Explaining Religion to a 5-Year-Old April 9, 2010

Explaining Religion to a 5-Year-Old

Courtesy of FMyLife:

Today, after church, my 5-year-old son asked me about God, so I answered his questions in full. We talked about God for over 2 hours. At the end of it all, he pondered for a moment, before saying to me “That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. You’re dumb.” FML

Heh. Though, before you enjoy that too much, remember: 5-year-olds are fickle and there’s a good chance he’ll just change his mind the next day.

(Thanks to Travis for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jagyr

    Mouths, babes, etc. Awesome.

  • To qualify this though: There have been a bunch of studies showing just how credulous young children are, i.e. that one about a wolf inside a box(?).

  • PrimeNumbers


  • Houndies

    i hope he doesnt change his little mind.

  • So. Fabulous. My 5-year-old (daughter) has an ongoing conversation with us determining whether a given idea is real or make-believe. With my parents’ influence, she kind of thinks god exists. But, then, she seems to think of god more in the Nordic mythology sense. THAT, I can handle.

    re: kids and credulity, it totally depends on the kid. I was credulous as they come, and didn’t question the existence of a sky-god until I was in my early 30s. My husband, on the other hand, regularly got kicked out of Sunday school even as a preschooler for asking the “wrong” questions. I love that about him.

  • Amanda Collins

    My son is four, and when we recently drove past a playground he spied, I menioned it was at a church. “What’s that?” It’s a place where people who believe in god go to talk about him. “I don’t know what that thing is you just said.” Which started our brief theological discussion.

  • Rob

    Found this gem in the comment thread.

    “The day Jesus walked on water, Chuck Norris swam through land.”

    I LOLed.

  • Glen

    I agree with Richard Dawkins that teaching a religion to a child in exclusion of other religions is a form of child abuse.

    However with my son I never tried to push him one way or the other. My typical explanation of the strange religious stories was that “2000 years ago people didn’t know much, but they had to have some answers so they made things up”.

    I did tell him that the one thing for sure he should do about religion is to not believe what his dad tells him, that he has to make up his own mind.

  • Craig

    On a flight back from Australia last weekend my 7 year old daughter watched “The Invention of Lying”. She now knows everything she needs to know about religion. 🙂

  • Kourou

    I love FML. Whenever I feel down (when I’ve had an argment, or the pressure of work is getting to me) it always cheers me up.

  • Chris

    Karen from BBC’s Outnumbered is by far the cutest depiction of kids and religion:


    I love how smart she is. In the latest series she points out the silliness of throwing money in fountains to make wishes, because wishes, from her experience, don’t come true.

  • JB Tait

    I never understood why my parents worked so hard to deceive me about Santa Claus, even trying to extend the fiction past the time when I questioned how it could be true. My own children were told that Santa was the spirit of giving anonymously, so that when they figured out he wasn’t a real entity (or a real spirit), they didn’t have to adjust their world view. They still got to enjoy the fun and good will, but didn’t have to see their parents as untrustworthy.

    Then I couldn’t figure out why we were supposed to let go of the Santa concept when we grew up, but cling to the similar (but a lot less pleasant) entity called God.

    I wonder if this God thing started out, way back when, as a way to make children behave, or a simplistic way to explain concepts that the parents didn’t themselves understand, but the children believed it enough that when they became parents themselves, they passed it on instead of seeing the flaws in it.

    Santa gives more generously to kids who have wealthy parents than he does to the children of the poor. Does he like them better? Likewise, has God been bought? How do we answer a child who asks if He has something against the poor or if he is he greatly pleased with the wealthy? Why was the earthquake (an Act of God) death and devastation in Haiti (which is poor) so much greater than in Mexico?

    Despite the many American slogans proclaiming the country to be a meritocracy, life (in the current economic system) isn’t fair, and doesn’t fairly reward those who work the hardest.
    I suspect that a lot of privileged Americans use their piety to justify their entitlement to all the good things they enjoy, and the poor use Christianity as a comfort to support the hope and expectation that they will someday be rewarded, so the current state of religion is rooted in a desire for Santa to be real.

  • I was a bit ashamed of atheist commenters on the FML site for that story. They were attacking the religious comments and having event he moderate ones blocked. Not a good show for our side I’m afraid.

  • I was reading a children’s bible to my then five year old son, flipping around, and stopped on the “Noah’s Ark” story. I started reading it out loud to him, when he stopped me and said, “Are you kidding me?”

    Happily for him, he’s attending his 4th Camp Quest this summer!

  • Thegoodman

    I find it humorous that many children are vegetarians, atheists, and flaming social liberals (golden rule runs deep in a 6 yr old).

    They have to be taught to eat meat, be racists, believe in god, and deny basic rights. Its obvious that all of these things are manufactured by man and not ingrained in the human animal.

  • Greg

    Thegoodman, whilst you might be right about, say children being atheists, I’m not sure where you got the idea that children are natural vegetarians.

    That one seems a bit oddball to me.

    Certainly all I have read and seen suggests that the vast majority of young children find vegetables very bitter, and that they only taste nice as the kids’ tastebuds change as they grow older.

    And from anecdotal experience, I am yet to meet a young child that eats their veg without a fuss… (!)

  • Marie T

    My 5-year old just gives everyone goofy looks when we discuss religious beliefs but my 8-year old listens well, asks intelligent questions and then shakes his head and asks why people think such stupid things are real. We did, however, support the Santa Claus myth because it was something that was so important to me as a child and I don’t think it is a bad thing for children to see why it is difficult for people to give up cherished beliefs. The moment my son asked if it could really be true we were honest with him about it including our reasons for pretending to be Santa Claus. As far as dietary habits, my children are happy omnivores. They both like eating meat, but will ask for carrots and bananas from the grocery store more than anything else, including sweets. From what I have seen, kids tend to develop tastes for whatever they are exposed to when they first start trying food. The only instinctive dietary preference is for human milk, all other food choices are by and large learned.

  • Krissy

    That was totally me at 5! Good to know I am not the only one.

  • Samantha

    My four year son came home from school and asked if I knew that God created the world, when I asked him where he learnt that he said the teachers told him, so it must be true. Once I explained that different people believe different things – he gave it some thought and announced that it is obvious really, the elves that work in the factory making toys for Father Christmas, must have made all of us too!!!

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