Dear God,

Recently I read about a little girl who wrote a letter to God about her dog that had just died.  She sent pictures and a letter addressed to God asking that He take care of her dog.  A few days later there was a package on the family’s porch which contained a book for children about how to grieve pets that die and a response letter from God to the girl, Meredith.  The US Post Office does have local clerks, carriers, and or supervisors who answer letters addressed to Santa Claus at Christmas time for children.  I think it is one of the few worthwhile things the USPS does.  Though well-intentioned, I think is capable of doing real damage in the future to this little girl’s trust in God.

Think of the emotional satisfaction Meredith must have had when she opened the package and read the letter.  Meredith is now 4 years old and this letter will most likely produce a kind of “reassurance” that God is real. It is something she can hold on to for some time. But one day Meredith will come to find out God did not write the letter.  What will her reaction be when she discovers God was not the author of the letter?  Will she resent whomever it was that delivered the package?  How she filters the discovery is most important.  Will she think back to the event and view the letter and gift as a deception in an effort to deceive her into believing in God?  Or will it be seen as a kind soul who, though God does exist, felt sympathy and empathy for a grieving little girl?

The danger is that this could potentially create an artificial link to the idea of Santa Claus, who is a fictional character, and God who is not.  At some point in our lives we come to understand the story of Santa Claus: that he is an intentional fictional character whose purpose is to entertain the imaginations of children. It’s possible, and even plausible, that Meredith could conclude that because Santa is an idea fostered by parents and even adults they don’t know, that God is very much the same false idea perpetuated by the very same parents and or church who “lied” about Santa.

I think the heart and intentions behind the letter are noble.  But it could have significant ramifications for the future of this little girl’s trust in God, and possibly any friends she may tell of her “God deception”.

Comments

  1. I agree! It’d be much better for the development of this girl’s faith and understanding of reality if she wrote a letter to God and didn’t get any letter back at all (which is what would obviously happen). She’d learn to depend on her family and friends for emotional support in times of need, because God wasn’t actually going to be there for her.

  2. Well, at least we found something we agree on. It’s counterproductive to tell children lies to build up their religious faith.

    • John Barron says:

      Yes, we can agree that the ends do not justify the means in this particular case. I think there is a greater potential for harm than good by acting in God’s place for children, even if the intentions are good.

  3. Terrance H. says:

    John,

    This may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but: How do you know who wrote the letter?

    Has someone come forward and claimed to be the author?

    • John Barron says:

      Yes, the USPS has at each station an employee who answers letters to Santa. Carriers are on the lookout for Santa letters usually starting in early November and pull them out and give them to the one in their station who responds to them. Answering letters to God is actually a bit unusual, it rarely happens, which is why it was reported. Since not everyone who writes letters to God has the same idea of who or what God is, the USPS is hands off for fear of writing the wrong thing, but each station has its own local policy. Most kids who write letters to God are very generic, just like this letter and that makes it difficult to respond with any specificity. I think this responder was smart enough to be quite vague. But overall, as I said, I think it was a bad idea.

      If the letter was placed in the persons home mail box for out-going mail, then I would conclude it was the regular mail carrier who responded. If the letter was dropped in a blue collection box, then it was responded to by a supervisor or clerk when it was kicked out of the DPS machine.

  4. If the letter was mailed, there is no place to send it; just like letters to Santa. The P.O. has long let employees respond to these.

  5. Wow John, you sound like a postal worker! I was a letter sorting machine operator from mid-April 1975 until the end of August 1978 when I started my 30-year career as an Air Traffic Controller.

  6. Geoff Boulton says:

    And what happens when, after asking God to look after her dog, she finds out that God doesn’t take dogs into heaven and the only ‘looking after’ he’ll be doing is watching it pass into oblivion?

    The short-term comfort of the letter will do her good and so what if she links it to letters to Santa? What’s the worst that can happen, that she’ll investigate and try to find out the truth? Oh wait, that’s exactly what people are afraid of!

    • John Barron says:

      Are you suggesting that anyone who investigates whether God exists with a genuine search, will conclude God does not exist? I for one started off as a skeptic and was convinced after investigating. So why do you suppose people conclude differently after looking at the same arguments and evidence?

  7. Terrance H. says:

    John,

    My point is that, however unlikely, it could have been God. The chances are rather nil, I admit, but possible nonetheless. Anything is possible.

