My path, forged by and away from my past.

Posted on December 17, 2012


Despite the union background I grew up in a mostly conservative setting.  I attended school in the largest city in northeastern Michigan but I certainly grew up rural.  I did everything I could to get away, as soon as I could, but that’s not what I want to talk about.  Although moving away did allow me shed, quickly the bits of racism and homophobia that were clinging to me like old cobwebs.

During my childhood I experienced many of the things that I have come to associate with a conservative upbringing.  A subtle racism based on distaste for a class but a love of individuals.  Homophobia.  Trust that god provides.  Creationism.  Deep involvement with the church.  I even entertained the notion of joining the clergy.  That didn’t last long.  We were Catholic and there were and are to many things I disagree with Rome about.

Religion is easy when you are a child.  A young child anyway.  The quote from the bible about the faith of a child is there for a reason.  Children are curious but frequently their curiosity ends with what their parents say.  Accept this because I say it is so.  That is a task easy for a child, and it was easy enough for me until I was a teenager.

Reality begins to intrude.  Maintaining religiosity in school was easy enough.  Most of our teachers only brushed, briefly, against evolution.  Also I started focusing on physics, evolution wasn’t a thing.  I never questioned the age of the universe or the planet.  I was an intelligent design guy.  It made it easy to reconcile faith and science.  Yes the universe is this old but someone is watching and tweaking, right?

It’s easier to reconcile intelligent design and science than the existence of evil and the conceit of a loving god.  Intelligent design only requires a few blind spots.  Social injustice, suffering of the innocent, and the ease with which evil men rise to power is much harder to reconcile with a supposed loving deity.  It is much easier to look out at an uncaring universe and see why evil exists than to look for a loving god and see that it is all some punishment for the bad of some mythical fore bearers.

All this weight of evidence begins to pile up.  The first step is away from what is established as the teachings of the church.  It’s easy to say I’m not a member of the church but I am a christian.  That step, for me, was crucial one.  With out the structure and restrictions of tribal membership it was much easier to question other things.  When the only answer that can be presented is it’s god’s will the argument doesn’t hold up well without a large group reinforcing it.

The path rose to agnosticism quickly.  Once a person starts using evidence to filter reality saying with certainty that god exists is impossible.  Admitting to the possibility allowed me to cling to some ragged remnants of my childhood faith.

Child-like faith is difficult to surrender.  Ignorance is a warm, comforting blanket.  Frequently reality is hard, cold and jagged.  Honest reflection eventually means giving up the hedge of something like god could exist.  It can’t.  The very nature of our universe doesn’t allow it.

That said, I still go to church.  My wife still believes and I would not rob her of that.  Going to church keeps the peace.  Our children attend Sunday school.  But I don’t offer them religious answers to scientific questions.  And when the day comes that they ask what I believe I won’t lie.  We have copies of Origin of the Species, Homer’s works, as well as those of Shakespeare on the shelf.  The bibles are in a pile in the basement.

Reality can be cold, and hard.  But there is beauty and comfort enough in this universe, in this life, without having to take solace in the imaginary.

That is all.




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