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Explaining who God is

(59 Posts)
SciFiG33k Sun 28-May-17 03:13:15

Was with my 6 year old DSD today and I said to her please don't say 'oh God' because God doesn't like it and its not something me or my Grandmother who we see lots of would want to hear. Her patents aren't religious at all but I am.
DSD then of course asked me but who is God and why doesn't he like it. To which I fumbled through a terrible explanation making it clear though that not everyone believes and that's OK.
So my question is how do you explain who God is to a child whose parents don't believe.

SuperBeagle Sun 28-May-17 03:16:48

If her parents aren't religious, you have no business imposing religion on her or her mannerisms/behaviours.

Niminy Sun 28-May-17 07:16:57

I think it's ok for the OP to ask here DSD not to say 'oh God' in her house - as the MN cliche goes, 'your house, your rules' - and it's never too early to learn to understand and respect others' beliefs.

OP children have an innate spirituality and it can help to explain God if you connect with that. They are often very alive to the mystery of the universe (why am I me, what would it be like to be someone else, why does the sunshine make us happy etc) and you could try suggesting that we know about God because of those feelings of wonder and mystery. You can talk about God as the reason why all these things are. A good way to explain God's presence is like the game peekaboo - we catch glimpses of God, for instance in a sunset, or a smiles, or a moment of joy. But we can never see him.

The other thing is to talk about Jesus who shows us the way to God because God came to us through him. You could tell her some of the stories of Jesus - the feeding of the five thousand or the calmness by of the storm - that show us what God is like: that God is generous and gives us everything g we have, that God helps us not to be afraid when we go through hard times. A simple child's Bible might help.

You will need to be clear that these are your beliefs and it is up to her how much she wants to know. A good rule with children is to only answer the questions they ask - don't treat it as the opportunity to tell them everything. If you answer her question she may well seem to lose interest but with children they often will go away and think about things and come back later with another question. And mostly they are very good questions and often very hard ones! Answer them as honestly as you can in a 'this is what I believe' kind of way. That way you are not 'trying to convert' her but you are being open and honest about who you are - and children respect that.

Westray Sun 28-May-17 07:24:27

I think it's easy.

She will understand the idea of Santa Claus- an imaginary figure.

Same with god.

Imaginary figures don't need to be respected.

One thing to remember is that faith development goes through stages that are not entirely age related. Children under about 7 will accept just about everything they are told whether that is the tooth fairy or God as the man in the sky. From about 7 they start to ask questions so that they begin to form their own ideas about the world and how it works. This goes into a fairly tribal and black and white phase where their beliefs are right and everyone else's are wrong. This used to characterise a teenage stage but a lot of people stay there all their lives. According to Fowler there is another questioning stage in adulthood which is really quite painful as it starts to overturn old certainties and in middle age there is a move towards being comfortable with mystery and paradox.

Here it is in an oversimplified chart http://www.psychologycharts.com/james-fowler-stages-of-faith.html

When talking to,children follow their lead. If they have parents in the black and white tribal,stage you can be the person who has time to listen to the questions that they ask but always couch replies in the 'I believe that' or 'I have found that...'

Elisheva Sun 28-May-17 08:35:43

Just say something like "I believe that God is who created the universe, and who created you and me. I believe he loves me and he is very important to me, and to Granny, so in our house we don't say Oh God because it's a bit rude to him."

Anasnake Sun 28-May-17 09:17:03

You tell her that you believe but it's up to her what she thinks.

ittooshallpass Sun 28-May-17 09:28:31

Instead of trying to explain 'Who is God?' Talk about 'what is a God' Instead. This is far easier to explain and opens up the conversation to the idea that we respect other people's beliefs... and that's why we don't say 'oh god'.

I have taught DD to say 'oh gosh' so that we offend no one accidentally.

AntigoneJones Sun 28-May-17 09:30:08

I do not think that your SD's spiritual education is really your remit, do you?

OutwiththeOutCrowd Sun 28-May-17 12:52:45

“Who is God?” and “Why doesn’t God like people saying, ‘Oh God’?” are actually very good questions!

