Next up: Specifics about my upbringing. Now, my parents rock. They were good to me and my brother, they taught us right from wrong, and they kept a roof over our heads and three square meals in us every day. They drilled it into our heads to brush our teeth after every meal, wear our seatbelts every time we rode in a car, and not to litter. When I was very young, I threw a cup out the car window. When my mom realized I had done it, she turned around and drove slowly until we found that cup, so that I would learn not to litter. (I did.) We learned about the golden rule, sharing, being nice to other people, and working with others to make things better.
I say all that to make sure nobody misunderstands me. My parents did everything they could to prepare me and my brother for a productive and decent life. I think some people might disbelieve that based on how they chose to raise us in terms of religion. But that’s wrong. Period. Anyone who suggests in the comments that they didn’t raise me right is going to be met with a frosty stare.
Anyway, Mom didn’t emphasize religion, and rarely talked about it, in fact. She explained, when it came up, what church was and why people went. She also taught us in no uncertain terms to respect the people and the doings that went on in church. I said in an earlier post that I worried a great deal about whether to take communion when I went to church, and that worry comes right from mom’s insistence that church and its participants were to be respected.
Mostly, mom liked church (when she was growing up) mostly for its social aspects. Mom’s a people person, as am I, and for her the appeal was seeing everyone and the friendly feeling of assembling regularly. She rarely talked about God, and when she did, it was usually oblique – say, when she would say that she hoped Hitler was in hell. (Can’t argue with that.)
Dad, as an engineer and a logical and rational fella, is and always was a big fan of science and logic. He never talked about the specifics of religion, but to the extent that it contains illogical precepts, I’m sure they would offend him. Instead, he talked about the way religion has been known to arrest the progress of science and rationality. (The story of Galileo’s arrest for daring to say that the earth revolves around the sun was one of his favorite points in this regard.)
I think its history of its injustices (he mostly talked about Christian injustices, like the Inquisition, although I’m sure he would be equally irritated with injustices inspired by Islam or Judaism) offended him as much as its occasional illogic.
For both reasons, Dad had a great deal of contempt for religion. What he believes about God, I couldn’t tell you, because he didn’t mention God in any of these discussions of religion. He believed in the vastness of the universe and the mysteries of time and space, and he found them endlessly fascinating. But he wasn’t about to indulge too much anything that he couldn’t see, or that someone somewhere couldn’t see. He had never seen Pluto, for example, but he understood and had used telescopes, and he believed that people who had no reason to lie had seen Pluto in them.
A few years ago, he called me. That in itself is kind of wild, because Dad’s not a big talker and he doesn’t always get on the phone when Mom and I talk. But he was very excited to tell me that he had finally found something he could worship. (This is the same man who, when I went to church one day while I was still living at home, told me to make sure they didn’t charge a cover.) Of course, I asked what it was.
“Gravity!” he said, and then laughed.
You get the idea. Despite educating me in all the ways that I think a child needs to be educated, including without a doubt elements of the Judeo-Christian ethic, neither Mom nor Dad tried to indoctrinate me with any religious tradition. They gave me a respect for those who subscribed to it, an appreciation for the ways that people coming together in church is a good thing, and a healthy skepticism for some of its more illogical precepts and its history of (occasionally) inspiring injustice.