“Faith is a gift….”.
– Robert Langdon, played by Tom Hanks in the film Angels and Demons
At age 11, my daughter asked if God really existed. She also wanted to know if Heaven was real.
I have always been honest and candid with my daughter, but my answer probably was not satisfactory to her: I said that only she could answer these questions.
My daughter was attending Christian church services each Sunday and heard the pastor’s frequent messages about Jesus and his teachings, and about God’s relationship with humanity. His sermons never called into question God’s existence (although he was far less clear about the nature of heaven). My daughter was attentive, and she wanted a concrete, iron clad assurance about God.
I told her she was really asking a question about faith.
My daughter’s pastor once gave a sermon about Blaise Pascal’s philosophical “wager,” which says that every person must bet if there is a God or not. If you believe there is a God and you are correct, then the payoff is huge; if you are wrong, then you don’t lose anything important. However, if you bet there is no God and are wrong, your penalty is eternal damnation, which is the ultimate lost wager. The thought, then, is to go ahead and bet there is a God.
I don’t want my daughter to come to religious faith out of fear.
I also don’t want to spoon-feed her answers to these questions. Instead, I encourage her to examine her own life and come to her own conclusions.
When it comes to faith, I cannot give my daughter the answers, but I am glad she’s asking the questions.