Your DSD has picked up the use of the phrase ‘Oh God’ from somewhere and it could very well be from her parents or children she sees often. It’s important that she doesn’t think the phrase is unacceptable to everyone or she could end up criticising its usage in those she learnt it from in the first place and unnecessary tensions might ensue.

But you can ask her to try not to say it when with you because it upsets you. You might explain that it upsets you because you are a Christian and in the Bible you are instructed not to use God’s name except in prayer or praise, as you believe God doesn’t like it. (This follows on from a similar prohibition within Judaism).

As to the question ‘Who is God?’ the honest answer is that no one knows for sure or even if the question makes sense. But again you can provide a description from within the Christian tradition, emphasising that it is what you believe and not a universally acknowledged truth.

From my perspective as an atheist, I would say that, ’Oh God’ is one of those phrases that slips out unbidden in many people, often at times of heightened emotion, and there is no malice involved at all. Your DSD might find it hard not to say it if she hears it a lot at home or school.

Just encourage her to be kind and loving – and to keep asking difficult questions! That’s far more important.

CardinalSin Sun 28-May-17 13:46:36

I agree with SuperBeagle. It's not your place to impose you personal superstition on a child who has been fortunate enough not to be indoctrinated with this rubbish.

WalkingOnLeg0 Sun 28-May-17 16:01:20

I have never understood why an omnipotent, omnipresent omnibenevolent deity that can create entire universes at the click of a finger gets offended at a six year old girl saying 'oh god'. Anyone able to explain why deities are so thin skinned?

Personally I think its wrong for an adult to force their religious beliefs onto children.

Niminy Sun 28-May-17 16:14:17

No one is being forced to believe anything, no one is having beliefs imposed upon them. That is a wild exaggeration. OP asked her SD - who, presumably, she sees a lot of since they see OP's grandmother a lot - not to say something g that she would find upsetting, and then answered the questions the child asked in response.

That's not imposition or indoctrination. Not by any stretch of the imagination. OP asked for advice on how to explain better. A variety of advice has been given from different viewpoints, some theist, some non-theist and some anti-theist.

ollieplimsoles Sun 28-May-17 20:18:25

and you could try suggesting that we know about God because of those feelings of wonder and mystery. You can talk about God as the reason why all these things are. A good way to explain God's presence is like the game peekaboo - we catch glimpses of God, for instance in a sunset, or a smiles, or a moment of joy. But we can never see him.

Niminy- this absolutely is indoctrination, you just can't see it. I'll kindly explain why (so you don't embarrass yourself when a child like my dd calls you out on your presuppositions)..

You have used language that presupposes god actually exists, you even have the nerve to harness the natural curiosity that children have with the world around them and wedge god into it (the sunset, smiles, moments of joy) how dare you hijack those moments of enjoyment in a child's life and attribute them to god- and only the god you believe in. Thats absolutely not ok. god is NOT a reason for anything. A belief in god is called faith- that is the OPPOSITE of reason.

The other thing is to talk about Jesus who shows us the way to God because God came to us through him. You could tell her some of the stories of Jesus - the feeding of the five thousand or the calmness by of the storm - that show us what God is like: that God is generous and gives us everything g we have, that God helps us not to be afraid when we go through hard times. A simple child's Bible might help.

^I can't believe you don't see how saying something like this to a child is indoctrination, I'm actually staggered. The presupposition and the sureness of your words astound me..

and it is up to her how much she wants to know.

This presupposes that you ^know things, that what you are telling her is truth- thats vile indoctrination.

A good rule with children is to only answer the questions they ask - don't treat it as the opportunity to tell them everything

^Ha! a theist's credo.. 'don't ask, don't tell' and when they do ask, only tell them the fluffy bunny version. Why wouldn't you take the opportunity to research things alongside them? because that would mean answering some very difficult questions that may expose your delusion to a child...children are very good at doing that.

Answer them as honestly as you can in a 'this is what I believe' kind of way. That way you are not 'trying to convert' her but you are being open and honest about who you are

^The wording of your first two paragraphs completely contradicts this.

Come back and defend yourself as to why you think thats an appropriate why to explain 'god' to a child. Because if you said that to my child- she would ask you for evidence, all children should be taught that.

SciFiG33k Tue 30-May-17 04:36:46

Thank you so much for the really helpful answers, from all points of view.

