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Column 50
What should we tell the children?

Nothing but the truth

By © Martin Foreman
Word Count: 795 words
Publication date: February 5, 2006

Children can ask the most difficult questions about life.

Parents who are believers have ready-made answers. The universe exists because God created it. We have moral laws because God gave them to us. We go to Heaven or Hell after we die.

Even parents who do not believe sometimes give the same responses to their children because they are the only answers they have.

Other parents however, recognize that their children have a right to the truth, even when no-one knows what the truth is. That means – shock! horror! – admitting ignorance.

For those adults who want their children to grow up with fully functioning minds, here are some Honest Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about God and the Meaning of Life. Adjust according to age.

Q: Tell me about God. A: Some people think God is a big powerful spirit who made everything.  The stars, the sun, the sea, the earth. You and me – or the first people long ago.

Q: Didn’t he make them? A: There’s no evidence to suggest that he did, and plenty to suggest that he didn’t.

Q: But the universe must have had a creator. God, right? A: Why does the universe need a creator? If God exists, who created him? The universe doesn’t need a creator.

Q: So how did it begin? A: I don’t know. I’m not a cosmologist, and even cosmologists aren’t sure. Perhaps we will never know how the universe began, but that doesn’t matter. Just because we don’t know the answer to a question doesn’t mean that the answer is God.

Q: But everyone says there’s a God. Aren’t they right?  A: A long time ago everyone believed that the earth was flat and the sun was pulled across the sky by a man on a chariot. Were they right? 

Q: I guess not. But lots of people say they have seen God or talked to God. So he must exist. A: Lots of people believe in God, like we all once believed in Santa Claus. The people who say they have seen or talked to God have never proved it. They’re either kidding themselves or trying to kid the rest of us.

Q: What about the stories in the Bible?  A: Some of them are true and some are false. Because it happened so long ago we’re not sure which is which. But if you read the Bible carefully, you’ll see much of it contradicts itself. 

Q: Maybe the Bible’s wrong or we don’t understand it properly, but that doesn’t  mean there isn’t a God. A: Good thinking.

Q: So you can’t prove God doesn’t exist? A: I can’t prove that there isn’t a whale drinking coffee five miles beneath the surface of the moon. But all the evidence we have says there can’t be. The same is true of God.

Q: If there isn’t a God, what’s to stop us doing bad stuff? A: Two things – ourselves and our laws.

Q: What do you mean? A: Most of us don’t want to do bad stuff. It doesn’t make us feel good. We only want to hate or hurt other people when we’re unhappy ourselves.

Q: What about laws? A: We have laws because some people do want to hurt us and we need to protect ourselves. 

Q: What about stuff that doesn’t hurt other people, like drugs and sex? A: Sometimes drugs can hurt us. Same with sex. The problem is what’s good for some people is bad for others. The law doesn’t always get it right.

Q: Isn’t the Bible right about sex? A: The Bible sees sex as something a man can do to a woman and a woman as something that belongs to a man. Do you think that’s right?

Q: I suppose not. So if there’s no God, what’s the meaning of life? A: Why should life have a meaning? Maybe there is no meaning. or maybe it’s the pursuit of happiness.

Q: If there’s no God, there’s no afterlife. I want to live forever. A: Are you sure? I bet when you really think about it you’ll change your mind. You might even think it’s impossible.

Q: So you can’t prove there isn’t a God, you don’t know whether drugs or sex are good for you, you think life has no meaning and you don’t want to live for ever? A: You got it.

Q: Aren’t you miserable? A: No. I don’t want things I can’t have. I don’t lie to myself. I’m happy. Life is short but it’s good.

Q: What if you’re wrong about everything? A: Maybe I am. Q: So what should I do? A: Two things. Never stop asking questions and never stop thinking about the answers. And always admit you could be wrong.

Parents who want to encourage their children to think should consider Camp Quest - click on the logo on the right

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If God existed, he would...

admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create

recognize that eternity is meaningless

deny both heaven and hell

disown all men and women who speak in his name

denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"

help the human race to thrive without him

If God existed, he would be an atheist.

What is the difference between science and faith?

science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything

faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing

Which do you trust?

"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"

Check the answer

wear the Scarlet letter

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