A tale of two books (one religion, one science)

sent in by Deb

A thick Southern Baptist reference book and Bible study guide published in 1914 and belonging to an elderly relative had an honored place in our living room bookshelf when I was a child. It had the most fascinating drawings of floating cities, Jesus cruising around in the sky, men and angels wrestling, devils playing chess with humans (and their souls were the prize if they lost), and Armageddon. This was one of my mother's books, which I still have today. At the age of 9 I would entertain myself looking at the drawings and marvel at them. Did grown men and women really believe such fantastic things as floating cities and devils? I certainly had a very hard time doing so. My father explained that it was nonsense and not to worry about it.

The other thick book that was so important to me was Dad's "The Fossil Book" by Mildred Adams Fenton and Carroll Lane Fenton. It, too, had fascinating line drawings. But these were drawings of animals and plants of the ancient past. I learned the long and difficult names, and tried to understand the geologic periods in which the little beasts and plants lived.

I talked about this book with my mother one day and I will never forget what she said. She told me that there were never such things and that the scientists made them up. When I asked her why the scientists would do that, she said something to the effect that there was no reference to these creatures and plants in the Bible, thus they never existed. Her pastor said so.

I knew deep in my heart that something was not right here. Why would scientists make such things up, and how? I liked science in school, and had a positive attitude about it. I strongly suspected that the things that were made up were in fact those fanciful characters and events in the 1914 book! I don't know why that incident shaped my entire approach to religion afterwards. Perhaps it was because I suspected that many pastors were lying to their congregations. I had been to church for several years when a very young child, but my mother stopped going at about the time I turned 8. She and my father had frequent conflicts about church and she could not get him to go. I was not too sad about not attending church regularly. I had often vowed privately that I would invent my own religion when I grew up and it was not going to resemble what the church taught, since it seemed so weird.

When I went to public high school, my 9th grade English class had us reading the Bible as literature. This unit came right after the unit on Greek and Roman mythology. We read the first ten books of the Bible. The teacher took a very reverent approach and acted as if every word was true (how dare she not?) but the lesson I came away with was that those rather preposterous events we were reading in Genesis especially were just as mythic as the Greek myths. The teacher was not amused with my product for a short story we were assigned where we took on the point of view of an animal that rode along on the Ark. I chose a polar bear and tried to show how utterly absurd it would be for a polar bear and mate to somehow get on their own from Greenland to the Middle East to board an ark!

All in all, I am very grateful to both my parents for many things, among them not making me go to church past the age of 8.

Virginia USA
Never really became a Christian, just went to church
I never really was a Christian but tried to hide that fact to fit in with school friends and please some family members
Deist, Buddhist
I never really converted to Christianity, so I did not technically deconvert

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