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Adapted from a recent online discussion

A nonreligious mom is unsettled when her daughter comes home asking about God and hell.

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Q: My daughter is 7 and recently has been coming home and talking a lot about religion. We are close friends with multiple families who belong to a church in our area. I have absolutely nothing against Christians, but I made a conscious decision when I had her that she would be raised without any kind of religion (I don't believe in it and I didn't really want my daughter to be exposed to it). 

Now she has been coming home from school and talking about whether God is watching her and whether she is going to hell, which has been unsettling for me. She's asking to be allowed to go to church (she wants me to take her, but said she wouldn't mind if she went with her friends' families instead). How should I handle this? Is this as weird to you as it is to me? I'm not a fan of my 7-year-old worrying about hell.

A: No, this is not weird. My best friend has two kids, and her family is not churchgoing. Her daughter started going to church with friends around 8 or 9 and truly felt called. My friend went here and there (to share openness and solidarity and to make sure the church wasn't a cult), but otherwise, she didn't sweat it.

The point is? Just as you chose a path for you, your daughter is her own person and can choose her own path, too. Of course you have to stay watchful and present, but I would look at this as cultural experiment more than the big G-O-D or H-E-L-L thing.

In fact, hell is such an important concept historically, artistically, in literature, in war - in, well, everything - that this is a cool opportunity to visit this concept as just that: A concept. It really does serve as a way to keep many people in line, and that's interesting, isn't it?

My take? Try not to be afraid. Stay curious.

The Washington Post