Monday, July 27, 2009

The Junior Atheist Division

Someone asked if I could elaborate on my own conversion story, so I'm going to try to do that. It might take a couple of posts, but we'll give it a go.
I was born into a liberal but quite devout Anglican home; I went to Sunday school, was part of the local parish's "apostles club," read abridged stories for children about St. Paul, and so forth. I liked our pastor because he gave sermons where he used Star Trek to elucidate spiritual points, and I never encountered any of the hatred, gay-bashing, etc. that are supposed to abound in Christian congregations. Church was a place full of wonderful old Jamaican women who cooked incredible jerk chicken, and nice middle-class white folks like my parents.
I was about twelve or thirteen when I started to have doubts about Christianity. I think that if I had taken these doubts to someone qualified they could have been put to rest fairly easily, but my mother was never someone with whom I could have debates, and my father and I tended not to talk about anything more complicated than squirrels and science fiction. At one point I did talk to my dad about God -- or rather, he talked to me. He said that the moment when he knew God existed was when he was out in the mountains in Western Canada. It was, I think, one of the only times when I had a sense of that deeper interior life that lurks beneath my dad's ability to recite Monty Python sketches by heart, and his extensive knowledge of the llama glama. It effected me much more than I ever said, but it was not enough to really put my doubts to silence.
The issue came to a head when my mother wanted me to get confirmed. I was of the proper age, and she assumed that I would go ahead and become a full member of the Anglican church. I reacted quite strongly against this, and we ended up fighting about it for several months.
Unfortunately, the only Christians who I really took my concerns to were my aunt's Gospel Hall congregation. We used to get summoned to their baptisms (adult baptism, full immersion) and the preacher would get up and beat the pulpit and admonish us sinners who were there to support our cousins. "Ye must be born again!" pound "Ye must be born again!" It really wasn't that far removed from the charicatures of fundamentalism that one sees in the media. In any case, I was sitting in one of their Sunday-school type sessions and they were expounding on how God would do anything that we asked of Him, and I expressed my reservations on this score. It seemed to me that they were promising a magician God, and I could see little evidence of this divine conjurer in my own life. The poor Sunday-school woman didn't seem to have ever encountered the junior atheist division before, and the conversation was not particularly enlightening. She quoted scripture, I profered exceedingly simplistic rational arguments, and neither of us went away enlightened.
So I became an atheist. Over the years, as I absorbed more and more of the anti-Christian memes that were circulating through the high-school atmosphere, I went from being a straightforward agnostic to a hardened atheist, totally derisive of the Christian faith, and convinced that if there was a God at all, it was not the God of Christianity.

Tomorrow, we'll continue.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for part 1. I look forward to the rest


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