  8. Terrance H. says:

    Are you talking to me, John, or Geoff?

    • John Barron says:

      My last comment was for Geoff. He kind of suggested that Christians would want to discourage investigation into whether God exists because He doesn’t and there’s no reason other than a blind ignorant faith to believe God exists.

  9. Terrance H. says:

    Oh, all right. Yeah. I see that now that I’ve read it.

    “Oh wait, that’s exactly what people are afraid of!”

    Absurd.

  10. rautakyy says:

    The byzantine emperor once asked the highest church officials of both christian churches (there were no others mentionable sects, than the two for hundreds of years), wether his dog could or could not enter Heaven? The emperor was upset, because his dog was his best and most trusted companion. He had a lot of “yes-men” around him, and he said he did not think he could be happy for an eternity without the dog he loved so.

    The question was a political effort to stall the negotiations between the churches, because the western church had no intention of supporting the eastern church against the turks. They wanted to get rid of the competition. Did they? No. The turks allowed the greek to have their own religion and the power base of eastern church was transferred from Constantinople to Moscow.

    The answer of the learned men from both chruches was that the dog was not to enter Heaven. The emperor was heart broken, both by failing of the negotiations and the answer. But the question was sound enough. Why would not animals be allowed into Heaven? What does your god hold against dogs? Did he not create them? What does your god hold against the byzantine emperor, to punish him to spend an eternity without his most trusted friend?

    To me it seems your christian god is an intentional fictional character whose purpose is to entertain the imaginations of ignorant people, and those who simply choose to live in denial. The proof of it is, that he does not answer letters. He could do so, since he is alledgedly allmighty, but he chooses not to. Why? He is under moral obligation to give answers and manifest himself, since he has decreed a predestined fate for us to end up in Hell to suffer for an eternity just for our normal everyday lives, unless we believe in him.

    Even Santa (saint Nicholaus, patron saint of sailors after whom a good quarter of European churches have been named) is a real enough supernatural being for millions of people, and his gift bearing avatar answers letters, and that makes him all the more plausible supernatural character than any god.

    If this girl -Meredith- loses her faith later because of this letter, is it right that she is sent to Hell for an eternal damnation as a result of well meaning prank? Does the sender of the letter go to Hell as a result, or is that person forgiven if he/she simply believes there is a god? Is there any sense about this logic?

  11. Isn’t it a lie, if there is no God, to tell children that there life has meaning?

    • John Barron says:

      Dan, we aren’t really talking about whether life has objective meaning if God does not exist. Perhaps you can keep the discussion on the topic of whether there is merit to responding to a child’s letter to God on His behalf, and what you think the short or long term effect on the child’s faith could be. Is it right to deceive the child even if the intentions are in the right place, given that God does exist?

  12. There will be animals in the after-life, since we learn that the lion will lie down with the lamb. But animals have no spirit, which is why when one’s dog dies it does not continue in spiritual life.

    God is under no moral obligation to respond to foolish letters written by children whose parents have not properly taught them.

    I seriously doubt the letter would cause the child to have any different beliefs. As she grows up – if her parents haven’t already been smart enough to tell her – she will realize that a letter from God is a silly as one from Santa, not because God doesn’t exist, but because He doesn’t receive mail!

  13. erock68la says:

    Dan,
    My life has meaning: help as many people as I can and hurt as few as I can. I definitely don’t need a god for that.

    I think the letter from god may be a good idea for atheist parents. What if belief in the god fairy tale could fall by the wayside as easily as belief in Santa Claus?

  14. I think it is very wrong to deceive a child in this way. I think it is also wrong for the P.O. to do Santa letters, and I think it is wrong for parents to tell children that Santa is real. So, NO, it is not right to deceive a child with a letter purporting to be from God.

  15. I think it is a horrible idea, and dangerous, for anyone to play God. Playing God is what man is doing when he denies the existence of God. He is saying in effect that man will determine right and wrong, meaningful and not meaningful. He then, as a consequence, presents two opposing ideas at the same time, that there is no objective truth, i.e. life is meaningless, and that, here, this is true and meaningful. Sending children letters from God only fosters this notion because the child will confuse a spiritual God with a deceptive material letter, a confusion that will be played upon by wolves. It is worse than Santa Clause. Children will one day learn that there is no Santa Clause, and in so doing, they will learn the truth and that they were deceived. One day they will also be taught by tax funded schools that there is no God by teachers who themselves were taught that there is no God. Will they then defend his existence based on a letter written by a postal worker?

