God/dess/less Part One
I am an agnostic. For those unfamiliar with that term, it means that I think "god" is unknowable, and therefore, not important. I'm not saying that a supreme being CANNOT exist, just that I feel it unlikely. I'm also unwilling to say that the scientific method will tell us everything (even though it does tell us a lot). I believe in the general goodness of mankind: we have evolved over time, and we will continue to evolve if we stay vigilant. People will do the right thing if given a real opportunity to do so. There's more to it, but that's the nitty-gritty of it.
Along the same vein, I do not believe in the Christian god: all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good. It is logically impossible to be all three in this world.
If you had known me when I was a child, you would be shocked that I am not a Christian. I was raised the first child of a middle-class, Christian Conservative family in the heart of North Dakota. I used to be a whole-hearted Christian: my allowance went to Africa every week; I would walk to church the days my mom couldn't drive me, in my white tights and pretty shoes, crunching over the white snow because I wanted to feel loved. The music would fill me; I sang my little heart out.
I knew I didn't have much to offer the church; I was small and didn't have a lot of money. But I tried my best: I made sure to learn my Sunday school lessons perfectly (to my Sunday school teacher's consternation: I asked too many questions and talked too much). I handed out drinks and cookies, serving myself last because that's what god wanted me to do, right? Every week, I would draw a picture for Jesus, which I put into the offering plate, until one of the adults in church (cruelly and publicly) informed me that the plate didn't go to god, it went to the church. And the church didn't need bad drawings.
There were a lot of things that gradually lead me away from the faith. First, there was how horrible people at church treated each other. My mom would come away from church snappish and unhappy. People told me things at church, like "Balloons don't belong at church" and "girls MUST wear skirts" and "Eve is responsible for original sin, so all little girls must be extra good to make up for it". These people were not anything like my friend Jesus.
The next few things were a result of that evil public education. Even though all of my teachers were Christian, and most actually went to my church, they still were teaching us critical thinking. I remember quite vividly my first grade teacher, Mrs. Gilge going "You should not just blindly follow the crowd. Think for yourself, don't be a mindless sheep." Then, that very Sunday, the pastor was telling us how Jesus was our Sheppard, and we should be willing sheep.
Then, we learned about our namesakes. This was partly my parents fault, and partly my school's fault, but mostly my "fault". My sisters, and most of my classmates, got good Christian names. I got "Cassandra": a Trojan princess who was also a priestess of Athena. When we learned about our names in school, I started to be fascinated with Greek mythology. I learned how different myths were translated differently. I learned about mythical evolution and how it corresponded to which tribes won which battles.
One day, I was reading about Perseus. Mainly, how he was the result of a god impregnating the virgin mother, Danae. "Hehe" thought I, in my 10 year-old self- righteousness. "Who would believe such silly stuff? A child being born of a virgin because "god" did it....wait..." I experienced a heavy moment of cognitive dissonance.
By the time I was hitting my teen years, I was having a full-blown crisis of faith. I couldn't talk to this to my parents: my mom by this time was a full-of-zeal born-again, and my dad was a don't-question Easter/Christmas Christian. I went to the pastor.
The pastor, Pastor Arlen, will forever have my respect. I was a confused, smart-aleck teen looking to someone to justify the universe. The pastor did this in the weirdest way possible: every two weeks, we would play chess. The loser had to pay the winner a dozen cookies. During these matches, he tried to explain his wisdom to me.
He tried his best with me, and I think he's one of two pastors I've ever had, (and I've had a lot) that ever gave a damn. And what ended up happening? He got fired from the church.