Children’s Questions About God

For many non-religious people, faith first begins to fade when pastors and parents are unable to answer some basic questions about God.

Like: Who created God? or What was God doing before He created humans?

Without solid, easy-to-understand responses to these questions, kids begin to understand religion doesn’t really make sense.

Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America, compiled a list of questions little children ask (or should ask) about God — along with his own follow-up questions.

For example:

6. Does God ever change His mind when we pray?

Whether or not we believe everything was determined long before we were born, it seems like heresy to ask God for something he hadn’t planned on giving (like a missed field goal by an opponent). Doesn’t He already know what is best? I just can’t picture God slapping His forehead (in the image of mine) and saying to Himself (since He doesn’t speak to me), “Good point, Herb. I hadn’t thought of it in that clever way of yours.”

Other questions include:

  • How much better is the worst person in heaven than the best person in hell?
  • Why did God stop talking to humans (me)?

I’m curious what responses you’ve gotten from your elders if you ever asked these kinds of questions. Were they satisfactory at the time? Was there anything that completely stumped them?

Do churchgoers ever get taught how to answer these questions (if so, how?) or are they considered “too basic” for pastors to spend time on them?

(via IHEYO YouthSpeak)


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • dammitdoll

    “Only god knows the answer to that so you must have faith in him” was the answer to about every one of those questions.

  • Rick

    This is one I remember the best, particularly since the response was “stop asking stupid questions.

    If Satan is God’s adversary, why is he working for God torturing people in Hell?

    Another similar one was

    If God is all powerful, why does he allow Satan to exist? He must WANT him to act as an adversary.

    I got a similarly nasty response to this one too.

  • Josha

    Lucky for me I have a copy of the Baltimore Catechism for all my Catholic related questions. I went to Catholic school and we were taught to answer questions people would have about the faith.

    My favorite part of the book are the discussion questions:
    -Suppose a great astronomer does not know why God made him and a little child does. Which of the two is better off? Why?
    -If a girl loves a radio more than her Rosary beads, is she going full speed toward heaven?
    -Is there anything on earth that we have to do that is more important than loving God?
    -Does pleasure bring happiness? Why not?
    -Which is worse? To burn to death or to commit a mortal sin? Why?
    -Suppose someone told you there was no God. How could you show him he was wrong?
    -Why can’t we say one religion is as good as another?
    -Why is it a mortal sin to miss mass on Sunday?
    -If a Catholic man is married by a justice of the peace, what must he do to have his sin forgiven?
    -Why do parents who fail to give their children a Catholic education violate the 4th commandment?

  • Gabriel

    Wow, catholic dude. That is the hardest thing I have seen in a long time. I was always told that we were all to stupid to understand why god did things. That only god could understand them and that we should just be grateful that he wasn’t going to send us to hell. Assuming he wasn’t going to send us to hell if we were dunked in a pool full of water.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Why did God stop talking to humans (me)?

    This was always the most obvious question for me. It requires no formal logic or any advanced analysis. It’s incredibly simple and such a major flaw in God belief. Why was he so present and now completely absent?

  • Daniel Hoffman

    There are some presuppositional issues involved in those kinds of questions.

    Some of them do have fairly obvious answers, some not. But one thing to consider is how Godlike would He be if we knew everything about Him?

    Let me just comment on one:

    Who created God? or What was God doing before He created humans?

    The stock answers, basically are that God is infinite, eternal, and self-sufficient, and uncreated. “Before” He created the universe He was in fellowship with the Trinity, with Himself.

    That answer does leave something to be desired, I know – but is it any less informative or satisfying than answers to questions like “where did the energy/matter for the big bang come from?” or “what was going on before the big bang?”. You can ask “Where did that come from? Well, where did that come from?” questions in infinite regression all day to an atheist or a theist. Both have the same problem.

  • Darryl

    That answer does leave something to be desired, I know – but is it any less informative or satisfying than answers to questions like “where did the energy/matter for the big bang come from?” or “what was going on before the big bang?”. You can ask “Where did that come from? Well, where did that come from?” questions in infinite regression all day to an atheist or a theist. Both have the same problem.

    The difference is, of course, that cosmological questions come by way of research into FACTS; theological questions come by way of musings on FICTIONS.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com efrique

    I so hate the “stop asking questions” or “only God knows” nonsense that seems so common. I know I got it a lot as a kid.

    When my six-year-old asks awkward questions (which happens a lot, thank goodness), my first response is “What a great question!”. Then I try to answer it. If I can’t answer it, I say so, and then we try to find out.

    To me, asking (and trying to answer) awkward questions is an absolutely critical part of being a functioning human being; the beating down of that essential curiosity is a terrible crime against human spirit and children’s development.

