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What is God?

By Etan Boritzer

Reviewed by Acharya S

Over the years, people have asked me what books I recommend for children on the subject of God and religion, even requesting that I myself write children's books. Although I have read several good books on the subject over the years, other than Jonathan Livingston Seagull I have not been able to come up with any at the spur of the moment. That inspiring book, however, is not specifically about God and religion, and is also geared for an older audience.

For younger children, even as young as those who can understand full sentences, What is God? by Etan Boritzer is without a doubt the best children’s book on the subject of God and religion that I have read to date. As is appropriate for young children, What is God? contains marvelously attractive illustrations by Robbie Marantz that may hold the attention of the wandering mind which is still too young to understand some of the heady but accessible concepts provided by Boritzer’s fabulously inclusive text. The book is simply appealing from cover to cover, and the best surprise is that it is not at all preachy and would be useful for even the most ardent unbeliever to teach his or her children about what other people believe about God.

This book is so great, in fact, that I believe reading it to all the world's children would have an enormous impact on ending religious strife globally. What is God? does not teach children what to believe. It is not threatening to any parents, except for those who think that informing their children about other people's beliefs will somehow "poison" their minds. This book simply and matter-of-factly recites a wide variety of beliefs from around the world, including the simplistic and childish concept that God is an old man with a long white beard who lives in the sky. "Next time you fly in an airplane," says Boritzer, "look out the window at the clouds. But you won’t see that God there, because no one has ever seen that God!"

What is God? continues in this vein, relating that religions are a set of beliefs shared by groups of people, generally revolving around a shared holy book and a teacher believed to be divinely inspired or to understand the question "What is God?" Boritzer explains that there have been many books and teachers, listing the most famous such as Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and Buddha, and the Bible, Koran, Torah, Vedas and Sutras. He also imparts the knowledge that these beliefs have caused people to fight among themselves over whose concept of God was right and whose was wrong. The author further delves into what is prayer, in a highly satisfying manner.

My favorite part is where God is described as everything:

"Yes! God is everything great and small!
God is everything far away and near!
God is everything bright and dark!
And God is everything in between!...

If everything is God,
Then I am God,
You are God,
All of us are God!"

In a sense, this last part is teaching us and our children what to think about God, but is it in fact harmful? Or, just maybe, do these concepts serve as an inoculation against strident and exclusionary beliefs that our children will surely encounter down the road, which truly are harmful?

The interpretation of these concepts that follows in What is God? is that believing we are all God allows us to connect spiritually with each other and with the universe as a whole. As a longtime observer and critic of religious strife, and someone who has striven to provide solutions to this dilemma, I can state that such a perspective can only be helpful for all to hear and understand.

Boritzer's style is enlightened, kind and gentle, such that no one should feel threatened but all are made to feel welcome. Although it was not within the purview of his work to discuss atheism, Boritzer may have wished to include one or two sentences which related that some people do not believe in a god of any sort and do not pray, but that's okay!

The suggestion that I write children's books curiously led me to discover this wonderful tome, as I attended a seminar with the author on how to publish children's books. Little did I know what a life-changing event it would be, as I am now able with great clarity to pass along to my own progeny pertinent information concerning what I regard an extremely important subject. I am also able to explain what it is I do! For example, in the part of What is God? that illustrates how people fight over the concept, I was able to share that I like to stand in between the two men in the picture fighting over the word "God" and to tell them to stop!

What is God? should be present in libraries, churches, synagogues, temples and mosques the world over, translated into every major language, and read by every person interested not only in the subjects of God and religion but also in world peace.

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