Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Atheist

I came to atheism young. I was never a believer. My family went to church and I attended Sunday school in the basement of South Church, the Congregational church in downtown Hartford a few blocks south of the Wadsworth Atheneum. We got dressed up, put on uncomfortable shoes, and I listened to the sales pitch, week in and week out.

Coffee hour after was fine -- coffee cake, donuts, juice -- I liked that bit, it was the Sunday school part the bored and confused me. It's all a bit hazy, I might've been in first or second grade but all I can remember clearly is thinking the teacher must be either a fool, a liar, or both, because it was clear these stories were fairy tales, yet this grown-up who must've known better was pretending to believe them and, worse, wanted us to pretend to believe them as well. It bothered me that I couldn't figure out why. I finally landed on hypocrisy instead of mental retardation since these adults were able to function normally and acted in accordance with the behavior I expected of people who knew they lived in a real world -- a world where miracles don't happen and only the mentally ill hear voices nobody else can hear.

There was one thing in that church that made sense to me. Above the exit was a bit of Micah 6:8: "Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with thy God." That's enough, I thought, if they could just leave it at that, and let the "with thy God" part be optional, I'd have no problem being a church-goer. The problem was they read and preached from other parts of the Bible, and despite all the cherry-picking, it was clear to me even as a youngster that it was full of crap: ranging from insufferably boring to outright evil. I read it from cover to cover to be sure. Certainly, the odd passage of surpassing beauty can be found, but those were few and far between. The idea that a book that lousy could be divinely inspired was obviously, even to this grade-schooler, ludicrous. Far more reasonable to believe it was the writing of primitive men who didn't know much about anything, and couldn't even keep their story straight.

South Congregational Church Hartford
That's it, it's not very exciting. I was shown a bunch silliness and rejected it as such. To this day it confuses and saddens me why people can't come together to enjoy fellowship, resolve to help one another, and seek to improve society and themselves without centering the whole activity around a load of nonsense -- making it impossible for reasonable people to bear. We could accomplish so much with that time and energy ...

(South Church is a stately old building and I recommend taking peek inside if you're ever in Hartford. Then head south on Main, bear right on Maple, go left at the fork onto Franklin Ave, and keep driving south until you find Mozzicato's. Get yourself an espresso and some cookies. Now you're enjoying some of the best of Hartford.)
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