Wednesday, August 04, 2010

How God found Ibid

My parents were Methodist. So that's where I went to church as a kid. Nearly every Sunday they'd drag me in for Sunday School and Church. That's where our story begins.

As a little kid I believed in Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and God. And I was taught in Sunday School that God wrote the Bible. Personally. So I had this impression of a big seventy-something guy, probably six foot six or so, barrel chest, white beard, long white hair pulled back in a pony tail, white, and a really nice suit. He had an office, probably in Washington, D.C. He's immortal. And he hand delivered the original manuscript of The Bible, in English, to the printers.

Keep in mind that at that point in life my concept of the insides of the human body reduced us to giant Ziploc bags of blood. Maybe with bones, too. Not sure when I learned about them. The point is that my understanding of the world was not just limited, but comically distorted.

I remember hating church. Getting up early on a weekend, having to wear uncomfortable clothes that had to be taken care of, sitting quietly through an hour long lecture, and the pointless ceremonies. Granted, it could have been worse. I could have been Catholic. Methodist pointless ceremonies got nothing on Catholic pointless ceremonies. This miserable waste of a Sunday morning is what started turning me against church. Talk all you want, preacher-man, I'm gonna draw on this donation envelope and ignore you. Gonna reject whatever you say, too. Why? Because this is BORING!

To be fair, I did get to a point where I tried paying attention. I thought maybe church would be a good place to learn something about the contents of the Bible without having to read it. Not so much, no. Whole swaths of the Bible never get touched. They only seemed to tell the same handful of stories over and over. Most of the time they weren't even teaching from The Bible.

Eventually, I decided to read the damn thing myself. I was, what?, eight? Yeah, give or take a bit. I started in Genesis and started reading. Good stuff. Creation, the mud people, Eve cheating on her diet, Noah, Moses, and then the begats. Things really slow down for awhile when The Bible starts covering the family tree. I got bored. I went to Mom and asked if there were any good mythology stories outside of Genesis and Revelation. Yes, I used the word "mythology". Mom was a bit flustered. I didn't understand why at the time. But even then I realized there was no difference between what I was reading in The Bible and what I knew of Greek and Roman mythology.

I still had to go to Sunday School. As we got on into middle and high school, classes became mostly hanging out with the occasional lesson. Mostly what I got out of these lessons was that God is kind of a dick. Don't sit at the head of the table, leave that chair for God because he's more important than you. Don't make fun of bald people because God will sic bears on you. Don't blatantly rip off the story of Pandora's Box or God will kick you out of the Garden of Eden.

I forget how old I was, but as some point I was made to go to Confirmation Classes. They weren't the multi-year ordeal that some other religions (rhymes with Datholic) make of confirmation. It was a few months of weekly classes. I felt about as enthusiastic about Confirmation Classes as I was about church. Here the preacher taught us what Methodists believe. For me, each class was an exercise in eye rolling techniques. "Hell no, I'm not taking any notes. There's no test, we're not being graded, and you're talking out of your ass." I think I was the only one in class who didn't re-join the church. Grammie had to be told I wasn't joining. They were doing a graduation/joining ceremony during church. All the names of the people joining were called out during church and they went to the front. Grammie likely would have stood up and announced that they forgot my name. How fun would that have been to explain before the congregation?

Once I was well into high school I still had to go to Sunday School with the family, but if I stayed in the classroom and read or listened to the radio nobody protested.

Notice, if you will, that this story doesn't involve the deaths of a family member or pet. I'm not someone who believes but is angry at God. There's no story of comparing religious claims and scientific claims. I don't refuse to worship an asshole god. I'm not confused by which of the religions is right. I'm not rejecting a church because of the behavior of it's leaders or it's members. I'm not rejecting the Bible because of it's long history of politically motivated alterations. I just don't believe. Why should I? There's no reason to believe in Yahweh but not Zeus. The Bible stories aren't any more or less believable than a collection of Egyptian myths.

In short, there's no reason that I SHOULD believe. The burden of proof is on the believers. So far their best argument is "what if you're wrong? You'll go to hell" and that doesn't hold water for more than a moment or three.

This isn't to say I haven't tried believing. There was a super hot Christian that I was not-dating in college. I managed to blindly accept the beliefs for a couple of weeks. But my mind simply couldn't accept the nonsense. THAT was because of a conflict of scientific and religious claims. One claim had to be rejected because one claim required belief and the other claim required only accepting the world we see around us. Finally I decided you can't spell "belief" without "lie".

Still later came the rejection of the church because of the actions and speech of the church leaders. I was never impressed with the televangelists. Mostly they just seemed like crooks. Then hypocritical crooks. Now they're hypocritical crooks preaching hate.

But all that is supplemental to the initial "this is nonsense" that I grew up with.

I also attended a few Mormon open services in college. You can't attend their regular services without being a member, but they do have special events for the curious. Mostly I was curious about the contents of this blonde's sweater. What they covered there was rather lacking compared to what I learned from a Mormon friend in high school just before he went on his mission. When he got back I met him at the airport. I was able to rattle back at him most of what he told me before he left. Turns out there was a lot they're not supposed to tell you the first time out. I still have the copy of the Book of Mormon that he gave me. It's in the religious reference wing of my library.

I do still have a fascination with religion. Most atheists do. Your average atheist knows more about The Bible, the church, and their history than does the average Christian. We just don't understand how you can believe. We say we understand how some people need the church to give you a sense of community or a purpose in life. We say we understand that some people need to believe there is something after life in order to deal with death. Or that some people need a crutch to help them get over an addiction. But, in truth, we don't get it. Odds are that the more research we do the less we get it. Believers haven't gotten there through reason. Very few will get out via reason. Atheists will never get there by thinking about it.


lacochran's evil twin said...

Luckily, you are free to believe anything you want. Isn't that great?

Jason said...

That might as well have been my story growing up. Same church, same experience, except I actually did go through with confirmation and joined the church. Mostly because I felt like I was letting down my parents if I didn't.

Jon Q. Citizen said...

That's about the same story as mine, except I'm Catholic....and I decided to read the whole Bible (and the Catholic Bible has a few extra pages from yours). Afterwards, I ignored or cursed God for about 8 years....then asked him to prove himself or I was through with him. He did, and I've believed wholeheartedly ever since. It doesn't look like you've ever just asked him to prove his existance, or show himself or anything....maybe you should.

Ibid said...

Oh yeah. Asked for specific evidence and gave a time span within which to execute. In the end I've found nothing that can be explained with God that can't be explained without God just as easily.