Religion is a strange phenomenon. It can help people get their life back on track, completely mess up the life of others, it’s a great excuse to go to war and raise some taxes to support one or more imaginary friends – or foes if you don’t do as they say. Yesterday it struck me as strange that I had not turned into a fanatic Christian myself. Norway has an official Protestant State Church based on the Evangelical-Lutheran religion and there is no separation of state and church. This in itself would probably not mean that everyone will turn into fanatics, but it’s a good start since everyone’s raised in a Christian community.
When I was born back in the seventies1, most babies were baptised. This has since changed, and it’s not uncommon to just skip it. When I was a kid, my parents sent me to both Sunday School held by the local church, and something called the Tuesday Club at my local school. I can’t really remember that it had a very prominent Christian theme, but I suspect it did. In both elementary and lower secondary school, Christianity was the only religion they though us. This has also changed over the years, and it’s now optional – pupils, or rather their parents, can choose to have their kids take lessons that teach a little bit of every religion instead of the Christianity-only lessons of my childhood.
Our elementary school teacher was a very devoted Christian. Every day was prayer and a little bit of reading from the bible. I can’t remember us singing that many tradition children’s songs, it was mostly children’s hyms. Every Christmas she would read to us about the birth of Jesus and cry of happiness. Every Easter should would read to us about the death of Jesus and cry of sadness. I think we were in the third grade when she did this for the first time, and for ten year old kids it was both scary and embarrassing. Of all the people in my elementary school class, only one later turned out to be a devoted Christian. I suspect it would have been more without all the scary (for us kids) emotions we now related to the Bible. Who would want to read from a book that made you cry?
Another thing that stopped us from judging people who are not Christians was probably science. At the same time they told us that God created Heaven and Earth and everything in six days, put Adam and Eve in the garden and told them not to eat anything from The Tree, we also learned about Darwin’s Theory Of Evolution. All this made everything very confusing, which one of these conflicting theories was the right one?
We knew that a lot of other things could be explained by science. Math, physics, biology, you name it. They were all right there in front of you, you could see how it worked on a day-to-day basis. The problem with the “God made this”-theory was that the only proof we had was our crying elementary school teacher and her book. To quote the late, great George Carlin: “They made questioners out of us” – I’m pretty sure science is the main reason why I didn’t turn into a Fanatic Christian.
Thank you, science.