Mommy, I Hate God

Mommy, I Hate God

Confession: I’m cranky most Sunday mornings.

It’s like herding cats trying to get three small children out the door for 9 am church. The kids are usually arguing, they can’t find their shoes, they’re upset they can’t watch a morning cartoon, and they’re anything but cooperative. By the time we’re on our way, the last thing on my mind is worshiping God. I just want to pull an iron blanket over my head so no one can get to me.

Last Sunday was no different. I rushed the kids into the car before realizing I didn’t even have shoes on. I ran back into the house. By the time I returned – a mere 3 minutes later – Kenna had a report for me on what had happened while I was gone.

“Mommy! Nathan just said he hates God.”

I literally gasped. I looked at my 5-year-old son shrinking down in his seat and immediately knew he had said it.

“NATHAN! That is a terrible thing to say. Don’t ever say that again in our home! What are you thinking? I am shocked. Shocked! Why on earth would you say such a horrible thing?”

Honestly, I didn’t want an answer. It was more of a verbal hand-slap. I had no idea how to respond other than to harshly let him know it was something that he should never utter again.

The next 10 minutes of our drive to church were nearly silent. Then something strange happened. I found myself asking, If a blog reader told me their child said this, what would I suggest?

Funny enough, I knew the answer right away: Dig deeper. Find out what he really means when he says he hates God. Don’t be shocked. Don’t get mad. Don’t shut down the conversation. Hating God could mean just about anything, so work to understand the source of the comment in order to effectively address it.


Digging Deeper

I decided to give it a try. I turned to Nathan and asked, “Can you tell me what you mean when you say you hate God? Do you have these feelings every day, every Sunday, or just today?”

He muttered back, “Just on Sundays. I really, really don’t like church.”

“Ooooh,” I said, starting to see where this was going. “So when you say you hate God, what you actually mean is that you don’t like church?”

“Yeah, I wish I didn’t have to go. I like when we worship God at home,” he replied.

I continued to drill down. “OK. Do you not like any part, or just some parts?”

“I like everything except the DANCING! I HATE the dancing!” He was referring to the part in the kids’ service where they sing songs and learn some corresponding dance moves.

“Let me get this straight. When you said you hate God, what you really meant was that you hate dancing at church?”

“Yeeesssss. Dancing is the worst,” he moaned.

And that concluded one of the most absurd conversations in our family’s history.


Become a Troubleshooter

Just as Nathan’s horrible comment turned out to actually represent an innocent dislike for dancing, the distance between what kids say and what they mean is often great. It’s tempting to immediately address concerning comments at face value, but when we don’t actually dig in to what underlies those comments, we can end up troubleshooting the wrong problem.

Consider some examples:

When a child says, “I don’t believe in God anymore”…what they might mean is that they don’t understand how God could exist when something terrible happened to their friend. They might need a conversation about pain and suffering, not one about the existence of God.

When a child says, “The Bible is boring”…what they might mean is that no one has taken the time to explain how to read the Bible in a way that is relevant to their life. They might need a “how to” conversation, not one about the reverence we should have for God’s Word.

When a child says, “I hate church”…what they might mean is that they hate how the other kids at church don’t include them in their activities. They might need a conversation about how things are going in youth group, not one about how important church is for Christian living.

When a child says, “Science shows the Bible isn’t true”….what they might mean is that they’ve heard someone in an influential position say “science shows the Bible isn’t true” and assumed that must be right. They might need a conversation about how to critically think through secular claims in general, not one about the Bible’s inerrancy.

When a child says nothing at all about faith…it might mean they’re afraid to express their doubts. They might need you to simply get a conversation going.


What faith concerns are you “troubleshooting” right now – for yourself or your kids?

13 thoughts on “Mommy, I Hate God”

  1. Oh… I am so glad you are addressing this topic. I have just been wondering what how to react to my 5 yo “God doesn’t exist”. She doesn’t say it in a “bad” way, more in casual way, when she was asking questions (about life in general) and we answered saying it was God who decided/would decide or something similar, she’ll react “but God doesn’t exist?!…”
    It sounds to me as if the christian life : church, bible reading etc. that we are living as a family seems separated from the rest of her life. We live in a non-christian environment, and she is very influenced, in school, with the world’s culture and ways of thinking… If you have suggestions as to how to make God relevant in her everyday life…
    Oh, and I also struggle with helping her understand the difference between “magic” and “spiritual” : for example a clown taking a rabbit out of his cap is magic but prayer is spiritual… And prayer is not a “wish list”…

    Anyway, thanks a lot for your blog, I enjoy reading every single post, and as someone who converted as an adult, I do not have any reference point when it comes to sharing faith with my kids. Your work is deeply appreciated !