    Life, in many ways, is harsh. Deceiving a child by playing God to mitigate this harshness is not the answer. For the child’s entire life, his pets will die, his grandparents, his parents, and perhaps friends and even he himself will be faced with an early death. There is a real God that we make seek that makes more of this life than the material life itself. In so doing we not only gain solace from the harshness of this life, but are able to transcend this very life to find joy, even in the pain that is certain to come. Or as Paul put it, for the sufferings of this life is not worthy to be compared to the life that is to be revealed to us or though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

  16. I can’t believe the comments being “spewed” by so-called Christians regarding this beautiful story. Anyone think our all-knowing God sent an angel (the postal worker) to do HIS will for a child in need? Does it matter who God chose as the messenger of Good News? Did Jesus not weep with His daughter whose tear-stained face told the story of her anguish at losing her best friend? With unwavering faith in our Lord, she wrote a letter directly to the Healing Source, The Man with the Power, God! Who cares about the communication method, whether it be by prayer on her knees, or a piece of paper to the USPS. Simple spiritual lesson – her parents did something magnificent. They taught their daughter about Faith in God, and that He, alone, is all you’ll EVER need to get through this life! This isn’t rocket science!
    You, the self-righteous Christian (I say that loosely) hypocrites, who have to set the record straight or die trying, make a mockery of God’s Word by using His Wisdom for your OWN purpose of condemnation. How many have you stabbed and scarred on your life’s journey wielding your sword of Justice? I hear no words of compassion, understanding, or acceptance. Your hearts are bitter leaving no room for the Holy Spirit to dwell. You manifest NOT His forgiveness, unconditional love and mercy for you lack His spiritual gifts. Someone posted, What if she (the little girl) loses her faith as she grows older because of the adults who lied to her. The poster questions if the little girl, her parents, the postal worker, and the companies who created paper and pen, used to write the notes, will ALL go to hell! I can think of two causes for these disparaging remarks, insanity, demon-possession, or both. You, the self-appointed judge and jury of all, have condemned innocence, blind faith, Christian parents, and equated Santa, God, and a postal worker. Shame on you for abusing Christ and making a mockery of Christianity. Why are people turning away from their churches and faith? Your answer is in the mirror! You dare label all involved as “God-deceivers”. Get off your high horse or low donkey, as it may be, and start eating some humble pie, “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up”. If you have ever experienced the warmth and depth of God’s love, the love of His Son, Jesus, who hung on a cross, or the loving presence of His Holy Spirit here on earth, you cannot say you know Him. I suggest reading and placing into action Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 as a refresher course in Christianity 101.
    I can understand the opinions of those who have no belief in God; you are honest and I respect that. Those purposed to condemn in the Name of Jesus are hurting the Body of Christ (The Church) therefore crucifying Him all over again! I’m a born-again, Holy Ghost-filled Follower of Christ Jesus, and a constant sinner. If I do not demonstrate by words, deeds, and/or actions Christ’s love and compassion for EVERYONE, I am NOT worthy to consider myself a child of God, nor will I reap the rewards due a good and faithful servant.
    Next time a good friend asks your opinion of the meal they prepared, which was horrible, you applaud it; Compliment your boss on their attire, when it’s ill-fitting and wrinkled; Console and comfort grieving parents on their son’s death, suicide (taking a life is a SIN); just punishment, according to YOU, is a One-Way Ticket to Hell! Stop deceiving children, tell little Johnny his dad is an alcoholic, tell Suzie her mother is having an affair, tell David his dad is sick with cancer, tell Billie he’s ugly and stupid, tell Mary her grandfather likes little girls TOO much, describe in detail to Donna the pain inflicted by dentists. Truth at all cost and everyone’s expense – and Jesus wept!

    • I don’t think you are quite understanding the point. You have written quite a bit and touched many areas, too many to pin down to a single non-essay response.

