"The great end in religious instruction, is not to stamp our minds upon the young, but to stir up their own; not to make them see with our eyes, but to look inquiringly and steadily with their own; not to give them a definite amount of knowledge, but to inspire a fervent love of truth; not to form an outward regularity, but to touch inward springs; not to bind them by ineradicable prejudices to our particular sect of peculiar notions, but to prepare them for the impartial, conscientious judging of whatever subjects may be offered to their decision; not to burden memory, but to quicken and strengthen the power of thought." ~ William Ellery Channing (American Moralist and Clergyman 1780-1842)
It might be notable to begin with the clarification that the people teaching me catechism were not actually teachers - meaning they did not possess a teaching degree. They were mere humans from my congregation who made a commitment to the church to provide religious instruction to a bunch of teenagers who could not care less. I commend them on their bravery in this aspect as I presently work with teenagers and know they aren't the best audience unless some underage troubled kid is singing on a stage complete with a laser show. In looking back, I can now see through my adult eyes that it would have been easy to perceive me as an asshole rather than a curious kid, as my delivery wasn't always the greatest. There were parts of me that got great enjoyment out of asking questions that they did not have tangible answers to; however, there was also a part of me that was longing for someone to provide me with something that I wasn't getting.
As the teachings progressed through the old to new testament, I was unable to fathom how I was expected to take these teachings literally. The idea of believing, in literal fact, that the universe was created in seven days, that Adam and Eve existed and created all man and woman kind, that Mary and Joseph birthed a son - the savior off all mankind - who was the child of God, that there was a great flood that wiped out of the Earth - save for the animals that were gathered two by two and placed on an ark. My favourite questions in catechism class undoubtedly were: "but what about this.....????" and, "but there's no evidence to prove this.....????" Again, in this environment, the standard notation was the same: "it's simply faith.....you just need to believe." Apparently, I wasn't that faithful.
Further confusion emerged as I began to enter into the beginning stages of my critical analysis of the hypocrisy presented in the bible. During my teenage years, these skills were not as fine tuned as they eventually developed to be; however, they were nonetheless developing in catechism class. I did not understand how god, a supreme being of kindness and love, could assert that he loved everyone - except for certain people. I did not understand how the place called hell existed if all sins were forgiven. I did not understand how an all-loving god could leave souls in purgatory for all eternity or why wars, famine, poverty and violence existed despite his watchful gaze. How could something be true when it was contradicted within the very verse it was written in?
As I sat back and observed the other teenagers in my class, it astounded me that few of them seemed to share in my confusion. I'm not sure whether their seeming ambivalence towards the subject was just that...ambivalence, or if they simply accepted these teachings as the word of god in the same way they had once believed in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus. To me, believing in all of this god business was not an option at the time - it was just what you did. However, Santa had in fact turned out to be a legendary, mythical, folkloric symbol.....so, could god not turn out to be the same?
It amuses me that this might be another great example of that concept I mentioned a few entries ago.....foreshadowing, as my views about religion and god (and Santa, for that matter) have evolved to include concepts such as the moralization of civilization and social control. But, at the time, my underdeveloped frontal lobe was not processing on that deep of a level. Combined with the fact that I had recently discovered marijuana, my brain certainly wasn't working at 100%.