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Tag: religion series

13. Superstition (is/ain’t) the way (do do do do do)

If you met me when I was in college, I might have described myself as a Christian. (Or not. I was all over the place about that.) There were a few things I meant by this. One of them was, "Don’t try to convert me, I’m already as converted as I’m gonna get. Please go away now." One of them was, "Yes, I know you say that your stupid bigoted views about gay people come from the Bible, but I’ve read the Bible too, and I think Jesus would support gay civil rights. Because Jesus was a decent, compassionate, fair-minded…

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12. The death of certainty

So, there I was, fifteen or so years old, and I had decided that the religion I had been raised with was clearly nonsense. It’s a fairly common teenage experience, I suspect. You see things from the other side, you know the adults have been lying to you about what they knew, you get mad about the way adults always seem to be lying about something, and then you slink off and read a lot of Bertrand Russell. (In those days. Nowadays you might reach for Dawkins or Hitchens as well.) But for me it didn’t end there, because I’m…

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11. Turn me on, dead man

At the age of thirteen, I also discovered rock and roll. (Busy year, I know.) I met a girl who was as obsessed with The Lord of the Rings as I was (we watched the Bakshi film over and over. That’s right. The Bakshi film.) She was also really into The Beatles. We met because I liked the music she was playing at this end of the year picnic thing. This was the tail end of the disco years, and mainstream popular music had been pretty horrible for a while. Because of this I had concluded that I just didn’t…

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10. Big-ticket items: homosexuality

Another thing that happened when I was thirteen or fourteen, was that I became briefly worried that I might be gay. This was because I didn’t like any boys. I thought they were all stupid and irritating. I knew there was this thing that was supposed to happen during puberty, with regard to boys, but whatever it was, exactly, it was totally not happening. (What happened eventually was, I met a boy who wasn’t, strictly speaking, less irritating than other boys, but for some reason, when he wasn’t around, I really missed him. And that’s love.) So I worried that…

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9. Big-ticket items: abortion

I was thirteen or fourteen when I learned about abortion at religious summer camp. The camp was connected to Lake Sawyer and followed the same general Chickian doctrine, but in a lot of ways it was like every other summer camp. There were crafts and altar calls and junk food and kids making out in the woods and young-earth creationism and an anti-abortion propaganda film. Adults may not realize this, but teenagers usually know when they are being propaganda-ized, and resist it mightily. In fact, you can get teenagers to do some pretty stupid things just by working too hard…

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8. One last try

Here’s what happened to me during the year I was twelve: I started junior high. The other kids hated me. I hit puberty. We moved to a completely different part of the country. My family stayed with some friends of my parents for a couple of months. I went to another junior high with exceptionally low academic standards. The other kids hated me. I was subjected to another family’s "house rules" and suddenly, instead of being allowed to stay up until 9 or 10 and then read until I fell asleep, I was expected to be lying in bed, lights…

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7. The serpent enters the garden

When I was twelve, we left Orange County, California and moved to King County, Washington. Where we lived was like this: go to Kent, and then start driving east. Go up the hill. Keep driving. Pass Lake Meridian. Keep driving. Pass a bunch of housing developments. Keep driving. Keep driving. Keep driving. Wonder if you’ve gone too far. Keep driving. Keep driving. Keep driving.

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6. The Gospel According to Jack Chick

When you’re raised in the church, one of the things you pick up on is this idea that you are eventually going to be expected to “witness” to people. Some churches are bigger on this than others. I was done with the church by the time I was old enough for it to really be an issue, but as a kid, it worried me. I was worried that, when I was old enough, somebody was going to expect me to do it. And I was pretty sure that I wasn’t going to. And I was worried that would make me…

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5. Fanwanking for Jesus

Between the ages of 10 and 12, I was mentally committed to the church, to being a Christian, but there were still things that troubled me. I was worried about how you could know it was all true. How could I know God really existed? How could I know Jesus was more than just a character in a story I liked? The obvious answer — you can’t — never seemed like a possibility in church culture. The assumption was that we were all there because we just knew. There’s a hymn we would sing, "Blessed Assurance." It was all about…

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4. It is written

When I was in kindergarten, the teacher had us write stories. It was the first time I had ever done such a thing. It was a revelation. A mind-blowing, life-changing moment. Until then, it had never occurred to me that stories had to be written down before they could be read. Once that occurred to me, I was convinced that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a person who wrote down the stories. I wanted to be a writer. Before that, where did I think stories came from? I really have no idea. I probably thought…

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3. The big one

Kids (and kids in church) like to tell stories with weird superstitions and urban legends and dark rumors and wacky conspiracy theories. I remember being highly skeptical of this stuff. It seemed to me that kids were kind of gullible. I didn’t want to be gullible. So if some kid tried to tell me a "true" story that I had already encountered in a book of urban legends or ghost stories, I would call him on it. So I learned this, at a young age: being gullible is easier and more likely to result in social popularity. Calling people on…

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2. Going to hell

When I was a kid, church seemed pretty much like school. Adults made me go. People told me stories and showed me pictures. Sometimes they asked questions about the stories they told me, and if they asked questions it was important to tell them the right answer. Church was different from school, I knew this, but I couldn’t have explained why. I might have even given what sounded like the right answer, "church is where you learn about God and Jesus and stuff," but it’s not because I understood what I was saying, it’s because I knew that was the…

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1. Skipping church

One of the things I never do anymore is skip church. That used to be one of my favorite things to do when I was a kid. I couldn’t do it on my own — it had to be because my parents had decided we were going to skip church. We would skip church as a whole family. It was one of those things that really brought us together. Sometimes we would skip church because we were doing something special, like camping or Disneyland. Sometimes we would skip church for reasons that were never really explained at the time. In…

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