    For goodness sake, if you’re reduced to those sorts of answer for the questions of a little kid, you need to examine your position.

  • http://www.myspace.com/theprinceofspinnersend TheHallowPrince

    Answer questions is NOT what god wants you to do….

    And that’s what lead me to Atheism :-)

  • Mark

    TheHallowPrince said,

    Answer questions is NOT what god wants you to do….

    And that’s what lead me to Atheism

    I’m confused?

    If you know there is a god and you know that he does not want you to answer questions then how can you claim to be an atheist? Are you aware of the definition of the word “atheist”?

    Seriously though, my point is that there are very few actual atheists. There is however a much larger group of people who in fact do believe in god but are angry and want to punish someone big and important and god is handy and available so what better way than to commit the ultimate snub against the ultimate authority figure in their lives by telling god that he doesn’t exist? Pretty clever huh??

    Another large group of people have read the bible and they have searched the heights of their intellect and the deepest parts of their own soul and have found that the fruit cake nutballs who call themselves Christians are nothing more than mentally ill morally bankrupt liars who are trying to use god to their own advantage all the while these nuts keep on babbling about how humble they are and how many ‘sacrifices’ they are making for the faith.

    So, the bottom line is that if you are a true atheist then that’s fine but if you are really in one of these other two groups then try to gather up the intellectual capacity and the moral courage to admit it to yourself. Oh and by the way, when you do figure out who you really are and what you really believe you don’t have to explain it to the nut next to you who is holding the sign that says “god hates fags” because that would be throwing pearls before swine.

    Have a nice day, Y’all.

  • cipher

    Why did God stop talking to humans (me)?

    I remember asking a variation of this in Hebrew School – why does the Bible have story after story in which God talks face to face with people, but it doesn’t happen any more? I was told that he does still talk to us, but now it’s in the form of the “still, small voice” we have in our hearts. Still drivel, but at least they weren’t into, “Shut up or you’ll burn in hell.”

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    My son, who is 10, is going through a class project on debate at the moment. He’s chosen religion as his topic and has come up with lots of these sorts of questions (clever lad). I must say that I haven’t prompted him at all except to get him to think of some decent counter arguments for the existence of gods. It is a debate after all.

    He has been cautioned to avoid attacking the cherished ideas of others though. I’m confused by this but then 10 year olds aren’t known for their ability to separate an attack on an idea and an attack on a person so maybe it’s for the best.

  • TheDeadEye

    Seriously though, my point is that there are very few actual atheists. There is however a much larger group of people who in fact do believe in god but are angry and want to punish someone big and important and god is handy and available so what better way than to commit the ultimate snub against the ultimate authority figure in their lives by telling god that he doesn’t exist? Pretty clever huh??

    Citation on that “research” please.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    I remember asking a variation of this in Hebrew School – why does the Bible have story after story in which God talks face to face with people, but it doesn’t happen any more? I was told that he does still talk to us, but now it’s in the form of the “still, small voice” we have in our hearts. Still drivel, but at least they weren’t into, “Shut up or you’ll burn in hell.”

    I hope it has at least occurred to you that the people who answered (or failed to answer) your questions didn’t know the Bible very well.

    There is a biblical explanation for why God doesn’t speak face to face with us anymore, and it isn’t because of the “still, small voice”. You might not buy the explanation – but it’s there. Basically, when God spoke face to face with people, those people then generally acted as prophets – revealing God and His will and promises to the people. In the Old Testament this was all preparation and foreshadowing for the coming of Christ, who as the Son of God is the perfect expression and image of God and the final and great prophet (Acts 3:17-26). Jesus revealed God and His will for our salvation in a definitive way, and it was left to the apostles after Jesus’ ascension to explain Jesus’ work in an after-the-fact kind of way. The apostles are dead, Jesus the revelation of God has come and gone – and we now have the written testimony in scripture and should expect no new revelation until Christ comes again – the next great act in redemptive history.

    That is not something concocted to explain present facts – it’s something pointed to and suggested by the word of God itself and the whole history of it.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Does God have a brain? If not, how does he think? Since as far as I know “think” = “brain operation”. If he does have a brain, is it finite? If so, he can’t know everything, such as all the digits of pi.

    If his brain is infinite he can’t be omnipotent, because he could never finish remembering all the digits of pi.

