Every Wednesday afternoon at primary school we had an hour or two of a class called ‘scripture’. A man or woman of godly persuasion would come into the class (the real teacher would no doubt nick out the back for a smoke) and we’d have the weekday version of what I imagine Sunday School to be like. We’d do Godly worksheets and learn bible things and watch religious films and so on. I had no problems with this. I was raised in a pretty secular household, so it was cool to be learning new shit. But it always seemed like just more stories to me, the kind of made up stories in books and I could think of a bunch of stories I liked heaps more (Choose Your Own Adventure, anyone?)
It was the Dinosaurs that undid me, though.
Now, for a large portion of my childhood I was convinced I was going to be a palaeontologist (well, first I wanted to be a doctor, but then I realised I was far too clumsy to be digging around inside people.) I was dinosaur mad. I was fascinated by the whole notion of fossil-hunting.
As you can imagine, this did not really mesh well with the whole religiosity thing. In year six our Scripture teacher was, what I now assume to be, a creationist. That is, someone who believes that the earth is roughly 6,000 years old and that the fossil record is either mistaken or indeed planted by Satan himself to test a person’s faith.
So all my questions about Dinosaurs and the fossil record didn’t go down so well. I couldn’t help but ask though – I was having such a hard time trying to wrap my inquisitive little eleven-year-old brain around it. If God created the Earth and humans and all that junk in six days, then where did the Dinosaurs fit in? What were fossils? What about this crazy notion that dinosaurs had evolved into birds? And I’d heard about humans evolving from apes, what did God have to say about this?
Yep, my utterance of that word was the sealant. I mean, the incessant questions were somewhat damning but the E-word? Straight to hell!
Or straight to the library. As clearly my questions were incendiary and utterly disruptive, it was suggested that I leave the scripture class and instead make myself more comfortable in the library with a small band of other heathens who did not belong in such a holy sanctum as Wednesday afternoon scripture class. I liked the library much better, they had just got in a great collection of big illustrated picture books by Bob Ballard on exploring shipwrecks which sent me off into my next obsession, Archaeology (The best one was on the Isis, an ancient Roman ship found on the floor of the Mediterranean because Ancient History is super cool and interesting. Plus, Amphorae.)
So that’s the story of how I was thrown out of scripture class for ‘asking too many questions’. It’s not so much the story of how I decided I was an atheist (I made the decision that I didn’t believe in God later, after careful thought and consideration) but more how I discovered that religion was not my bag. Even then, I could see that things weren’t adding up. Any institution that saw curiosity, knowledge and questioning as something negative, I knew was not for me.
Can you pinpoint a specific occurrence that set you on the path to your chosen spirituality (or lack thereof)? Or maybe you got kicked out of religion studies class as well? Let me know in the comments below!