    1. Hi purplecandy, Thank you so much for the kind words! It’s really encouraging to know that the blog is helping people. To answer your questions/comments:

      –First, on God doesn’t exist, I would start by simply asking WHY she thinks that. It might be that she says someone else told her that, or that she can’t see Him, or any number of things. When you know why she is saying it, you can address it better. This post my help you: Also, she is old enough to begin understanding the scientific evidence for God that I’ve talked about on the blog (see my post today, Is Believing in God Childish?). Melissa Cain Travis has written a book for 5-10 year olds to help them understand these arguments at their own level: That’s the first in a series.

      You might also like this post – How to Get Your Kids’ Spiritual Attention:

      –On the difference between magic and spiritual, I would emphasize that magic is never real. It’s always a trick. When you see “magic” in person, it’s just a neat trick someone is doing. When you see it on TV, it’s just a story. The things Jesus did in the Bible that no one else could ever do were REAL – God used those things to prove Jesus was divine. Praying is really speaking to God. So emphasize the difference between tricks and reality…and that reality isn’t just what you can see.

      I hope that helps!

  2. I really like the way that you used each question to dig down another level. I think this is so important with kids, who aren’t able to express exactly what they mean. Thank you for sharing this very eye-opening post!

  3. Le me relate something that happened to me at church , When I was about seventeen , One of the old ladies in the church spoke to us at our regular Friday night youth group meeting , She put the question to us , How would us boys go about proposing to a girl , Not, this is the normal way to propose but how would you propose ,I suppose the church would have liked to have seen us marry within the faith , She singled out each boy and asked them to propose to a particular girl , You can imagine young men , Put on the spot like that . It came to my turn and I was asked to propose to a particular girl , Well number one , The girl came from one of the more wealthy families and didn’t normally have much to do with me , Sufficed to say I stuffed things up big time and was extremely embarised , Also I was rather sweet on a different girl , What are the lessons here , This was a wasted exercise as most married outside the faith , Perhaps woman should stick to the things that the scriptures direct them to do and for older women it was about teaching the younger women to love their husbands .Even churches have different social groups ., Wrong , But they do . I am now sixty three and I believe that even if I get dementure I will never forget that experience . I am happily a member of the same church for fifty five years , All my best friends are there , I’ve been married three times , Outside the faith , My wife goes to her own church and I go with her every second week .

    1. Hi Glenn, Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think we all have uncomfortable moments we remember from our youth group years in church – I can imagine why you still remember this story! That would be difficult for anyone!

  4. My daughter at 9 years came to Christ and got baptized. At 15 she lost 3 friends to suicide. At 16 she attempted to take her own life due to the previous said lost friends. She has been angry at God ever since. At 17 she has denounced her faith and belief in God, Christ and all religion and relationships that have anything to do with Christianity. Our entire family is very involved in church and have a relationship with Christ. She is so very loved by all family and friends. But as her mother…my heart breaks. I have tried having conversations with her from a very diplomatic view but she refuses to accept anything I have to say. At this point, all I can do is pray that God will change her heart as we all continue to show her love regardless of her thoughts and beliefs. We continue to troubleshoot….
    Signed, Have Faith. 

    1. Hi Kerri, I’m so sorry about the tragic turn of events in your daughter’s life. That would be extremely difficult for an adult to deal with – even more for a teenager.

      I’ve been working on a certificate in Christian apologetics through Biola University, and something in the lecture on the “problem of pain/suffering” really stood out to me. The professor explained that for some people, it’s a logical problem – if a good God exists, how can there possibly be evil (a good God could and would get rid of it). There are all kinds of apologetics to address that. But for other people who have experienced tragedy closely, it’s an emotional problem. It’s not about a specific logical train of thought that can be “argued” with (or diplomatically spoken with, as you have tried)…it’s an emotional wall created by pain that simply says, “I can’t/won’t believe in God that allows something like this to happen.” The professor said that the most effective way of working with that is to simply be with the person, love them, assure them that God still loves them, and pray for them…all the things you’re doing. We can let them know that when they are ready, we’d like to offer some answers about why bad things happen. When they are ready, they may then come back for some of the more “logical” grounding.

