Dealing with the God Question
Secular humanistic parents and educators face unique challenges in speaking to kids about God.
Reprinted from Humanistic Judaism with permission from the Society for Humanistic Judaism.
One of the challenges in Humanistic Jewish education is answering students' questions concerning the concept, figure, and importance of God. These are challenging issues for adults to address; to translate our answers into a child's language and conceptual ability is that much more difficult. But every member of Humanistic Judaism, even the youngest, has the right to understand our shared values and beliefs.
The best advice I can offer is to be honest (one of our basic principles), to affirm even the most challenging questions, and to be as clear as possible.
Avoid such condescending answers as "Weak people need a belief in the supernatural" or "We've evolved past that primitive stage," and try to address the question in a clear and respectful way.
This list of six frequently asked questions about God is intended to help teachers and parents. Two concise answers are offered to each question--one aimed at children under 7, the other at children between 8 and 12.
Some of the answers, particularly for younger children, are similar. Many children learn better by repetition of the same or similar concepts. And it's useful for parents and teachers to realize that the same answer can answer multiple problems.
Clearly, just as the questions may be asked in several forms, the answers should be adjusted to specific situations. For example, a particular family might have chosen a Humanistic community as a compromise between two religious perspectives, or one partner might be religious while the other is not. The more these answers are expressed in a parent's or teacher's own words, the more convincing they will be.
"Do I/we believe in God?"
For children up to age 7: I prefer to say, "I believe in you." I can see you, touch you, hear you, and care for you. I don't know whether the idea of God is just an idea in our minds, or something real. Remember that it's okay to say "I don't know" if you really don't know something. But I do know that if I help you, you're happy, and if you help me, I'm happy. So let's look at what we know, and see if that's enough for us.
For children ages 8-12: We don't know whether or not there is a God, so we prefer to focus on what we do know. We know that being good to other people is good for them and good for us, and we know we can learn about the world from our experience and from other people. We don't know whether a God answers prayers, so we need to work to make the world better so that we know it's getting better. Some people believe there is a God, and some people believe there is no God. We choose to focus on what we can do in the meantime.