Fact Check

God Defined

Eight-year-old explains God in a school-assigned essay?

Published Dec 20, 2001

Claim:   An eight-year-old explains God in a school-assigned essay.

Status:   Undetermined.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2000]

How to explain God was written by Danny Dutton, age 8, from Chula Vista, California, for his third grade homework assignment to "Explain God."

One of God's main jobs is making people. He makes them to replace the ones that die so there will be enough people to take care of things on earth. He doesn't make grown-ups, just babies. I think because they are smaller and easier to make. That way, He doesn't have to take up His valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can just leave that to mothers and fathers.

God's second most important job is listening to prayers. An awful lot of this goes on, since some people, like preachers and things, pray at times besides bedtime. God doesn't have time to listen to the radio or TV because of this. Because He hears everything there must be a terrible lot of noise in His ears, unless He has thought of a way to turn it off. God sees everything and hears everything and is everywhere which keeps Him pretty busy. So you shouldn't go wasting His time by going over your mom and dad's head asking for something they said you couldn't have.

Atheists are people who don't believe in God. I don't think there are any in Chula Vista. At least there aren't any who come to our church.

Jesus is God's Son. He used to do all the hard work like walking on water and performing miracles and trying to teach the people who didn't want to learn about God. They finally got tired of Him preaching to them and they crucified Him. But He was good and kind like His Father and He told His Father that they didn't know what they were doing and to forgive them and God said OK.

His Dad (God) appreciated everything that He had done and all His hard work on earth so He told Him He didn't have to go out on the road anymore, He could stay in heaven. So He did. And now He helps His Dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones He can take care of Himself without having to bother God. Like a secretary only more important.

You can pray anytime you want and they are sure to hear you because they got it worked out so one of them is on duty all the times. You should always go to Church on Sunday because it makes God happy, and if there's anybody you want to make happy, it's God. Don't skip church to do something you think will be more fun like going to the beach. This is wrong! And, besides, the sun doesn't come out at the beach until noon anyway.

If you don't believe in God, besides being an atheist, you will be very lonely, because your parents can't go everywhere with you, like to camp, but God can.

It is good to know He's around you when you're scared in the dark or when you can't swim very good and you get thrown into real deep water by big kids.

But you shouldn't just always think of what God can do for you. I figure God put me here and He can take me back anytime He pleases.

And that's why I believe in God."

Origins:   We can't assign a precise date or origin to this essay (although we know it's been transmitted around the Internet since May 1993), nor can we swear that an eight-year-old named Danny Dutton


from Chula Vista didn't author this piece. We haven't yet been able to track down the enigmatic Mr. Dutton, however.

Due to constitutional issues involving the separation of church and state, a public school teacher in the U.S. would most likely not be allowed to assign a third grade class a homework topic of "Explain God," and such an assignment would certainly generate a good deal of public complaint and controversy if a teacher went ahead with it anyway. Nonetheless, we haven't turned up any news stories about an assignment of this nature in the last twenty years or so. (It is possible that the Chula Vista school mentioned here was a private Christian school, where an assignment of "Explain God" would be both permissible and appropriate. In that case this piece would be far less remarkable, though, since it would be taking place in a religious context rather than a secular one, and the student would more likely be simply repeating what he had been taught rather than extemporizing on the nature of


In any case, the wording and structure of this essay tend to indicate a much older author. Much of the vocabulary employed is rather advanced for an 8-year-old, and the construction of the piece doesn't match the style of writing children have usually achieved at that age. Take a look at some examples of real third graders' essays found at the Outdoor Kids Foundation essay contest page: Notice how short and to the point the sentences are, and also how most sentences tend to contain only one concept. Now contrast this to "Danny's" essay, a missive which contains complex gems such as "And now He helps His Dad out by listening to prayers and seeing things which are important for God to take care of and which ones He can take care of Himself without having to bother God."

What to make of such a piece? It's best to view it as a "from the mouths of babes" composition penned by someone far older — someone who believed having his words seemingly issue from a third grader would lend them added poignancy.

Barbara "danny buoyed" Mikkelson

Last updated:   22 February 2007

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