When I was I child growing up in Virginia, Minnesota, we had a raspberry patch in our back yard. It was an interesting place to spend my time, because it produced delicious fruit and harbored some of the coolest, most colorful spiders I had ever seen.
I was a little hellion since I can remember. I had a huge problem with any authority. This led to my being frequently grounded. Since the raspberry patch was in our yard, it’s no surprise that some of my early memories take place there.
Amidst the fruit and the sunshine, I contemplated a lot of things that a lot of kids don’t think about at that age. I was less interested in fashion trends and social popularity than I was in the the deepest questions that humankind has ever pondered. Some of these questions were:
Why am I here?
Am I here?
Where did I come from?
Who made this place?
What does it mean to be conscious?
It’s Sunday morning and my dad gently wakes me up. He’s prepared oatmeal with brown sugar and apples cooked in. I smile and am relieved that the nightmares are over for a period. Nightmares plagued me as a young boy.
Toward the end of my bowl of oatmeal, it hits me with great excitement: I’ve just gotten the magic wand out of level six. That would give me a much better chance of finally reaching the end of the labyrinth. The Legend of Zelda for the NES was the game, and I was obsessed. My parents would let me play for an hour each day, and then came the inevitable command from one of them:
“Die your guy.”
Oh how I hated that phrase. Perhaps it was more diplomatic than “kill your guy,” but in either case, I hated the phrase. In The Legend of Zelda, you can’t save your game until your character dies. An hour’s worth of laboring, crushed by a command to bugger off and kill yourself. Since I had the blue ring, it took me twice as long to die. Each day, the death of Link was a slow and painful one.
Dad reminds me that it’s Sunday morning and directs me to dress up nicely so that we can go to church. Every since that very young age, I have made a connection between clothes that looked nice and clothes that were uncomfortable. My parents had keenly tracked down the most uncomfortable clothes available in any store. They said they looked nice. I didn’t give a shit how they looked. They chafed my legs and made me feel like I was choking.
Some kids went off to Sunday School when they got to church. My dad always preferred that I stay with him for the adult service. The content of the sermon frequently eluded me. They used a lot of Old English, and I would always find myself retreated back into my own mind for two hours. I might have slept if the pews had been made by a more compassionate carpenter.
“To thee that makes pews, from He take a cue.”
Throughout my experiences at church, I always kept in mind what I thought was a fair possibility: that the pastor and all the others in the congregation were deluded. I never saw Jesus or God, and I was skeptical that they existed. My dad is a smart guy, so I asked him questions about obvious inconsistencies that I found on a regular basis. Inevitably, the reason for believing in and following such an illogical and inconsistent doctrine boiled back down to one thing: faith. As it happened, I was quite lacking in the faith department. If I couldn’t verify something, I was usually skeptical about it.
Eventually, the onslaught of questions I asked my dad forced him to recognize that there were a lot of logical inconsistencies in believing in the Christian God. He began to question his own beliefs.
I don’t think my story is uncommon, but the reason I’m writing this article is because I believe that it is dangerous and destructive to teach children to accept things on faith and without any evidence at all. To do so is to plant a seed that will grow into a destructive delusion.
I’d like to illustrate the long term destructive power of having older and supposedly wiser people telling you that there’s a magic man in the sky. On a particularly bad day in 2008, I started screaming at the sky as if there were someone there. At this point I was 22 years old and had been agnostic for 15 years. I believe this is indicative of a very serious mental problem that was introduced by my mentors before the age of seven. The damage introduced to the human mind by the dogma that is necessarily inherent in religion is not helpful nor is it even innocent. It is a dangerous, destructive force that is working against the advancement of the human race.
I’m currently enrolled at Saint Cloud State University in Minnesota for physics. If I believed I could solve questions that were difficult to answer with faith, it would leave me in quite a predicament when I was doing my math homework. If, instead of showing my work on a long system of equations, I based all of my answers on faith, my math professor would tell me that my method was unsatisfactory. If I continued to solve problems in this fashion after being warned, I would likely be dismissed from the class until I was ready to take it seriously.
I expect people to think about things and deduce them logically. I don’t expect people to agree with me by any means, or to come to the same conclusions. But if you haven’t thought about why you believe what you believe, you may want to consider doing so. It has been a worthwhile endeavor for me. In order to progress independently and as a society of human beings, we must be critical and cognizant. Our survival depends on it.