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Author Topic:   Daddy, is God real?
Briterican
Member (Idle past 2240 days)
Posts: 340
Joined: 05-29-2008


Message 1 of 34 (532334)
10-22-2009 7:27 PM


A recent post by JJtheJester asked for creationists and evolutionists to give some arguments in support of their views, hoping to gain some material useful for religious education.

This made me start thinking about a question my 5 year old daughter recently asked me, and no this isn't an apocryphal tale...

"Daddy, is God real?"

If my daughter was considerably older, I'd have a pretty good idea what I'd say. But she's 5.

Is "Nobody really knows" a reasonable answer for a 5 year old? Would it be going too far to say "I don't think so because x, y, z" ?

At the moment I intend to address questions on such matters with a non-commital answer: "Lots of people believe different things and nobody knows for sure". I find this unsatisfying, but wonder if it isn't simply the best answer at this age.

I want to avoid "indoctrinating" her (though I don't think you can call the teaching of logic and reason "indoctrination") down a certain path, and yet I want to encourage her to ask questions and not to accept things on "faith" (using the definition: belief without evidence).

I feel that the "Nobody really knows" response is simply too vague, but I worry that adding much more to that would be to guide her down a particular path. And yet, the more I think about this, I'd obviously like to see her become science-minded and skeptical.

I would be remiss if I didn't point out that I believe in evolution and I consider religion to be a relic of our infancy as a species, one which we should strive to outgrow. Therefore, I'm mostly interested in how members of a scientific background would handle this, but It will be interesting to see what the religiously-minded have to say on the matter.

Thanks in advance for any advice/suggestions.


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Message 2 of 34 (532388)
10-23-2009 5:55 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the Daddy, is God real? thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

    
Jumped Up Chimpanzee
Member (Idle past 3233 days)
Posts: 572
From: UK
Joined: 10-22-2009


Message 3 of 34 (532395)
10-23-2009 6:28 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Briterican
10-22-2009 7:27 PM


Hi Briterican

I'm a non-believer (in God, not Evolution).

I'm not experienced in advising 5-year-olds, but I think the most important thing is to try and explain that it doesn't matter whether or not God is real, and that as she gets older she can make up her own mind or freely change it. The intention being that she hopefully won't develop any of the preconceptions, hang-ups or guilts that in my view are the main reason so many adults are stuck for life with religion.


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Larni
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Posts: 3990
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 4 of 34 (532399)
10-23-2009 6:53 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Briterican
10-22-2009 7:27 PM


I would say "Some people think a god exists, but I don't" and field any further questions as they arise.

It makes ones position clear and allows the child to understand that other people think otherwise.

Edited by Larni, : Clarity


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Huntard
Member (Idle past 586 days)
Posts: 2870
From: Limburg, The Netherlands
Joined: 09-02-2008


Message 5 of 34 (532402)
10-23-2009 7:14 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Briterican
10-22-2009 7:27 PM


Hmm 5 year olds....

How is she in her logical an critical thinking?

Depending on the answer, you could go with "Well, I don't think he exists, since I've seen no evidence for him. But don't take my word for it, always investigate things for yourself!"

OR

"No one really knows, honey (see, I'm being a kind parent here), I don't think he does, but others do. Perhaps we should speak more about this when you're a little older."

Also, I'm very interested in what response religous folks would give. I have my suspicions, but will keep them to myself for now.


I hunt for the truth

I am the one Orgasmatron, the outstretched grasping hand
My image is of agony, my servants rape the land
Obsequious and arrogant, clandestine and vain
Two thousand years of misery, of torture in my name
Hypocrisy made paramount, paranoia the law
My name is called religion, sadistic, sacred whore.
-Lyrics by Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 395 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 6 of 34 (532403)
10-23-2009 7:22 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Briterican
10-22-2009 7:27 PM


Cectic.com

IANAP* but have you considered going down the "What do you think, sweetheart?" avenue?

*I am not a parent.


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Stile
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Posts: 3848
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 7 of 34 (532409)
10-23-2009 8:20 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Briterican
10-22-2009 7:27 PM


Honest intellectual development
*Obligatory I am not a parent disclaimer...*

Briterican writes:

At the moment I intend to address questions on such matters with a non-commital answer: "Lots of people believe different things and nobody knows for sure". I find this unsatisfying, but wonder if it isn't simply the best answer at this age.

I don't see the problem with this answer. It's the truth. I agree that it's unsatisfying, but I would agree that it is the best answer to give.

