It was during a fourth grade catechism class that my religious scepticism was born. The particular question that was the sperm, dealt with how we would be in heaven. The answer on the page was basically that we would sing God’s praises forever and ever. I asked Sister Mary Carmina, of the Sisters of Charity, B.V.M., our teacher, “Why did God think I would want to do that, forever and ever; I had trouble waiting for recess? She took me off the potential altar boy list and called my parents. I auditioned for the choir and was accepted.
About this time, I discovered Greek and Egyptian mythology; My main source of information about them came out of the copy of the Encyclopedia Brittanica, a copy of which was kept at the local sub-branch of the Chicago Library. I don’t remember the why and how of my interest, but I know that these first ventures fired up a still present interest in the stories, meanings and rituals of religions around the world. I am more an interested bystander than a scholar, by academic standards; I have no problem with that description. In the meantime, I continued to be formally instructed in Catholicism through the eigth grade. By instructed, I mean memorizing perscribed answers to the catechism’s questions. I got excellent grades. I had a good memory.
Once away from Catholicism by recitation, I began to read authors outside the school reading list. For example, I read a translation of Augustine’s City of God. I became interested in Thomas Merton. His Seven Storey Mountain impressed my teenage soul, and I have always followed his continuing exploration of life and spirituality with great interest. St. Augustine, on the other hand, was a bit of a stick. He’d had his fun, but didn’t want you to have yours.
The history of the Church fascinates me greatly. Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, were absolutely brilliant in the way the co-opted other traditions and persons, and theology and claimed NOT to have so done.
I don’t believe in God, though I still have a nostolgic attachment to the idea of prime cause. I label myself as an agnostic only because the term atheism has the same all-knowing surety about it as any Christian pronouncement. While I believe “God” improbable, I really don’t know.