Is Believing in God Childish?

Is Believing in God Childish?

My 5-year-old son loves learning how the world works. Last week, he took an interest in a picture of a reindeer in one of my National Geographic magazines. I could see the wheels turning in his head as he asked, “Mommy, how can reindeer fly?”

He was, of course, thinking of Santa’s reindeer. I had no idea what to say. I wasn’t ready to tell him the big secret, especially with his 3-year-old sister nearby.

I stammered, “Umm, well, I’m not sure. Normal reindeer don’t fly. It’s only Santa’s reindeer. They’re special.” Cough, cough.

Nathan’s look told me he knew something was fishy, but he went on playing without further questions.

My heart hurt as I realized my twins are at the age when they’ll soon outgrow a belief in all the fun childhood things that don’t actually exist – things like Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy. At some point, we all come to the realization that reindeer can’t fly, bunnies can’t deliver baskets to houses and there isn’t an invisible realm of fairies interested in our teeth. We discover these cherished ideas simply don’t match reality.

Unfortunately, there’s one more idea that many people believe we should outgrow because it doesn’t match reality: God.

 

Is Believing in God Childish?

 

When my friend’s son was in 2nd grade, a classmate asked him, “Do you still believe in that God thing?”

The implication, of course, was that believing in God is childish; that it’s something kids should outgrow the way they outgrow a belief in Santa. I can imagine that the question cut my friend’s son to the core. What child wants to think they’ve been snowed into believing another childhood story?

It’s not just playground bullies suggesting that God is an idea for kids. It’s a common claim by atheists. Sigmund Freud said belief in God is a childish fantasy. Albert Einstein called it a childish superstition. Bertrand Russell compared it with believing that a celestial teapot was orbiting the earth.

Childish beliefs are those that are abandoned as soon as we become capable of evidence-based thinking.

The reason so many atheists claim that a belief in God is childish is that they claim there is no evidence for God; anyone who continues to believe in something when there is no evidence for it is following a child-like thinking pattern.

It’s important for our kids to confidently understand why their faith in God has nothing to do with their former belief in childhood stories: There are no good reasons to believe in Santa, but there are very good reasons to believe in God.

 

Why Believing in God is Different from Believing in Santa

 

If Santa existed, he would show up in the living room of every child in the world each Christmas. We could visit the North Pole to see toy factories and elves. At least someone would witness him flying through the sky. We see none of this, so there are no good reasons to believe in Santa.

What kind of evidence would we expect to see if there really is a God? Exactly the kind of evidence we do see:

  • The existence of the universe. Science shows the universe had a beginning, and we know that anything that began to exist was caused to exist by something else. The universe must have been caused by something immaterial, timeless, spaceless, able to choose to create, enormously powerful, intelligent and uncaused itself. That sure sounds like God. (Read my full explanation of the cosmological argument for God’s existence here.)
  • The complex information in DNA. It’s estimated that each cell’s DNA contains about 2,000,000Β pages of information. Every known example of complex, meaningful information in our world came from an intelligent source. It’s reasonable to conclude that the information in our bodies came from an intelligent source as well (e.g., God). (Read my explanation of biological design here.)
  • The “fine-tuning” of the universe. The many physical constants of nature (things like the strength of gravity) have extraordinarily precise values. If they were just a little different, life couldn’t exist anywhere in the universe. Our earth in particular is perfectly suited for us to exist. Again, this precision is evidence of an intelligent designer (e.g., God).
  • The existence of objective morality. People almost universally acknowledge that many things are wrong regardless of opinion – for example, stealing or torturing someone for fun. This is called “objective morality.” The existence of objective morality is best explained by the existence of a moral law giver (e.g., God). (Read my explanation of the moral argument for God’s existence here.)

Many adults come to believe that God exists based on this evidence from the natural world. Have you ever seen an adult come to believe in Santa based on evidence? No. Believing in Santa is childish. Believing in God is not.

 

Discussion Questions for Your Kids

 

  • Why do kids believe in things like Santa and the Easter Bunny but adults do not? (Discuss how kids will believe almost anything they’re told, whether there is good reason to or not.)
  • Some people think believing in God is childish – like believing in Santa. Why do you think they would say that? (Discuss how they assume there is no evidence for God, like how there is no evidence for Santa.)
  • Do you think believing in God is like believing in Santa? Why or why not? (Have them offer reasoning in their own words. Then take the opportunity to talk about the evidence for God’s existence discussed above.)