1. It's the truth. This is very important (to me.. which is subjective). Your child will never look back and wonder "why did Daddy not tell me the truth?" or "why did Daddy sugar-coat and hide things from me?" Sure, the explanation can be "because Daddy loves you and wants to protect you" but I prefer the explanation of "Daddy loves you so much that he'll tell you the truth in the first place so that you can explore the world at your own pace/level."

2. It's a fact of life that some answers are going to be unsatisfying. Your child is going to run into this sooner or later, it's a normal part of development. It's your choice if you want to "protect your kid's childhood innocence" for as long as possible. But I would rephrase the situation as "allowing your child to develop as quickly/efficiently as they are ready to do so." That is, personally, I think a lot of harm can be done by "protecting a child's innocence." I think a child's progress should be guided by the child themself (for this sort of intellectual-area, anyway). That is, when your kid is asking such questions, it may be a hint that they're ready to handle the answers. Just 'cause you think "a five year old is too young to understand" doesn't mean your child may be very smart for their age. It's my opinion that hiding things from children will only lead to stunting/delaying their development where giving them the truth as they ask for it will help them develop and grow into this world as quickly and easily as they're capable of.

Is "Nobody really knows" a reasonable answer for a 5 year old?

I think it certainly is. Maybe your kid will go "okay!" and run to play with some toys as their attention gets distracted. Maybe your kid will have some more probing follow-up questions. My point is that this development should be at your kid's pace, and not stunted or delayed because you may think "they're not ready" for it yet. But, well, you know your kid a lot better than I do

Would it be going too far to say "I don't think so because x, y, z"?

Right off the bat? Perhaps, yes... a bit too complicated and too far. But the follow-up question of "what do you think, Daddy?" may very well be next. In which case this is a hint that it's time for this more complicated answer. Again, after such an involved answer, your kid my just get bored and want to go play some tag or ring-around-the-rosy or whatever. But, it's also possible that your kid may be very interested, get even more curious, and have more questions. I think it's in your kid's best interest to let your kid guide their own development on such things rather than witholding information because it may be best to "keep them ignorant ('protected' or 'innocent' are nicer words...) of such matters."

Of course, since I have no kids of my own, I cannot fully comprehend what sorts of things go on. And, therefore, I may be completely off-base and giving horrible advice. I'm just putting my opinion out here and you can pick and choose what you'd like from it.


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Replies to this message:
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Coragyps
Member
Posts: 5399
From: Snyder, Texas, USA
Joined: 11-12-2002


Message 8 of 34 (532411)
10-23-2009 9:06 AM
Reply to: Message 7 by Stile
10-23-2009 8:20 AM


Re: Honest intellectual development
I am a parent of four, all grown now, and I think Stile has a good grip on the right answers. But it occurs to me, what with a granddaughter trying to bribe the Tooth Fairy to leave "lots of money" for a lousy incisor, where does a daddy or mommy draw the line? When my kids were small I promoted their belief in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, and at least did nothing to discourage their belief in God. (I was either a theist or an atheist in denial of the fact then). We went to church and they went to Sunday School, though we never had Deep Religious Discussions at home.

My kids all figured out that Santa wasn't real from sources other than parents, and at least two of them figured out the same for gods. What I think I'm trying to convey here is that, even as a parent of pre-schoolers, I was a little ambivalent about telling them complete fictions about SC, tTF, and tEB. It didn't harm them to believe in those, though. It did harm my younger son to believe in Christianity, though - he pretty much lost what could have been two years of education by getting immersed in a Southern Baptist cult-like church. And I think that's where the difference lies - our culture expects you to give up on Santa by the age of eight or before, but huge portions of our society will encourage religion clear up to our deathbeds. And an awful lot of the religion being pushed really does enslave its followers.


"The wretched world lies now under the tyranny of foolishness; things are believed by Christians of such absurdity as no one ever could aforetime induce the heathen to believe." - Agobard of Lyons, ca. 830 AD

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Stile
Member
Posts: 3848
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 9 of 34 (532413)
10-23-2009 9:34 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Coragyps
10-23-2009 9:06 AM


A differentiation not to be underestimated
Coragyps writes:

I was a little ambivalent about telling them complete fictions about SC, tTF, and tEB. It didn't harm them to believe in those, though. It did harm my younger son to believe in Christianity, though - he pretty much lost what could have been two years of education by getting immersed in a Southern Baptist cult-like church. And I think that's where the difference lies - our culture expects you to give up on Santa by the age of eight or before, but huge portions of our society will encourage religion clear up to our deathbeds. And an awful lot of the religion being pushed really does enslave its followers.