As i said in my original post i am really careful whenever DSD asks me questions to make it clear that this is what i believe but many people do not including mum and dad and that it is perfectly ok not to believe just like its ok to believe. I try really hard not to impose my view and usually use what Niminy said A good rule with children is to only answer the questions they ask - don't treat it as the opportunity to tell them everything

Its a bit like the horrid "you know what you were getting into when you married a man with children" "DH knew what he was getting into when he married a catholic that goes to church every week with her Grandmother" It means he has chosen to expose his child to the Christian faith by him and his DSD moving in with someone that has prayers by their bed, rosary beads in the jewelry box, a nativity set at Christmas and a cross or St Christopher around my neck.

Super - If her parents aren't religious, you have no business imposing religion on her or her mannerisms/behaviours
Whether her parents are religious or she is still offending me in my house where she stays 5 nights a fortnight, she may also be inadvertently upsetting others. When i spoke to DH about it later he actually said to me he had noticed it too and had asked her to stop saying it because he knows it would upset some people.

ollieplimsoles You have gone to great lengths to explain why i should not use what Niminy has suggest, I however note that you havnt given any useful suggestions of your own. As you say your child would ask for evidence and i think that is great, I would love to teach DSD to do the same. But that doesnt really help with my original query.

Walking I think it is us followers that are the thin skinned ones, so maybe my original answer to please dont use "Oh God" should just have been because this is my house and i really dont want you to use it in front of me. However im not sure that still wouldnt have lead to who is God.

ollieplimsoles Tue 30-May-17 10:49:11

I do have some suggestions but I doubt you would take any notice in them, but I'll share them anyway, since you asked.

It means he has chosen to expose his child to the Christian faith by him and his DSD moving in with someone that has prayers by their bed, rosary beads in the jewelry box, a nativity set at Christmas and a cross or St Christopher around my neck.

It does not mean he has chosen to expose his child to the Christian faith- as you only follow your particular brand of the christian faith, since you will obviously believe yours is the 'true' one you won't have thought about that. DSD will be exposed to faith every day- school worship, friends of different faiths, and street preachers etc.

As you say your child would ask for evidence and i think that is great, I would love to teach DSD to do the same.

I really don't know how you would be in a place to do that, because if she asked you for evidence that 1. god exists, 2. hes offended by what shes said, you couldn't give her any. All you can really say is 'I don't like it, please don't do it in my house'

have you thought that maybe her mum would be upset for her to come home and say some of the things that Niminy suggested to her?

I would probably avoid talking to her about god really, just say you believe it, some don't and you would appreciate it if in your house, she didn't say it.

SciFiG33k Tue 30-May-17 11:31:48

Thank you ollieplimsoles for your response. as you only follow your particular brand of the christian faith, since you will obviously believe yours is the 'true' one you won't have thought about that. although I only practice my faith I am very open minded about religion, to the point that I studied other religions at university and did a number of philosophy papers whose main theme was 'is there a god'. They don't have any faith/worship or teaching in state schools here but I guess the school values and her friends and things like TV will also be exposing her to it and you are right I had not thought of that.

I know her mum and my DH would be upset if she came home and repeated some of the things Niminy suggested and they are not the type of things I would tell DSD for the reasons you stated above. I can still thank her, you everyone else that took the time and effort to help me out. Whether or not I'll use the advise given.

ollieplimsoles Tue 30-May-17 12:07:26

Sorry Sci, reading my post back it does read in an quite a harsh way and I apologise for that. I'm usually on my phone and don't have the time to proof read my posts at length.

I think an open mindedness would be a good thing to teach her, I presume you have a good relationship other than the god issue? I may not respect religious beliefs, but I certainly respect people and I have had very fulfilling, important relationships with people of faith throughout my life. This could be a thing you foster with her.

WalkingOnLeg0 Tue 30-May-17 12:44:58

DH... had asked her to stop saying it because he knows it would upset some people

Isn't that the way to deal with it? Tell the parents she is being rude and get them to have a talk with her. Trying to relate it to my life it would be like someone saying 'Oh fuck' in my house. My response would be to say 'dont say that in my house I dont like it'. If they asked why I would say, 'go ask your parents'. It would be totally inappropriate for me to start explaining what sex is, what fucking is and why it is rude to use fuck in conversation. That is the parents job. Likewise with religion.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Tue 30-May-17 14:08:54

There's always been a lot of stealth religious swearing in the English language. Should that be frowned upon?