  17. I know, let’s play ‘misrepresent what I said’. I did not say that she would investigate and find there is no god and nor did I single out Christians as the likely offenders. Both of these were your ‘suggestion’ as to what I ‘might’ mean. I said that people are afraid to investigate and look for the truth. For example, you won’t find many, maybe a very small number but certainly not many, rabbis urging their ‘flock’ to make an unbiased study of Islam and you won’t find a Muslim congregation sitting down to read the Bible or Torah to see whether they might be the ‘truth’ instead of the Koran. Why is this, if there is so much evidence supporting their belief? Could it be that in reality they know their own belief system has no more validity or evidence than any other, exactly why we have the word ‘faith’. The choice as to which religion to follow is most often a matter of the culture in which the person was raised, or a personal choice as to which one ‘suits’ the individual or makes them ‘feel’ good, etc, and has very little to do with any objective appraisal of the evidence. Such an appraisal only leads to one conclusion, assuming you wish to believe in a god/gods; that any of the multitude of religions, both present and past, have similar evidence supporting them and could equally be true. Concluding that there is no god and that the thousands of god stories all come from the same source, the human imagination and a need to explain the unexplained, is another option. Given the ‘unbiased’ standpoint you seem to be trying to project I would be interested to hear your reaction if the letter had been from Thor, maybe the postal worker has a sense of humour, and the little girl was trying to find the ‘truth’ by studying Norse mythology instead of the bible?

    • Who was that directed to, Geoff?

      But where a person comes to hold beliefs they do is irrelevant to whether the belief itself is true or false, and therefore adds nothing to the discussion in either direction.

      But I think the way you use the word faith is not the same way most Christians do. You seem to use it in a pejorative way, rather than the Biblical way. Could you define “faith” the way you understand it?

      • So now I’m using ‘faith’ in a pejorative way. How about not making ad hominum assumptions? Maybe I’m just using the dictionary definition? 1. belief or trust in a person or thing, 2. belief in something without evidence, 3. belief in a god/gods or the doctrines of a religion.

        If the truth of a belief is irrelevant to how a person came to hold that belief then on what basis would you condemn, for example, a Muslim suicide bomber who believes that killing himself and murdering others is carrying out the will of his god? If it doesn’t matter whether his belief is true or false then he has every justification for acting in any way he sees fit, providing only that it fits with his belief about the wishes of his god, which since they come from his god are obviously both morally good and fully justified.

        • Geoff

          You need to chill out, no one is attacking you.

          You are misunderstanding me. It is not irrelevant what’re or not a belief is true. How a person came to a belief is irrelevant to whether the belief is true.

          So whether one’s parent told them God exists has nothing to do with whether God actually exists or not.

  18. John, in response to “I don’t think you are quite understanding the point”, and your reference to my “essay”, I believe it is you who has missed the boat. Truth – little girl heartbroken because her dog died. Asks if parents will help her write a letter to God and sends it in the mail. Good Samaritan or Appointed Angel answers the letter, returns the pics, and encloses a beautiful book by Rev. Fred Rogers entitled “When a Pet Dies”. This should have been the end of a very heart-warming story!

    You chose this scenario, removed the innocence and undeniable faith in our Lord, and planted seeds of doubt, disobedience and deception in the minds of your readers. Do you enjoy playing the role of devil’s advocate? Laying just enough barbed wire to entangle believers and nonbelievers alike, causing pain and conflict. You bring to light the possibility this little girl might somehow be “damaged” by the big bad Christian adults in her life who somehow led her astray. At least their love and compassion echoed Christ’s own sentiments.

    John, worry not about the future of this little girl, for her faith has already saved her. Do your readers understand how much you value yourself? On Gravatar, your identity icon reads, “I am vastly superior to everyone around me”, and your own little written autobiography states, “Most importantly, I think my views are correct, which is why I write at truthinreligionandpolitics.com”. If a man sows arrogance, haughtiness and conceit, will he not reap the same?

    • Sinner,

      My gravitar reflects that of my favorite character from my favorite comic strip. My comment about my views is correct too. I do believe my views are correct. And you believe yours are too, otherwise you wouldn’t be trying to “correct” my opinion in this commentary to more closely mirror yours. Don’t hypocritically condemn me for my thinking my views are correct while piously expounding your own as though you believe yours are correct. Everyone who has an opinion thinks they are correct, otherwise they would hold the view. Get off the ivory tower.

      Bottom line is this: the postal worker should have signed off the letter as an angel from God, not as God himself.

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