Having “the God” talk

Curious on people’s thoughts on how to approach kids when it comes to religion.  My wife is religious, and I am very spiritual and believe in the benefits of religion (positive humanist aspects, not the useless ceremonious parts, to me they are just a distraction).  We believe in multiculturalism and multi-religious beliefs (including atheism) and the befits of all religions and beliefs as long as they do not harm or intrude on others way of practicing, live and let live. Keeping that context in mind, our soon seems to be very interested in organised religion, in our case Islam, and his line of questioning is ruthless to say the least.  So here is our sample conversation with him, key here is not to pretend we have all the answers and acknowledge our limits.  Keep in mind he’s very logical, like straightforward answers and no magic talk.

  • What is God?
    • We don’t know, but it is something that we believe created everything.
  • Who created God?
    • We don’t know, but when we die we can ask him, at this point we believe in him anyway no knowing how it started.
  • Is there heaven and hell?
    • We believe so, but we can’t tell for sure until we die.
  • Does everyone go there?
    • I think so, if they do good things they should, and if they don’t even if they pray it doesn’t mean they will go somewhere good.
  • Will I see you there?
    • Probably, but we don’t know. Either way if you do good you’ll end up in a nice, happy place.
  • What if I do bad things?
    • If they don’t hurt anyone, you can be forgiven. If they do, you need to find a way to make it better, otherwise God will not be happy.  If it’s small things (occasionally not sharing or fibbing about eating chocolates) God will ignore them as long as you do much more good things.  But you never know, so try to do as many good things as you can.
  • Is everyone in our family going to heaven?
    • We don’t know, but so far the good things we did will help us get there. We still have time to do more good thing.
  • Does God know I’m a good person?
    • Yes, I’m sure, even if you do small bad things doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. But you try to correct things if you do bad stuff, and try again to do good things; never stop.
  • Why can’t we eat pork like others or fasting (over 12 years old), seems unfair?
    • When you get older you can choose, but we’re not the only ones who don’t eat pork, Jewish people also don’t. Hindus don’t eat beef, so each religion has something different they have to or can’t do.  For now, as your parents we think this is the healthiest thing for you to do, when you get older you can decide what to do (kind of like eating your veggies).
  • Can we celebrate Christmas and Hannukah?
    • Of course, they are all fun! But you also need to celebrate your own festivals, they are also fun.  You can also celebrate Onam, Kwanzaa, Valentine’s (but it doesn’t mean we have to give you gifts for all of them).
  • How can people not believe in God or have more than one god isn’t that bad?
    • It’s up to them, we think one God is what is out there – we don’t know for sure but that’s what we believe. We don’t know yet, and we won’t until we die – but that’s what we decided to believe in.  When you get older and you learn more about other religions you will know they are mostly similar and the important thing is to be good to other people.

For now, this seems to have bought us some time, but we’re dreading the day when questions get more complicated and theological.  But seems to have satisfied this 8-year-old temporarily.  Any thoughts on some of these answers?  Have you guys had more difficult religious questions?  How have you dealt with them?

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