~ There was a brief chapter in my childhood that my parents decided to bring us to church on Sundays. At the time they had not seemed any more devout then their normal religious practice. They had their own brand of Christianity that focused around heady conversations and put less emphasis on the texts. Looking back I have always considered the sudden need to wake up early in the cold weekend morning and dress up in our finest clothes as an effort of my mother’s to bring community and/or some sense of normality to our family. It was a nice thought no matter how futile.
I only listened to part of the sermon, which was good because I was only 8 or 9 and it was hard sit in the uncomfortable pew. All the while I sat there I knew that at some point after communion there would be a break and my younger sisters and I would be taken to Sunday school while my parents and older sisters continued to study their bibles. At Sunday school we heard stories, played games involving the stories and made art projects. I particularly remember making sheep out of cotton balls, pipe cleaners and the cardboard tubes found at the center of toilet paper rolls. But outside of these few pleasures this little school in a room, in a basement, in a church did little more than reinforce stories that were vaguely familiar to my memory.
We must have been going to the church for a decent amount of time, because eventually my older sisters got their own Bibles from the First Congregational Church. While watching my sisters proudly honored I remember thinking at the ceremony that I should read this book. A book that my parents had discussed for so long and my older sisters were now being recognized for reading. Perhaps this was why our parents had brought us to church, not for their sake, but for ours. Maybe the whole thing was for us to get us our own Bibles, find God and stop our constant fighting.
We weren’t attending the First Congregational long enough for me to take the Bible study course like my older sisters and be inaugurated, or whatever it is that prompts the church to give a young boy a Bible. This was probably for the best. I was a slow reader and would not have liked to be under the scrutiny of a class room setting stuttering over my words. Instead I read the book on my own, at my own speed, over the course of years. And though I read the book and found value in the teachings it was already too late for me.
I didn’t just read the Bible, I evaluated it. No matter how many Sundays I dressed to impress God and the rest of the congregation, no matter how many sermons I sat uncomfortably listening to, no matter how many toilet-paper-tube sheep I made on this one day of the week; I spent another five days of the week in another kind of uncomfortable chair listening to my school teacher preach the ABCs and 123s of elementary education. Most importantly, before I had ever found myself at the First Congregational Church I had already been indoctrinated into another religion. I had learned to ask questions, observe the data and form hypotheses. I was a scientist, and I am willing to bet you are too.
I had already become hooked by such notions as the scientific process and empirical logic and I used them. I used them to discern the nature of the universe and to me, the Bible was another data set taken from the days when data was less accurate. Yet for all of its lack of accuracy I couldn’t dismiss this ancient text. It was one of oldest and most relied upon data sets, but I did not read it as the one true teaching of God.
There was no evidence supporting such a notion. It was not that I didn’t believe in God. God seemed to fit in just fine with my scientific world view. From observation I hypothesized God to be all powerful, all knowing, all pervasive, everything. In short, God is the sum total of all data sets.
I couldn’t deny what truth the Bible did contain, but I recognized that it’s writer’s, like myself were limited to five senses and the morality of life. With such limitations I further hypothesized that no human endeavor could truly capture the data set we call God, and any personified characterization of God was evidence of a limited perception of the divine.
So let me say again, I am a scientist. No amount of Bible study was going to undo the foundation public school had set in my mind. The values of observing and asking questions were my primary tenants and though I still call myself a Christian I know my religion is Science.
And if science is a religion, what sect of science am I?