Monday, June 21, 2010

From Sunday School Teacher to Atheist

I dropped in yesterday on a gentleman who had been one of the pillars of the parish in which I grew up.  He was a lector at both Sunday and daily mass and he served on various committees.  His son and I have been friends since kindergarten, but I got to know him better in high school when I was in his religious education class.  In those days, I didn't know what I believed, but I enjoyed the discussions and I came to respect him very much.

After we chatted for awhile about his children and grandchildren, and his wife who had passed away last year after sixty-one years of marriage, I asked him whether he was still active in the church.  With just the slightest hesitation, he confessed that he could no longer bring himself to recite the creed at mass because he no longer believed that any of those things were so.  He did not say exactly how long he had felt that way but he said it was something he and his wife had come come to together.

He said it had started with the sexual abuse scandals in the church.  He did not see how those priests could truly believe the things that the church taught and do the things they did without taking their own lives.  He told me that he had listened to Bart Ehrman's course from the Teaching Company,
From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity, and he had read The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.  After that, he could no longer believe the stories he had been told all his life.

I cannot help but admire the intellectual integrity it took to reexamine the beliefs he had held for the better part of eighty years and to abandon them when he found them wanting.

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