  • http://butchbailey.com/ Butch

    I recall my parents picking me up from Children’s Church (about halfway through the regular session the kids are dismissed to small classes rather than sit through the sermon itself) and the teacher talking to me. I don’t recall what all was said, I must have been about 5 or 6, but I recall the teacher saying “Jesus was perfect because he is God and he never sinned.” I replied, “Yeah, but since he was God and could do anything he wanted to that he could have sinned if had wanted to, right?” The earned me a firm smack in the back of the had from my Dad’s knuckles for “talking back.”

    I still think it’s a legitimate question.

  • Darryl

    There is a biblical explanation for why God doesn’t speak face to face with us anymore . . . Basically, when God spoke face to face with people, those people then generally acted as prophets . . . The apostles are dead, Jesus the revelation of God has come and gone – and we now have the written testimony in scripture and should expect no new revelation until Christ comes again . . .

    Really? Nothing? No more messages from God? Really? Then why do Christians the world over constantly claim that God speaks to them? Why does the Pope claim to speak for God? No more miracles, no more messages, no more visions of burning bushes, pillars of fire, God speaking out of a whirlwind, nothing?

    Hmm . . . You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think that the simpler, more likely explanation is that there is no God to reveal himself, and that’s why we never hear from him.

  • http://agersomnia.blogspot.com Agersomnia

    Daniel said:

    That answer does leave something to be desired, I know – but is it any less informative or satisfying than answers to questions like “where did the energy/matter for the big bang come from?”

    Well… To say that any god is eternal, uncreated, etc… is actually less informative. Because even if you answer with that, then I’d have to ask HOW?

    How something/someone may be eternal, uncreated?
    We can explain how the big bang might have occurred, we can explain how enery and matter are like they are, and trough those questions we understand the universe far better.

    Answering “God did it” is just negating others the use of their brain cells in the understanding of their place in the universe of things we can understand.

    Also Mark said:

    Seriously though, my point is that there are very few actual atheists. There is however a much larger group of people who in fact do believe in god but are angry and want to punish someone big and important and god is handy and available so what better way than to commit the ultimate snub against the ultimate authority figure(…)

    As somebody said, citation needed here, please. Also…
    Have you thought the other way around? That maybe there is this huge group of people who can’t get used to grow up and not to depend on otherse save for themselves, so that they need a big, eternal, uncreated, full-of-love and all-mighty parental figure to serve as an “ultimate authority figure”, because they are unable to think out of the box, or to stand by themselves. Quoting you again:

    Pretty clever huh??

  • Daniel Hoffman

    Really? Nothing? No more messages from God? Really? Then why do Christians the world over constantly claim that God speaks to them? Why does the Pope claim to speak for God? No more miracles, no more messages, no more visions of burning bushes, pillars of fire, God speaking out of a whirlwind, nothing?

    I don’t know why a lot of Christians claim that. Some I’m sure are just careless with language and call an impression they get “the voice of God”. Some call a gut-feeling “God telling me”. Some lie. But the explanation I gave was restricted to what the Bible says – not what “Christians the world over” say or what the Pope says.

    Hmm . . . You know, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think that the simpler, more likely explanation is that there is no God to reveal himself, and that’s why we never hear from him.

    Maybe that would be a simple explanation of the present – but it is not at all a simple explanation of the past.

  • cipher

    Daniel,

    I’m not going to get into it here, but the bottom line is that Jesus wasn’t the fulfillment of Old Testament “prophecy”. There are superior counterarguments to every apologetic argument you’ve been taught, even if we do accept, for the sake of argument, supernatural authorship of the OT (which I do not).

    Leaving that aside – we were Jews. We didn’t see the Bible in Christological terms, and expecting us to is just silly, and, frankly, insulting. I’ve said this here before – I am sick to death of Christians telling us how to read our texts. It represents the height of hubris for you people to tell us that we have spent the past two millennia misinterpreting and misunderstanding texts that we wrote in the first place – with or without divine inspiration. I know rabbis and Jewish scholars who have forgotten more than you and your Christian apologists will ever know; to tell me that they “didn’t know the Bible very well”… . I mean, really. Grow up, young man.

    And I’m sorry – but your explanation most certainly is “something concocted to explain present facts”. Reverse engineering – that’s all it is. Call it whatever you like.

    To have to come home at the end of a day and read nonsense like this… I mean, that’s right, Daniel – take it; take the whole thing. We were just keeping it warm for you. We’ll just go into anachronism mode now.

  • Darryl

    Maybe that would be a simple explanation of the present – but it is not at all a simple explanation of the past.

    The problem with your “past” is that none of it is left–there’s no evidence it ever occurred. Look at all the miraculous pasts of the world’s religions–why should we think your past is any more factual than theirs?