      I don’t know if that is helpful at all, but it was one of the most important things I took away from the series. As you said, “have faith”…keep praying for God to open the door to more conversation. Thank you for sharing your story.

      1. Hi Kerri,

        Something I have discovered that is of some comfort is your daughter did accept Christ and she was baptised. Though it doesn’t protect her from all that is bad, she has seen and experienced first hand the beauty and the power of God and it is this connection with Him that will keep her wandering and wondering- till she finds her way back. I join you in prayer that her eyes and ears will open again to the spectacular actions and booming voice of the Holy Spirit. May God bring the right people of influence into her life so she may be washed of this pain and use her experiences to help others. …I have a similar situation with my sister- don’t give up!

        God Bless

    2. I was personally raised by atheists, but became a believer at age 15 when I felt God’s Spirit draw me. I alaays questioned things like dinosaurs
      and evolution since I was ignorantly taught by the church to do so, but then I started reading and researching the Bible for myself and found much of what the Church taught me to believe/not believe wasn’t necessarily the truth either.

      However, over the years I have come to understand that certain aspects of what evolutionists believe are not all untrue and that science can in fact prove that God exists vs. disprove. For example, in the original Hebrew Genesis states the the earth “BECAME” void (meaning there was something else on the earth before us… like dinosaurs maybe?!) and NOT that is “was” void! Now if someone is dead set in their belief against God, well then they could probably witness people being raised from the dead (as the religious leaders did in Yehshua’s time) and still deny God.

      However, everyone must realize of they’re honest that there are some mistranslations in the Bible because the Hebrew and Greek do not even have English words that are equivalent in many cases to the original text (the words “hell” and “everlasting” are great examples of this) and they had to do “the best they could” in translating. At the end of the day, scriptures can take on entirely different meanings than what was intended. A great example is the parable of the rich man as it has NOTHING to do with heaven/hell when you understand the context of it.

      Also, there are two gospels and two different groups of people the Bible talks to. If this isn’t understood, the Bible looks schizophrenic, even though well meaning Christians will “cover for God” when something clearly doesn’t line up in the scriptures instead of trying to figure out what happened/what’s the original translation say, etc.?!

      In Timothy, the Bible says we must “rightly divide the word of truth” for it to be understood correctly. I think this misunderstanding alone has caused more believers to turn into full blown atheists than anything else.

  5. I will start by saying that I was spiritually abused as a child and that the effort to actually hear the concerns of your children is noble and good. You love them completely and are doing what you think is best for them, and this matters most.

    They have legitimate concerns, though, and do not dismiss their questioning the existence of God as simple childishness. As parents you know you have the responsibility to begin to teach your children how to think about their world, and know that you have decided to use this power over them to teach them to believe in things for which there is no tangible evidence. This is a huge deal because it is likely a departure from your teachings to them about all other gods from other established religions or things like Santa Claus or the tooth fairy.

    Children know that this feels wrong because they are by nature very practical. It doesn’t matter that I agree with many of them in being a skeptic, but I do.

    I would hope that every child is raised so that he or she is of a mature mind when deciding whether to believe in God as an adult. In fact, how meaningful is it to ‘believe’ when you haven’t ever really decided to as an adult and have only been raised to believe? Don’t push. It’s a (albeit very well-meaning) form of abuse. If it’s truly the way, then trust that they will come to it.

  6. Hi Kerri,

    Thanks so much for your post. My 16 year old son is just starting (and excelling in) through the serious sciences in high school (apple fell pretty far from the tree there!). He has gotten into this kick of asking for evidence for everything, and I am at a loss sometimes. You mentioned in your second to last paragraph about introducing critical thought about secular claims, what is the best way to accomplish this? He also won’t hear anything about the Bible’s inerrancy, because he says there is evidence that it has changed from version to version and language to language!

  7. My 3 year old just said this exact phrase at bedtime tonight. I was horrified, but I tried to stay calm because I know that he’s too young to understand what he said. His explanation was that he’s angry because God didn’t give him the toys he wanted. He said, “I don’t have a thankful heart.” He also mentioned feeling angry and upset about being left with a babysitter for a few hours over the weekend. Kids often say mean things because they have big feelings that they can’t deal with. Thank you for this post. It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has heard this awful phrase from their kid.

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