Reading Time: 2 minutes

Preparing a talk on critical thinking and ethics reminded me of this post from three years ago.

linky“Omigosh. Some of these things are soooo easy, but this one is totally hard.”

“What things?”

“These Question Book questions. Some are just so easy they’re dumb.”

Delaney [then 7] has been reading Gregory Stock’s The Kids’ Book of Questions on and off for a few weeks now. Two hundred sixty-eight questions to ponder. And she’s right — some are so easy they’re dumb.

“Like this, listen,” she said. “Number 110: ‘If it would save the lives of ten kids in another country, would you be willing to have really bad acne for a year?’ That’s so dumb!”

“So what’s your answer, then?”

“Of course I would do it. I mean, it’s their lives, Dad.” She paused, crinkled her brow. “What’s acne?”


“WHAT?! That’s even stupider. I thought it was a bad sickness or something. Who would let ten kids die just to not have pimples?!”

I thought back to junior high school, trying to recall how many strangers I’d have whacked in exchange for clear skin, and decided her question was rhetorical.

“But this one is really hard. Listen — Number 50: ‘If everyone in your class but you would be killed unless you sacrificed your own life, would you save everyone else or save yourself?'”

Long pause.

“I don’t know! That’s soooo hard! I really love to be alive. But so do they!”

She seemed genuinely tormented by the dilemma. It’s precisely the sacrifice that makes the Christ story so compelling. The willing sacrifice of one’s own life is just so hard to fathom. Until you add the heavenly out, at which point I suppose Christs and hijackers alike gain a decided advantage in nerve.

Laney, having no such advantage, prefers to live.


Avatar photo

Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.