Most people seem surprised when I tell them I became an atheist as early as 13. I’m more surprised that anyone could continue to believe into that stuff well after the age where they start thinking for themselves, but I’m an arrogant prick, so whatever.
The truth is I always kinda knew I was an atheist. All my time in Catholic school I went along with it because adults told me it was true, and you go to school to learn things, right?
Man, what a joke that makes religion class.
But I think the reason that I was so willing to stray away from what I was told and go along with what I actually believed is because I had two parents who never told me what was right or wrong.
As children we’re always jumping to rudimentary conclusions about how the world may work. We then enthusiastically share our findings with our parents just so we can reaffirm how “smart” we are.
The parents will either then tell their children that they are right or wrong based on their own system of beliefs, either boosting the child’s own ego by telling how they’ve come to the “righteous” conclusion, or shutting them down because they somehow got it wrong. Because as we all know, having kids instantly makes you an expert on the universe.
With this system of a definitive black and white system of looking at the world the child grows believing that the way there are only two way of seeing things, and obviously they cannot trust themselves to draw conclusions about things, they must rely on what they’ve been told.
Ah, religion, thank you for giving the brainless an encyclopedia of yes and no answers for when life gets too “hard.”
My father is a lawyer with a philosophy degree, and if he ever once heard something I said and wholeheartedly agreed or rejected it I would worry that he just suffered a stroke.
Growing up, I was never allowed to think anything without it being questioned. Sometimes it was a challenge of what I believed with a scenario that forced me to think on it differently. Sometimes it was as simple as a “why?” Was there ever a follow up? No. Even if I came back with a response that aligned with his counter scenario he would ask another question that favored the conclusion I had drawn before he asked his question. My dad didn’t tell me right from wrong, he forced me to figure it for myself and always be aware of the counterpoints.
You know that game Scruples where you’re posed a morally ambiguous question like “is it okay to steal bread to feed your starving family?” and everyone comes up with the answer, and then the game tells you what the “right” answer is?
Fuck that game, man.
My mother took more of the stay quiet approach. I recall one instance when I was young and just learning about homosexuality, which of course in my little southern redneck town was hot button issue. I remember saying, as I was still forming my view on the world, that if god made homosexuals that way then it was okay, but if they chose to be that way it was wrong.
By my current standards, I consider that to be an extremely ignorant and moronic statement, and knowing my mom as I know her today, I’m certain she felt the same, but she didn’t contradict me. I don’t think she said anything more than “that’s an interesting thought.”
Damn, what a beautiful way to handle it. It didn’t shoot down by self-esteem by rejecting to be what I considered, at the time, an enlightened statement, nor did it give me an undeserved boost of confidence behind it by reassuring me that I was right. It was just enough of a response for me to believe that I was capable of thinking things on my own, despite what church told me, and still challenge me to continue my own train of thought.
Neither of my parents believe in a traditional religious system. They both have very unique ideas on spirituality and mankind’s place in the universe. Why did they put me in Catholic school? Well A) they thought it would be a better education than public school (we all have a good laugh about that now) and B) They felt like I needed some spiritual side, but weren’t quite sure how to give it to me. If you believe in some sort of supernaturalism, but not the one everyone else does how do you teach that to a child? They did the best they could.
I’m sorry to say that the combination of thinking for myself and Catholic school made me embittered to spirituality. I’m not a supernaturalist, and I can’t jump on that train of thought.
I recently moved to Utah…. Not just Utah though, the super, super Mormon part of Utah, and that is why I haven’t written here in a while. Mormonism is a subject I could speak on ad-nausea, and I know if I continue writing here I won’t be able to help myself. That would be really bad because I’d like to live here without burning all my bridges.
Case in point, I’m about to talk about it now because this is something that drives me crazy.
Mormonism is full of authoritative figures that tell you what right and wrong is. It is a common practice at their services for people to give testimonials and use the mantra “I know this to be true.”
There is no room for dissidence or new trains of thought in this religion. You follow one way or you get excommunicated.
I’ve made a very good friend here who’s an ex Mormon that told me about a particular talk given by a Mormon where he discusses debates within the community. For those unaware, the Mormons have a modern prophet which is sort of the equivalent of a Catholic pope. In this talk the man says:
“Once the prophet has spoken, the thinking on the matter is over.”
What a fucking reprehensible idea to put into people’s heads.
As I’ve said before, there’s nothing quite as dangerous as a room full of people who do nothing but spend the whole day agreeing with each other. Hey, what better way to do that then telling everyone to stop thinking once the “authority” figure tells you to think his way or no way?
Now just in case you don’t believe anyone could say something so ludicrous, I have found that talk and linked it for you. To be fair, my friend and I have slightly paraphrased the quote as it is actually “The debate is over” but I’m sure if you take the time to read it you’ll agree that the sentiment is the same.
If you want to have some philosophically self-assured children never answer their morally ambiguous questions. They may find it frustrating (because it is very infuriating when you’re a child), but, damnit, if it doesn’t force them to think for themselves.