13 Comments

  1. Pete Dean on May 27, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    I can’t understand why Christian parents would continue to present myths like Santa and the Easter Bunny to their children. What good can possibly come of intentionally deceiving children about these fantasies ESPECIALLY when they are entwined with the worship of Christ at Christmas and Easter?

    We have six children and while we do not discourage them to use their own imaginations to create fantasy, we are consistent in how we present reality to them. We make every attempt to distinguish real from imaginary, knowing that until they are about 12 years old, their brains cannot even think abstractly.



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2014 at 8:12 AM

      Hi Pete, I understand that some Christians feel strongly about that. I can understand the reasoning. I’ve written about why I personally feel it’s a simple matter of family preference before here: http://christianmomthoughts.com//should-christians-include-santa-in-christmas/ But that said, the purpose of this post is to address the problem that atheists claim believing in God is LIKE believing in Santa, regardless of whether or not your family actually used the Santa story. It’s a common attack on Christianity.



      • Pete Dean on May 27, 2014 at 9:10 AM

        You’re right and it was an excellent post. I got carried away and forgot to say that πŸ™‚ Keep doing what you’re doing!!



        • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2014 at 9:13 AM

          Thank you, Pete! πŸ™‚



  2. Julian Kennedy on May 27, 2014 at 9:02 AM

    Dear Natasha,
    I guess you deliberately stopped your article after the fourth powerful piece of evidence for God before you would have launched into Scripture and Christ. But we should never be ashamed of our CHILDLIKE faith because God, and particularly God in Christ and his word fit with REALITY viz man’s total depravity, unconditional election (what makes us different), limited atonement (why only some are saved), irresistible grace (how can God possible save inveterate enemies) and the perseverence or preservation of the saints (how come many have died for their faith)etc. You will deduce I am a Calvinist. Only God’s revelation gives us the answers to all life’s questions and the state of the world!



    • Natasha Crain on May 27, 2014 at 9:09 AM

      Hi Julian, I should have clarified that the reason I specifically used these 4 pieces of evidence in this article is that they are the ones from the natural world that are most frequently discussed with atheists. Of course the evidence for God extends much further! But atheists don’t believe in the Bible, so apologetics discussions with them are typically focused on these lines of evidence (those implied by Romans 1:20).

      I have to add that I think we need to be careful in saying we are proud of a childlike faith. That was never intended to mean that we should be intellectually childlike! The biblical context is a childlike dependence on God. Atheists claims about belief in God being childlike are suggesting that Christians are intellectually childlike, and that is something we should never be.



  3. Erin on May 27, 2014 at 4:26 PM

    Another great post. I appreciate your distinction of what childish thinking is when implied by holiday characters vs. What atheists claim Christians are fallen prey to. They cannot compare apples to oranges. When the majority of the world worships a/any God or form of deity, they should realize that humanity naturally has the desire to worship a maker, something that has stood the test of time. One cannot truly admit that only atheists are the enlightened ones, and that all of the rest of mankind from the beginning to present day are childish in their acceptance of a higher being. Thank you for continuing to inspire me to bring Christian critical thinking to the forefront of my conversations with my littles. (And I am one on the other side of the fence when it comes to Santa – my daughter already begged the question at about age three so we made the distinction).



  4. Satscout on May 27, 2014 at 5:21 PM

    We chose to present Santa et al as “fun pretend” to our son (now 14) in large part because as a member of the high functioning end of the autism spectrum, it would be far too confusing otherwise. Regarding the “childishness” of belief… one must draw a distinction between “childish” and “childlike”… the atheist who says belief is “childlike” really means “childish”, that is, unsupportable by rational thought. Childlike, on the other hand, denotes in part (in my opinion) a sense of wonder and acceptance of that which is rational but not fully understood (or understandable). God most certainly is rational, but not fully understandable this side of heaven.



  5. Pam on December 2, 2014 at 5:29 PM

    Once again your post has filled a need that I am sure you had no idea was even needing to be filled. Thank you for writing and I am thanking the Lord for you this evening πŸ™‚



  6. ted on December 10, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    I’m pretty sure Albert Einstein embraced the idea of an impersonal god.



  7. Kelly Doan on August 1, 2015 at 5:00 AM

    When I was little,nobody else payed attention to me beacause I believe in God and they say he’s not real and it’s a lie even though we are in a Christian school and people made fun of me like that.
    And those are now my college roomates …oh shoot