7-Year-Old: ‘Why Would God Care Whether I Believe in Him?’

By Wendy Thomas Russell | July 4, 2013 | 10 comments

My 7-year-old daughter has been thinking quite a bit about death lately.

She told me she doesn’t want to lose any more of her baby teeth because that means she’s going to grow up, and she doesn’t want to grow up because that means she’s going to die. Pretty good logic.

Well, apparently, the death thing came up at a playdate over the weekend because, in the car this morning, Maxine asked: “Is it true that people who believe in God live longer than people who don’t believe in God?”

My husband and I hesitated ever-so-slightly.

Wanting to go about the question delicately, I gave my standard initial response to religious stuff:

“Hmmm. What do you think about that?”

At which point Charlie, who has always been a bit more direct than I am, offered up his own response to Maxine’s question:

“That’s not true.”

And it wasn’t. And, frankly, there was no reason to beat around the bush about it.

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Sometimes I worry about dismissing religious ideas too quickly and giving Maxine the impression that the people who say these things aren’t intelligent or worthy of respect. But then I realize there’s a limit to my sensitivity. When asked a direct question to which I know the answer, it’s my job to respond honestly.

Do people who believe in God live longer than non-believers? No. No, they don’t. Is the Earth 6,000 years old. No. No, it’s not. Next question.

Daddy’s answer seemed to satisfy Maxine immediately, but she became quiet for minute — thinking over the concept that God might intentionally shave years off a person’s life. As some of you know already, she herself is a sometimes-believer. For the past two years, she’s taken the position that she believes in God some days and not other days. But no matter what day it is, she speaks of God with reverence. She would no more say something mean about God than she would kick a newborn kitten in the face.

Then she came out of her pensive state and shook her head.

“Why would God care if people believe in him? Why would he even care?”

And that I loved.

I remember having a similar revelation myself in my youth. (Maybe you do, too). God is portrayed as this big, invisible presence who never, ever shows himself to humans. How could someone like that blame a person for doubting his existence? “If God is good,” I remember asking myself, “he won’t punish me for not believing.”

I was 18 years old at the time. Eleven years older than Maxine is now.

It’s ironic, really, that this kid wants so badly to slow her growth. Because she’s growing up so fast.


10 comments

  1. Maryellen says:

    Isn’t it wonderful how thoughtful our children are? Especially when they haven’t been brainwashed since birth to believe ancient myths? Congrats Wendy, for raising freethinkers who will hopefully, help lead the next generation out of the “dark ages”. ;-)

  2. Rab says:

    Believing is something, but accepting and asking help from God is another, asking Him to save you is different from believing He will save you. If you read the bible it says all of the people from the beginning we’re sinners. I remember one conversation about a kid and a barbers at the barbershop. I think that is a good example of how does God and people should communicate. :)

    • Mr Mike says:

      @Rab: “Believing is something, but accepting and asking help from God is another, asking Him to save you is different from believing He will save you.”

      Yes, all very well, but the problem is, if someone doesn’t believe in sky daddy, then how could they possible ‘accept’ and ask help from something they don’t believe is real?

      You blinkered religious fools haven’t really thought this through. And it shows every time you try to answer such questions as these.

  3. marilyn says:

    “Why would God care if people believe in him? Why would he even care?” Very profound question from such a young child. Unfortunately the parents were not able to answer because how can they when they don’t know the truth? Because they don’t even believe that there is truth spoken from the mouth of God and written for all to know. If only they would read with open heart and mind.

    The truth/answer to that question is written in John 3:16

    • For those who don’t know it, John 3:16 (part of the New Testament) says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (King James Version.) So, basically, we’re back to a God who punishes people for not believing in things they can’t see.

      • Angelica says:

        I dunno, I prefer to take the word “believe” loosely. I mean, what is the purpose behind believing in Jesus? Believing in Jesus means being happy that we will be saved, that there is life after death, and most importantly following in His ways. You don’t need to believe in Jesus to follow His ways – lots of people from different religions treat others as they would like to be treated.

        Besides, if you look at the rest of the passage:

        “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

        Note that Jesus himself said God sent him NOT to condemn the world, but to SAVE. The sense I’m getting from the rest of the passage is that Jesus is condemning the people who don’t believe He is God, because if they believe He is God then they, especially the Pharisee Jesus is talking to, have to follow what He says and do good, and not judge Samaritans, and not judge sinners, and they don’t want to do that. Their reason for not believing in Jesus is because they don’t wan to change their sinful ways. I feel it’s oversimplifying Jesus’s words to just say those who believe will be saved and those who don’t will go to hell. Jesus is saying this in the context of people who don’t want to change their ways. If you’re already doing good and avoiding evil, I don’t think you have a problem whether you’re a Christian or not.

      • hmmm says:

        Not true. God sends people up to heaven who have done good deeds. Even if you are a Christian and do bad things, then you have a chance of not going to heaven. But if you are an atheist who does good things, do you think god will punish him? No. Believing in god is more than having eternal life and having riches and glory. God will only send up people who deserve living there. I’m not trying to say don’t believe in god because you have already done good, but I’m not forcing anyone to change their mind. Since god created the world you would’ve thought that he would make us all to believe in him. But he didn’t want that because he didn’t want us to end up like robots. He wants us to believe him because we love him. For all the people believing in him just to have all the perks, he is not STUPID. He can see right through you.
        Written by a 13 year old :P

    • m says:

      I wasn’t surprised to see some finger wagging and tch tching in the wide range of comments here. But it’s so difficult to reason with religious people, because it’s part of our basic instincts to believe what adults tell us. It’s integral for our survival. It took me a long time to shed this false assumption that someone was watching me, judging me. What a terrible affliction to instill in our kids. As if that’s a necessary prerequisite for being a moral person. And even if we were born sinners, why would god care of we ask for forgiveness, let alone believe in him? What ounce of benefit does our belief in him serve him? Why would his love come with conditions? That is too human a characteristic to be plausible for something so presumably wise and compassionate. Shortsighted mythology, all of it.

  4. Angelica says:

    Amazing! I’m Catholic, but I never once believed that God would send somebody to hell for not believing in Him. I just cannot think that He would send a good person to hell just for not believing in Him, just for being homosexual, just for using contraception, etc. etc. I constantly feel embarrassed about my religion for all the terrible things they say and do in the name of God, but I believe in God and the saints too so I can’t leave it. :| The way things are going, I will be apologizing for the Catholic Church the rest of my life.

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