That was Little Reader's question last night at dinner. It was prompted by someone in her class saying that only good people go to Heaven. Not sure how they got on that topic but if sparked a long discussion at our dinner table last night.
As you've probably guessed we are not religious people. We don't believe in God, and don't attend church. Having said that I don't consider myself an atheist. I feel like that is too strong and is disrespectful to those who do believe. I have no proof there is no God, so for the most part I keep my non-believing opinions to myself and let others believe what they want. I teach my kids to be respectful when other kids talk about religion. In a public school it doesn't come up all that often, but it does come up. My daughters are in 1st and 3rd grade so I feel most of the time when kids talk about religion it's based on what their parents taught them not because they necessarily believe it themselves. Some of my daughter's friends are in CCD so maybe they are thinking a little more about what their faith means to them but I don't know.
Back to her question, my answer was that people who believe in God often find comfort in their faith when they are faced with questions or challenges that are difficult to deal with. I gave the example of a kid in her school who is in remission from leukemia. I know that that family does believe in God and that their faith and the prayers of others helped them get through a very tough time.
Little Reader's natural follow up question was if God is all powerful, why would he give the boy cancer in the first place? I told her that the experiences you go through in life are what shape you and prepare for your future. People of faith often feel that God doesn't give you more than you can handle, and this family's life will be impacted in some positive way by what they went through. I know the boy is already volunteering at the ward he was in helping other kids with leukemia. He probably wouldn't have done that if he hadn't gone through it himself.
Then she said that another kid had said that God causes floods and earthquakes when people are not being good. I said I don't think God would purposely be mean, but believes in the good of humanity. I said that how I've heard it explained is that God maybe did feel that people weren't being good and knew that in difficult times people do usually come together and help each other in ways they normally do not.
It ended up being a pretty lengthy discussion and I love that she is already asking these questions. She definitely is more analytical than I was at this age, and often makes me think of things in a new way because of the questions she asks.
I realize that my family is very much in the minority that we are not people of faith, and therefore I hope that as much as we respect everyone else's right to believe, that you respect our right not to.