    Besides, if the present is not like the past, why not? Saying your interpretation of the Bible can withstand the practice of Christians, or “the Church,” is pretty empty, isn’t it? A God that doesn’t act in this time, a Holy Spirit whose actions are only known to Christians in their hearts and never displayed in miracles. You don’t have to convince me that all those Pentecostal healing services are bogus–I know that–but where’s the real Holy Spirit? Where are the true miracles that attend the true faith?

    Old words on a page just don’t cut it. Show me your power. That’s all I ask: show me your power. Once you can accept that mere words won’t get you to heaven, then maybe you’ll see things differently.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    Leaving that aside – we were Jews. We didn’t see the Bible in Christological terms, and expecting us to is just silly, and, frankly, insulting. I’ve said this here before – I am sick to death of Christians telling us how to read our texts. It represents the height of hubris for you people to tell us that we have spent the past two millennia misinterpreting and misunderstanding texts that we wrote in the first place – with or without divine inspiration. I know rabbis and Jewish scholars who have forgotten more than you and your Christian apologists will ever know; to tell me that they “didn’t know the Bible very well”… . I mean, really. Grow up, young man.

    I didn’t say they didn’t know it well, I said they may not have if they didn’t give a good answer. The only point I was making is that a particular person not having the answer doesn’t mean that no answer exists. And, I didn’t realize you were speaking from a Jewish background. The answer I gave takes the New Testament into account.

    And I’m sorry – but your explanation most certainly is “something concocted to explain present facts”. Reverse engineering – that’s all it is. Call it whatever you like.

    Ok, well if you put it that way every explanation of anything, biblical or otherwise, is a kind of reverse engineering. That doesn’t make the explanation wrong. And don’t say you’re sorry if you’re not ;)

    The problem with your “past” is that none of it is left–there’s no evidence it ever occurred. Look at all the miraculous pasts of the world’s religions–why should we think your past is any more factual than theirs?

    There’s plenty of evidence. None of it is compelling to you because you reject the possibility of the supernatural from the get-go and because for some reason you won’t accept ancient texts (which often is the only evidence we have for any historical event, biblical or otherwise) even as evidence, much less as an authority. Even if you want to say the writers were mistaken, the Bible at least has every mark of integrity and sincerity – the authors (especially of the NT) had nothing to gain and a lot to lose, and recorded lots of information embarrassing to themselves.

    Besides, if the present is not like the past, why not? Saying your interpretation of the Bible can withstand the practice of Christians, or “the Church,” is pretty empty, isn’t it?

    Well, ‘empty’, I don’t know. I mean, the Bible tells me to be holy as God is holy and to perfect as God is perfect, and I’m not either of those things. Does that mean it’s ‘empty’?

    A God that doesn’t act in this time, a Holy Spirit whose actions are only known to Christians in their hearts and never displayed in miracles. You don’t have to convince me that all those Pentecostal healing services are bogus–I know that–but where’s the real Holy Spirit? Where are the true miracles that attend the true faith?

    Where are true miracles today? I don’t know, honestly. Probably almost nowhere if anywhere at all. But that doesn’t change good reason to believe they happened in the past. The resurrection of Christ being the prime example. But my faith does not rest on miracles anyway – it rests on the word of God. The Israelites saw miracle after miracle in the wilderness, people saw Jesus’ miracles day after day, and most of them rejected Him anyway. If you or I don’t believe the word of God on its own merit, we won’t believe because we see a miracle either.

    Old words on a page just don’t cut it. Show me your power. That’s all I ask: show me your power. Once you can accept that mere words won’t get you to heaven, then maybe you’ll see things differently.

    If I had ‘power’ and showed you a miracle, like, turning water into wine, would you confess and turn from your sins and submit to Jesus as the Son of God and your Lord and Savior? Because if not it’s a moot point. I can’t do any miracles, and I know mere words don’t cut it, but biblically the Spirit is manifested in believers by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Any failure by me to display those things is owing to my sin and not to the Holy Spirit.

  • cipher

    I didn’t realize you were speaking from a Jewish background.

    I said it happened in Hebrew School. What the hell did you think that meant?

    The Israelites saw miracle after miracle in the wilderness, people saw Jesus’ miracles day after day, and most of them rejected Him anyway.

    You’re an imbecile. You wouldn’t understand empiricism or allegory if they came up and bit you on the ass.

    I won’t continue with this. If anyone else wants to engage this moron, have at it.

  • Darryl

    Daniel, you’re regurgitating the stock answers; the same ones I used to use on people. People like you (and me, back then) taught me that this kind of back-and-forth rarely does any good. If someone is truly seeking the truth (as I was back then), if they refuse easy answers, and if they do not give up, and if they have the guts to challenge everything–even if costs them something–then they have a chance to be set free. I wish you well.