A good point.

Belief in Deity vs Belief in Fictional Four
Message 1

The above thread came to the general conclusion (at least, it was never threatened) that the only difference between belief in the Fictional Four (Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, Zeus, Flying Spaghetti Monster) and a belief in God is social popularity.

Social popularity and peer pressure is a very well-known phenomenon which can certainly have grave consequences.

Obviously, we don't have much social popularity in a belief in the Fictional Four past about the age of 8 or so. Therefore, it is much less of an issue if you decided to "protect your child's innocence" on these matters. Society will do the job of explaining the truth and curing the ignorance on it's own.

However, there is a large social popularity for a belief in God throughout our entire lifetimes. Therefore, there is a greater threat of your child not "understanding the truth" for possibly their entire lives. It's quite possible that if you do not cure this ignorance at some point, then your child may continue to be ignorant of the fact that no one knows long into adulthood.

As the Daddy, the choice is (of course) up to you.

You could say that treating beliefs in the Fictional Four and God differently with regards to your kid is inconsistent and irrational. However, that would only make sense if beliefs in the Fictional Four and God were identical. But they aren't the same because of the obvious difference in social acceptance.


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dwise1
Member
Posts: 3778
Joined: 05-02-2006
Member Rating: 3.6


Message 10 of 34 (532419)
10-23-2009 11:01 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Modulous
10-23-2009 7:22 AM


... but have you considered going down the "What do you think, sweetheart?" avenue?

Actually, that is a good point. Questions like that don't come from out of nowhere. Rather than just handing down wisdom, turn it into a discussion. Not only will you learn why he/she is asking that question, but also it will help you determine what level to place the answer on.

For example, this old joke. A young boy approaches his parent wanting to know, "Where did I come from?" Flash panic at having The Talk suddenly thrust upon him like that and so early too, he sat down and they went through the whole "birds and the bees" talk. When he was done, his son sat there for a minute looking a bit confused, and then said, "Yeah, but ... . Well, Billy says that he's from San Diego. Where am I from?"

I am a parent. When my son (now 28) was about 5 or 6, we were watching a DTV video on the Disney Channel (mimicking MTV, they made a series of "videos" setting cartoon clips to popular songs) that had included scenes from Fantasia of Zeus throwing lightning bolts down on the Bacchanalian revelry. I explained that way back when since people didn't know what caused lots of things in nature like lightning, they created the gods as a way to explain those things. Now, he was a very smart kid (yeah, I am a proud parent, but his psychology-student uncle administered a IQ test as a class assignment and even his prof was surprised at the high score) and he immediately asked me whether the same was true about "God". Yes, people would use God to explain the things in nature that they didn't understand. Then a week or two later at family dinner at my in-laws', my mother-in-law said something like "Thank God" and he sternly corrected her, "God doesn't exist!". Of course, everybody immediately jumped on my case and I don't know whether they believed me that he had reached that conclusion on his own.

So, rather than tip-toe through that kind of a minefield, here's a thought. Make it a discussion with her. "We don't really know" is a good answer, but discuss it with her. Point out that a lot of people do believe in "God", but they don't really know what that is and they all have different ideas about "God".


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Izanagi
Member (Idle past 3507 days)
Posts: 263
Joined: 09-15-2009


Message 11 of 34 (532425)
10-23-2009 12:01 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Briterican
10-22-2009 7:27 PM


Following suit - Disclaimer: I am not a parent.

That said, if I had children, I would tell them from the bottom of my heart as a deeply spiritual person with a belief in God that it doesn't matter whether God is real or not. All that matters is that you are a good person who helps other people, eats your vegetables, brushes your teeth, and doesn't intentionally do anything bad to other people. As long as you are alive, nothing is more important than that. Especially eating your vegetables and brushing your teeth.

And I would raise my children accordingly.


It's just some things you never get over. That's just the way it is. You go on through... best as you can. - Matthew Scott
----------------------------------------
Marge, just about everything is a sin. (holds up a Bible) Y'ever sat down and read this thing? Technically we're not supposed to go to the bathroom. - Reverend Lovejoy
----------------------------------------
You know, I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe. - Marcus Cole

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Thugpreacha
Member
Posts: 13052
From: Denver,Colorado USA
Joined: 12-30-2003
Member Rating: 1.2


Message 12 of 34 (532436)
10-23-2009 12:29 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Huntard
10-23-2009 7:14 AM


huntard writes:

How is she in her logical an critical thinking?

