Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How Bible class made me an atheist

Ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Bible class didn't make me an atheist, but it certainly contributed. Here's how.

I attended public school for grades K - 12, but before that I spent a brief year or so of pre-K education at a Catholic parochial school, where daily Bible class was part of the curriculum. In this class we were taught stories from the Bible as historical facts, but in me this backfired and had the opposite effect.

This was achieved via the story of Samson and Delilah. The basic gist is that Samson, an Israelite hero with incredible strength (the source of which is his long hair) falls in love with a Philistine woman, Delilah, who seduces Samson into revealing the secret of his power. After which, Delilah has Samson's hair cut in his sleep, thus robbing him of his power, and then blinds him and puts him to work doing forced labor. Eventually, Samson's hair grows back and his strength returns, and at a festival where Samson is being shown off as a prize captive he snaps his bonds and pulls down the pillars of the temple resulting in the death of himself and 3,000 Philistines.

Despite the presentation of this tale as objective fact, my young mind could not help but immediately recognize Samson for what he was - a superhero. At this time I was an avid reader of comic books, and Samson's super human abilities sounded to me not much different than the powers of Superman, The Incredible Hulk, or Thor the God of Thunder (who perhaps doubly makes the point existing as both a Norse God and Marvel character.) And if these stories were obviously fiction, was not the story of Samson also probably fiction?

This was not enough to drive me to full blown atheism, as I would remain an agnostic/deist for some years yet, but it was enough to make me seriously doubt the historical veracity of the Bible, especially in regards to claims of the supernatural.


John Lombard said...

A comic character -- like Doc Samson himself!

When I was young, I thought perhaps souls were reincarnated, but when I was about 11 or 12 I decided that wasn't likely ir desirable. I called myself an agnostic for a long time but when I was older decided there was no point being cute about it and became an athiest.

Dicky Neely said...

This is my first visit to your blog. I came here through Steven McArthur's Orwell's Grave.
I too began to doubt religion in Sunday school when I heard the creation story was "literal truth."
That didn't settle well with what I had been reading in the brand new set of World Book encyclopedias my parents had given to the kids.
What about dinosaurs and epochs millions of years long?
The Sunday school answers didn't satisfy then and they never have!

Hume's Ghost said...

Hi there,

I've been to Sunday school once in my life. I went with a friend. Within the first five minutes a woman was telling us that evolution and the big bang were nonsense, and that we should stand up for "the truth" whenever someone in school tries to teach those theories to us. She also told a story about how one of her students forced Ga. Tech to teach creationism along side the big bang in her astronomy course - a story I did not buy one bit.

I've held a grudge ever since that day, and I doubt I'll ever forgive the effort to sabotage my mind.