  • http://agersomnia.blogspot.com Agersomnia

    Daniel Hoffman said:

    There’s plenty of evidence. None of it is compelling to you because you reject the possibility of the supernatural from the get-go and because for some reason you won’t accept ancient texts…

    Well, maybe because when God mentioned that to the authors he was “Divineley Inspiring” he made a mistake or two. Like… in Genesis 12:16, there is mention of domesticated camels seven centuries before it actually happened (the domestication). Then, Abraham gets to meet Abimelec, king of the philistines at Gerar, (narrated in Genesis 26:1). But said people arrived said place at Canaan until 1200 b.CE, so trumpets would be having a difficult time turning into debris a wall of a non-existant city.

    References?
    Read The Bible Unearthed, Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts,Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, Free Press, New York, 2001
    The authors are Finkelstein, Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, and Silberman, a contributing editor to Archaeology Magazine.

    Also you said about ancient texts that they…

    …often is the only evidence we have for any historical event, biblical or otherwise

    Then ancient texts surely explain the historical events from some cultures I just thought about: Mayan, Aztec, Toltec, Inca, North American Native Nations, Zulu, Swahili, Innuit, Rapa Nui, Maori, Kanaka, Torres Strait Islanders and the Aboriginal People of Australia, and so on. They surely do, as your statement is that an ancient text often is the only evidence, so what we know about said cultures must come from texts. After all, together they are people from all of Africa, America, Australia, and Oceania, leaving out only Europe, Middle East and Asia.

    And surely, the Christian Church did not burn 95% (or more) of the texts of Aztecs, Mayan, and the like, so we have plenty of texts to read today, and antropologist do not have to figure things out of broken clay, sculptures, and almost every other rock at an excavation site.

    And when you say:

    the Bible at least has every mark of integrity and sincerity – the authors (especially of the NT) had nothing to gain and a lot to lose, and recorded lots of information embarrassing to themselves

    I just want to know where did you get there was nothing to gain and a lot to lose… Easily said, hard to prove. I will not accept the possibility of divine inspiration in a book conformed from writitngs 50-100 years after the eventst took place (with the most direct witness supposedly writing the oldest document), and that was actually negotiatied and edited centuries after its supposed origin: While the Jews examined books to see if they were consistent with the main religious text (the Torah), the early Christians engaged in an argument about what constituted Christianity and especially about the nature of Christ, and then decided what books felt right. So it was not until 473 CE when we got an officially ratified New Testament. And it had nothing to do with God, historical accuracy or how close to the actual events the books were.

    Quite a few collections of stories about Jesus circulated in the early church, among them The Gospel of Thomas, The Gospel of Mary, and the Secret Book of John. Some argued that the resurrection was a spiritual event that anyone could experience. This latter “heresy” would have led the church away from an organized entity into a situation where anyone could judge the truth for themselves. And that was not profitable, either in money terms, or in the sense of the religious market.

    Where are true miracles today? I don’t know, honestly. Probably almost nowhere if anywhere at all. But that doesn’t change good reason to believe they happened in the past. The resurrection of Christ being the prime example.

    Then, even if I have seen water rain from the sky towards the earth, and every other human has seen the same for quite several centuries, it might be possible that in biblical times for water to rain from the earth towards the sky? Intresting logic.

    …but biblically the Spirit is manifested in believers by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

    And my secular humanism is manifested by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, loyalty, gentleness, and self-control. And in my curiosity, determination, unrelenting will to live, friendshipness, and an unending desire for everyone’s happiness. Any failure by me to display those things will only harm my enjoyment of the only life I have, or the enjoyment of other people’s only life in this world. And that’s something I do not need anyone else to tell me it shouldn’t be, or that it’s wrong.

  • Daniel Hoffman

    I said it happened in Hebrew School. What the hell did you think that meant?

    Sorry, my oversight.

    Daniel, you’re regurgitating the stock answers; the same ones I used to use on people.

    ‘Stock’ doesn’t equal ‘wrong’. And I’m not sure if you are suggesting this or not, but in any case, I get the impression often that atheists see religious people as robots – repeating what they have been fed without a second thought. I do recognize that Christian apologists often use really bad or at least un-thoughtout logic, I don’t agree with my own church on every single point. But I also think it would be foolish to set myself up as the authority or as some independent deposit of all wisdom and ignore out of hand what elders who have earned my trust say. And that goes for scientists, historians, and theologians.

    People like you (and me, back then) taught me that this kind of back-and-forth rarely does any good.

    I know it doesn’t. Honestly I’m not expecting to change anyone’s opinion.


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