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Discerning Culture

Take Their Questions Seriously – A Seven-Year-Old Wonders About Suffering

Very interesting article where a woman proudly proclaims to be an atheist. An initiating factor seems to be her mother’s inability to explain the problem of suffering.

ironlungpicThe pertinent paragraphs are here:

Now when students ask how I came to believe what I believe, I tell them that I trace my atheism to my first encounter, at age 7, with the scourge of polio. In 1952, a 9-year-old friend was stricken by the disease and clinging to life in an iron lung. After visiting him in the hospital, I asked my mother, “Why would God do that to a little boy?” She sighed in a way that telegraphed her lack of conviction and said: “I don’t know. The priest would say God must have his reasons, but I don’t know what they could be.”

Just two years later, in 1954, Jonas Salk’s vaccine began the process of eradicating polio, and my mother took the opportunity to suggest that God may have guided his research. I remember replying, “Well, God should have guided the doctors a long time ago so that Al wouldn’t be in an iron lung.” (He was to die only eight years later, by which time I was a committed atheist.)

The first time I told this story to a class, I was deeply gratified when one student confided that his religious doubts arose from the struggles of a severely disabled sibling, and that he had never been able to discuss the subject candidly with his fundamentalist parents. One of the most positive things any atheist can do is provide a willing ear for a doubter — even if the doubter remains a religious believer.

Of course, an atheist has a harder time explaining suffering than a Christian but the author doesn’t seem to know that.

Bottom line for the parent: We need to take seriously those questions of a child.

Do you have an answer for why God allows suffering? I will save that for another post.


7 Questions Everyone Should Answer is the perfect way to address these issues with our children. You can talk about these issues while you ride in the car. Don’t leave your children unprepared.  Check it out.

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