try. I’m a grandma and have had my own little boy and little girl who are all grown up just like your mom.

            Even though you’re only 7-years old, you are already beginning to learn how to think about things for yourself. You are learning how to read and to listen to teachers show you new ideas and introduce you to new things that you can learn more about. As you keep growing up, you will also learn how to figure out if what people tell you is true and makes sense or not.

            Sometimes you will not be able to figure things out right away. That is when it’s helpful to talk with the adults in your life and ask lots of questions. The helpful adults in your life will try their best to explain things to you, and they will tell you when they don’t know the answers. Then, maybe, you and those adults could do some study together and learn what the answers might be.

            One of the things about this great country that we live in, the United States of America, is that we have freedom of religion. That means we U.S. Americans think that everyone should be free to make their own choices about whether or not to believe in God and to participate in a religion.

            Religion is the way that people worship the God they believe in and the way that they get together in groups with other people who believe in God as they do. Christianity is one kind of religion, and there are many other kinds of religions. We can’t really say that one religion is better than another, although people sometimes talk that way. Each religion is important to the people who participate in it, and we are acting in a bossy way when we put down someone else’s religion.

            The first questions people ask about God are usually “Is God real?” and “Does God exist?” There are many good people in the world who truly believe that God is real and that God is active in their lives. There are also many other good people who do not believe in God and think God does not exist. People who believe in God and people who don’t believe in God sometimes argue with each other and even say and do unkind things to each other based on their beliefs or unbeliefs.

            It is too bad that people treat each other badly based on their beliefs or unbeliefs, because what is most important of all is that we treat each other as we want to be treated. The Golden Rule, which is part of every religion, says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That means be as nice to others as you are nice to yourself and as you want others to be nice to you. In other words, don’t be mean to someone else, because you wouldn’t want them to be mean to you.

            You may have noticed in talking with the adults in your life that some of them feel very strongly about their ideas about God and maybe even try to get you to believe what they believe. It is confusing, isn’t it? One of the important things you are doing as you work on growing up and learning lots of things in school and at home talking with your adults is that you are learning to think for yourself. You are learning ideas that make sense to you and ideas that you have to spend more time learning and thinking about before they make sense to you. Your mom’s goal for you, and every mom’s goal for their little boys and little girls, is that our children learn how to learn new ideas and to think for themselves.

            For many people God is real and an important all powerful, all knowing, influence in their lives. They believe that God, through important books written about God, teaches them how to live their lives as good people and how to treat other people in a kind way. They go to a church or a temple to hear religious teachers tell them about God and what God hopes for their lives. And when they are in church or in temple, these people who believe in God also spend time praising God for the things that they think God is doing in the world for human beings. That kind of praise, when done together with other believers in God, is called worship.

            When people who believe in God “talk” to God, either silently or aloud, that is called prayer. An example of prayer is someone who believes in God having what they think of as a personal conversation with God, telling God things and listening for God to tell them things in ways that make them feel like God is talking to them. Some people feel that God is talking to them by changing the way that they feel about things, or they believe that their nighttime dreams and daydreams are ways in which God talks to them. This is how some people believe in God, and it is not our job to say that they are right or wrong.

            For other people who don’t believe in God, they learn about how to become good people through the adults and teachers in their lives. A person can grow up to become a very good person without believing in God and without going to church or temple. It is a personal choice that a person makes after hearing different ideas about whether or not God exists. Each person gets to choose for himself or herself, and believing in God or not believing in God does not by itself make you a good or not-so-good person. Here, also, it is not our job to say that these people who do not believe in God are right or wrong.

            One thing that is important for good people to do is to treat in a kind way the right of other people to have their beliefs as long as those beliefs don’t interfere with the way that the other people live their lives. So, if I believe in God, it is important for me as a good person to treat people who don’t believe in God just as I want to be treated. Likewise, if I do not believe in God, I should not belittle or make fun of people who do believe in God, because I would not want anyone to make fun of me or make me feel small.

            Thanks, Jack, for letting me talk to you about God and religion. Perhaps we can talk again soon about other things like the different kinds of religions that people participate in.

Your mom’s friend and your friend,


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