GOSH or GOLLY: Euphemistic alterations of the word God.

CRIKEY: An expression for Christ, this time from the mid-19th century when blasphemy could incur a fine.

STREWTH: Believed to have its origins in 19th-century Australia, where it was originally uttered as a way of expressing surprise or dismay. Strewth is a shorter form of the words "God's truth".

GADZOOKS: Gad was a 17th-century term used to convey astonishment but avoiding taking the name of God in vain. It started out as two words Gad (for God) and Zooks (meaning hooks and thought to refer to the nails on the cross). Back in the day there were a whole host of gad-words in popular culture including "gadsbobs", while "odds bodkins" was a variation of God's body. By George was another alternative for God.

GEE WHIZ: This expression of amazement comes from the US where it began life as a shortened form of Jesus and was further cut to "gee". The use of a shortened euphemism in place of something more offensive is known as a minced oath.

COR or GOR BLIMEY: Another minced oath, cor blimey is derived from "God blind me" in Biblical times.

CRUMBS: This expression is one of many which originates from using the first few letters of a swear word and substituting a more socially acceptable ending. So Christ becomes crumbs.

SciFiG33k Tue 30-May-17 21:59:54

ollieplimsoles Thank you again for your post. I think an open mindedness would be a good thing to teach her, I presume you have a good relationship other than the god issue? I may not respect religious beliefs, but I certainly respect people and I have had very fulfilling, important relationships with people of faith throughout my life. This could be a thing you foster with her I think you sum up very well here what it is that i should aim for. And yes we have a very strong relationship.
WalkingOnLeg0 with the amount of time i spend with DSD she sees me as one of her parents and probably spends more one on one time with me than either of them. DH generally cant be bothered paying attention to DSD or is 'sick' and leaves me to look after her and DSDs mum has a young baby. However you have very well summed up what i should have done and will definitely do next time. I think i used the "God wouldnt like it" because that is what i was route taught as a kid, the things you say in the moment. As i said above though i do try to answer her questions about Church, God and Faith as best i can when she asks because that is the relationship i have with her. I will never however teach her that what i think is right, its just what i believe. Im going to start praying that she doesn't ask me the sex questions one day because if she is anything like i was as a child my parents were the last people i would have spoken to about that.

OutwiththeOutCrowd Im really glad none of those words offend me or life would start to get very complicated. We are however at DSDs mums demand not supposed to say poo, wee, fart, bum, stink and i have lost count how many other things. Never really found out what she wanted us to use instead of poo with a 3 year old faeces maybe?
I might have to print off your list of words it is very insightful, one of those you learn something new everyday things grin

SciFiG33k Tue 30-May-17 22:02:09

CRIKEY: An expression for Christ, this time from the mid-19th century when blasphemy could incur a fine I just noticed this part too. Where i live they have just passed through the courts that blasphemy is still illegal. Not sure if this is still the case in the UK or not.

NotHotDogMum Wed 31-May-17 13:26:12

You are completely right to ask her not to say 'oh god' in your home.

I'd explain who you believed god to be, and very briefly why it means something to you.

I'd also explain that there are other religions and people believe in other gods as well, and some people don't believe at all. And everyone's beliefs are right for them and it's important we respect everyone's beliefs.

I'd mention the conversation to her parents as they may wish to elaborate and further explain their beliefs to her too.

Westray Wed 31-May-17 13:38:49

I can't get worked up about it.

All kids use swear words at some point.
OMG is in such common usage I think it's acceptable.

"Fuck " sometimes slips out in our house- it's no big deal. Any of you who has worked in a serious business environment will know we cannot afford to be snowflakes in that department.

My DDs teacher even says fuck in the classroom- it's a word used in texts for study- no big deal really.

NotHotDogMum Wed 31-May-17 13:50:50

I really do not think it's appropriate for teachers to say 'fuck' in the classroom environment

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