Confederacy of Dunces

(Via Michael Bunn)

I was not raised religious. My family's religious background is Unitarian Universalist, a faith that I truly respect for its inclusiveness and beautiful message of peace, as well as its uniqueness among Judeo-Christian sects in its adherence to the message it espouses. Its focus is not on Jesus or God, but on general respect for life through friendship, love, and charity. I grew up with not a Bible, but a thin guidebook containing messages of morality. God was never mentioned in my house until my younger sister and I heard about him from neighbors and friends. When I inquired about it, my mother told me that 'God is the light in our hearts that shows us how to be good people.' Had my best friend growing up not been a stalwart Christian, I doubt I would have even heard that.

I grew up loving science: exploring the woods behind my house, looking up at the night sky, and knowing the Latin name of every dinosaur. I knew what a quark was before I could write in cursive, and religious explanations for natural phenomena never passed through my mind.

I never really thought of my views as different from the norm until the fourth grade. I was doing group work with two classmates of mine, Delonte and Karla (who was, incidentally, my first crush; I remember being ecstatic when at her 7th birthday party - Power Rangers theme - she went as the yellow ranger - I was the blue ranger, and the blue ranger was always getting the Asian tang on the show, but I digress;) when somehow the origin of the universe came up in discussion. Delonte asked me how I thought the universe was created. I told him that there was no definitive answer, but many scientists thought that there was a "big bang" that had shot out lots of energy which became matter.

Being in fourth grade, I didn't quite know the details of string theory, but if I had, I wouldn't have been able to explain them, because Delonte proceeded to ask Karla.

"God made it!" she said confidently.

"That's right!" Delonte replied. "Damn, Mikey, I thought you were smart..."
I was harassed for the rest of the day by the numerous students who Delonte found who shared his knowledge of the irrefutable truth. Come get the smart kid, he doesn't have the answer this time! We do! Our parents told us the explanation simple enough for a child to fully understand.

I remember coming home and crying to my mother about it. How did I not know about this God. How did I lack the certainty that all the other kids had? And WHY would a loving God send his believers to attack another child for his lack of indoctrination?

But I knew why. I'd always known why but had thought only in uncertain terms. Not anymore. I said it to myself in bed that night: There is no God.

I can only thank my parents for supporting me and not brainwashing me as a child, allowing me to think freely and come to my own conclusions about the world around me.

Thinking back to this story I always recall a quote by Jonathan Swift, a quote that inspired the title of one of my favorite books:

"When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him"

No comments: