Home > religion > The Road to Atheism Pt. 2: The Questioning (Part 2…I guess)

The Road to Atheism Pt. 2: The Questioning (Part 2…I guess)

Let’s just face it, religion doesn’t tolerate a lot of questioning. I don’t care how open the religion is, or how much a person may think their priest, Rabbi, Imam, Abbot, etc. is really cool there is always a certain line that cannot be crossed. There has to be, because if that line can be crossed the whole thing falls apart. For a Muslim, you can’t question whether or not Mohammed is the true Prophet, a Mormon can’t really ask if there were really Golden Tablets, a Buddhist can’t question the divinity of the Bhudda. These are the core essences of each respective faith, you either accept these or you don’t. If you don’t you can’t really be held as a member of that faith.

I mentioned last post, and throughout the history of this blog, that I was raised Catholic. I also attended Catholic school. Part of that education was attending religion classes, that weren’t really religion classes. More accurately they ought to be titled, “Catholicism: History and Doctrine.” I want to be perfectly clear here, I’m not knocking them for this, it’s their school they have every right to teach their lessons along with their beliefs. However, in these classes, there are some odd lessons that didn’t serve to help me in my devotion to the religion.

Catholicism being a branch of Christianity, most people reading this ought to be familiar with. If you aren’t learn something, it’s the largest religion in the world knowing something about it, like knowing some Chinese history, is just important. The basic story, amongst all of the branches of Christendom is the same. You have the first sin, that of disobedience by Adam and Eve in the Garden then thousands of years go by, God who apparently tires of the sin decides to send down Jesus, his son, who is crucified under dubious pretenses to cleanse the world of that sin. Three days later he is alive again and then some time after that (specifics vary) he ascends back to heaven.

That’s the basic, Christians will have to excuse me for being glib, I’m just not going to go through the entire bible for this blog. Believing in that thread thin story will make you a Christian, you can go further than that of course–Mormons tack on some more to the story. However that is the basic of the Christian belief. Catholics believe in that and more. You’ve got to accept the supremacy and infallibility of the Pope, the rule of the Vatican, the Mystery of the Trinity, Transubstantiation, etc. I limited that list to those four things because those were the four that I could never accept even as a kid.

Not to say I was some super genius who could see through the story or anything like that. As I said last post, I was a believer. Sure bread turns to meat, wine to blood, that makes perfect sense. After first Communion I thought I had done something special, people were so happy and proud that I couldn’t help feeling the same. Those feelings overroad the nagging doubt that I had in the back of my brain.

Perhaps my atheism is a result of weakness. I know about ten people who will clap their hands in joy of that speculation…on the other hand I know about ten others who need to pick up their jaws and wipe the coffee off the table and floor as well. Let me explain, I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t overcome the feeling that I was lying to myself about the so-called mysteries. Accepting them whole-heatedly wasn’t something that I could do, but I really wanted to, there was always the block in my brain. The wall that could not be overcome, that of what I knew first versus what I was supposed to believe.

Ironically it was the religion classes that caused this. They had the opposite of their intended effect. To argue from analogy: if you had a friend who always talked about his skill in fixing computers but could never explain how he was able to do it, you would begin to think that perhaps he was lying. Or more accutely, if this friend only explained his fixing of computers by likening it to tightening a bolt you would probably not accept his skill. The same went for me.

One of the first “Mysteries” of the Catholic religion is that of the Trinity. The Trinity, bearing a suspicious resemblence to the Roman Triumverate, is that the Universe is rules by God which has three parts but is really one. There is the Father which is the Old Testament Creater God, the Son as Jesus, and the Spirit which shows up in the Bible from time to time plays an important but minor role. These three are not individuals because they exist as one, but are also not merely parts of a whole. They are the whole and they are one. It’s a divinity thing, all religions have one of these things.

As a kid I just used to think of it as a triangle, which to this day I don’t get why that isn’t the symbol of the church. You have three points and one shape, take away one of the points and its no longer a triangle, and the triangle cannot exist without all of the points. I was always told that this was the wrong interpretation. If I remember correctly, we are going to back several years, it’s because the corners of a triangle cannot exist independently. Now, I would merely toss the law of non-contradiction at one of the teachers explaining that a thing cannot not be and be at the same time, even William of Okham (a monk) believed that god couldn’t violate that law. As a youngster we were just told to accept the mystery and move on.

Getting older, they correctly realized that the, “be quiet and nod your head” explanation wouldn’t float anymore. So in one grade, it had to be later than sixth but earlier than my freshman year in high school, the water metaphor was used. For my part, I never accepted the water metaphor on scientific grounds. Again, not that I was a genius but because it’s a shitty metaphor.

The water metaphor explaining the trinity works like this. Water is one substance, but can exist in three different phases: gas, liquid, and solid. Of course all elements exist in one of these three, water is used because it is the one that we are the most familiar with. No matter which phase water is in it is still water. So it goes with god, whether it is the father, the son, or the spirit it is still god. You can also float an ice cube in liquid water while having evaporate in minute amounts (on a hot day for instance) simultaneously. This is supposed to explain how three different natures of the divine can exist at the same time but be three distinct entities. The trouble for me then was that I it didn’t make a bit of sense.

Skipping two later learned facts: that of the fourth phase of matter being plasma, and how the only atomic difference between a solid, gas, liquid, is the motion of the atoms…it’s a bad metaphor. In order for the metaphor to work, and I recently explained this in class, you would need an identitical amount of water to exist as solid, liquid, and gas at the exact same time. Water is either gas, liquid, or solid but never all three coincidentally. Point this out got me sent into the hallway.

It was the first of a long line of being excused from religion classes for my impertinence. Let me remind the reader once again, that I wasn’t pointing out the hole in the argument to be a smart ass. At that time I legitimately wanted to know. Being sent out for that was the worst thing that could have happened to me as far as religious development could have been. Being sent out into the hall, first off isn’t that much of a punishment in the first place. I could be bored in the hall just as much as I was in class, only now I could stand up pace around a little bit. The point is to shame you if other people walked by, or if the principle did. What didn’t work for them, was that it really gave me time to think.

My thought was that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was being thrown out for asking what I felt was a legitimate question to a member of the clerical orders, a nun in this case. I thought I was helping. It was in the mere disagreement with established authority that I was being punished, at the time I didn’t realize that was the case. It was a mystery to me why I was in trouble. Sitting out in that hallway I suppose that I merely just did my time and waited to be let in pondering over the fact of my punishment.

I get that there are going to be articles of faith in every religion, things that cannot be explained or that have to explained by seemingly arbitrary explanations. Yet they should be left at that. Teaching kids religion, I feel is a bad idea anyway, but if you are going to do so don’t call something a mystery and then try to explain how it works. That just invites the type of questioning that I got in trouble for. Blurring the line between the unexplainable with an attempt at explanation isn’t practical and the smarter of the population will point out that it’s approaching an ontological contradiction (although I doubt those words would be used).

Being sent in the hall for asking questions embittered me. That was certainly not helpful at all.

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