Depending on the answer, you could go with "Well, I don't think he exists, since I've seen no evidence for him. But don't take my word for it, always investigate things for yourself!"

OR

"No one really knows, honey (see, I'm being a kind parent here), I don't think he does, but others do. Perhaps we should speak more about this when you're a little older."

Also, I'm very interested in what response religious folks would give. I have my suspicions, but will keep them to myself for now.

If I had a five year old, i may say that I believe in God, but that I have never seen Him nor can I honestly say I have ever heard his voice. I would say that belief is different from reality and is sometimes not logical. But then again...would a five year old understand that??


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Perdition
Member (Idle past 1529 days)
Posts: 1593
From: Wisconsin
Joined: 05-15-2003


Message 13 of 34 (532446)
10-23-2009 1:01 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Modulous
10-23-2009 7:22 AM


have you considered going down the "What do you think, sweetheart?" avenue?

That was my first thought as well. I'm not a parent, but I am around a number of cousins and such with young kids. I may kind of answer both fo the popular ones here and say, "That's a question a lot of people ask, and no one really knows. What do you think?"

From there, you follow where she leads, rather than trying to blaze the path yourself. You'll be able to make sure your answers are at the level she can underatand, and more importantly, at the level she expects. If she's hoping for a quick answer and you launch into a history lesson of the Hebrew people through the early Christians and Romans, she may decide not to ask you such questions in the future cuz "you're boring."


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Briterican
Member (Idle past 2240 days)
Posts: 340
Joined: 05-29-2008


Message 14 of 34 (532466)
10-23-2009 2:24 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Perdition
10-23-2009 1:01 PM


Thanks for the tips
Thanks to all for your comments.

I especially like the cartoon Modulous posted, echoed by Perdition in his statement:

Perdition writes:

If she's hoping for a quick answer and you launch into a history lesson of the Hebrew people through the early Christians and Romans, she may decide not to ask you such questions in the future cuz "you're boring."

I like the suggestion of "What do you think, sweetheart?" Puts the ball in her court and helps me figure out her degree of interest.

I'm pleased to see that a couple of religiously inclined people have replied with positive responses such as:

Izanagi writes:

All that matters is that you are a good person who helps other people, eats your vegetables, brushes your teeth, and doesn't intentionally do anything bad to other people.

I would judge her as being pretty good at critical thinking for age 5, but then she is my kid so of course I'm going to think that. Having said that, I'm pretty sure that I can explain to her (in a way she will understand) that, as Phat said, "...belief is different from reality and is sometimes not logical."

The Fictional Four have (for some time now) been a sort of joke with us, as she has clearly figured out that (spoiler alert) they aren't real. "Father Christmas" is a jolly notion that we continue with, but she knows better and says as much. I appreciate the comments of Coragyps and Stile regarding this matter. I manage to avoid feeling uncomfortable when it comes to these fictional characters by exaggerating them to the point where she can tell that I'm fibbing, and yet I don't come right out and say that I'm fibbing. She gets it.

Thanks again for the replies. I feel a bit more prepared now for the next time this comes up, hopefully when she's 15 and tells me she wants to be an evolutionary biologist


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onifre
Member (Idle past 1242 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 15 of 34 (532555)
10-23-2009 8:52 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Briterican
10-23-2009 2:24 PM


Re: Thanks for the tips
I like the suggestion of "What do you think, sweetheart?" Puts the ball in her court and helps me figure out her degree of interest.

I have 2 kids and I think this is the best approach.

I am an atheist, but their mother is Christian. I knew she would speak to the about the christians version of the god concept, so I knew what they would believe about god if they in fact chose to believe. - It's good to understand what concept your child has about god. They may say "god is love" or something like that. Who knows.

They are now 13 and 10, the older is atheist the younger is a diest - by no indoctrination of any kind. In fact, they still go to church with their mother.

Whenever they asked about god I said "what do you think," and it sparked a critical conversation of the facts we knew about, just like if we were discussing a case for a trail.

One, this gets them interested in science, and two, it helps them approach ANY question critically and skeptically.

Good luck. And if you don't mind, I'd like to know how it went.

- Oni


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