Why Science Kicks Ass, and How I Learned to Hate Jesus.
To pick up where I left off, I never did believe in Jesus again, or any of the other tenets of Christianity, let alone Judaism or Islam (which I only really became aware of at all when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves came out). That ship had sailed, and it was never coming back. I feel towards Christianity the way Christopher Hitchens feels about it, maybe more so. Atheist isn't a sufficiently strong term for my feelings towards the JHVH meme and it's associated works. Misotheism, "hatred of God" is a good technical term, but really all that can express it accurately is apopleptic swearing. That gradually developed after I'd already stopped believing, just by learning more and more about it, both doctrine and history, and becoming immersed in a much more Christian culture than I was originally exposed to. Becoming a pagan later certainly didn't help me much on that front, but that's what this installment is about.
I first started to really hate God in the second half of 5th grade, when I was 10 years old. My parents had moved us from New York down here to Texas, and I was attending Wilkerson Elementary in The Woodlands, where we lived. This had already been a miserable experience, because not only was it so damn hot all the time, but the people were really stupid. I kept hearing all kinds of weird stuff about Rebels and no one seemed to be talking about Star Wars, and everybody thought I played baseball, and there's no way they'd let a 10 year old even on the field at Yankee Stadium, let alone play.*
To add insult to injury, they would never shut up about Jesus, and some of these kids actually seemed to enjoy church! What kind of kid enjoys church? There's monster movies on! In New York, I was forced to go to church, but nobody actually expected me to like it, just to behave, and I didn't have a single friend who thought it was anything more than a chore. These kids were proud to go to church, they acted like Jesus was their best friend, and not only that, they didn't like science.
I loved science. I loved science since before I can remember being aware that it was science. I watched Mr. Wizard's World all the time on Nickelodeon. Mr. Wizard told me about doppler effect, the speed of sound, electricity, and all kinds of cool stuff. I knew why ice didn't overflow the glass when it melted. I could make a big square aluminum can cave in on itself with a bucket of ice water and a flame, but I wasn't allowed to play with the flame to show how. I could make a balloon stick to my head. Science was awesome.
I couldn't understand why these kids didn't like science. Hell, the best part of moving here was that I actually got to go to NASA! This is back in the day, when you could tour Johnson Space Center properly. Space Center Houston is a joke. When I went there as a kid, what the hell did I need rides and games for, I had a giant Saturn V rocket right there! I could try on astronaut helmets! They had science stuff, and it was real. Some of it had actually been in space. It was like going to the Natural History museum in NYC, but better in one respect (and only one, as you'll see below), because as cool as the dinosaur fossils were, this stuff was made by scientists like Mr. Spock! (I was 10, dammit.)
But no, these kids didn't like it. For some reason, they thought they couldn't be friends with Jesus if they liked science. That made no sense to me, but then, I didn't believe in Jesus, either. Some of my friends in New York had had imaginary friends when I was younger, but they grew out of it. I never had one myself, but I assumed that that was what was going on here, except my friends had always had unique imaginary friends that reminded me of how I felt about Johnny, my little brother. I'd never heard of anyone sharing an imaginary friend. The not liking science had something to do with monkeys.
I don't recall ever being sat down in a science class during elementary school, either in New York or Texas, and being taught about evolution. I may have been and just can't remember. But I knew about it anyway, because I had been to the American Museum of Natural History a lot. A whole lot. I haven't been there in over 20 years, but I'm pretty sure I can still find anything in there in under 30 seconds. Between Cub Scout trips and school trips and just going with my family, I'd been there a ridiculous amount of times.
When I moved here from New York, I'd never been to the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or Yankee Stadium (that last one pissed me off, because I was a Yankees fan, and my dad and brother were Mets fans, and I'd been to plenty of Mets games, because they didn't want to let me go to the Bronx). But I knew and loved both the Museum and the Hayden Planetarium, and I never ever wanted to leave. More to the point, even though I'd never been formally taught evolution that I can recall, the museum had the Hall of the Age of Man. I knew Lucy. I knew Peking Man. I knew Austrolopithecus, Homo Erectus, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon, and more importantly, I knew the differences between them, the order they came in, and that WE were modern Cro-Magnons! I can't remember not knowing about evolution, and more importantly, HUMANITY'S evolution, thanks to that museum. I never had to be told that the Flintstones were bullshit, because I knew that humans never lived at the same time as dinosaurs. The dinosaurs were in a totally different part of the museum. Man had to deal with sabertooth tigers, Woolly Mammoths, and all kinds of other stuff, not to mention glaciers and land bridges and all that stuff, but no damn dinosaurs.
These Jesus kids didn't know any of that! OK, not everyone can have the best museum in the world, that's fine. But how can their parents not tell them this stuff? I said to one of them, "Of course we came from monkeys, but different monkeys, like apes and whatnot, not the little ones. How do you not know that?"
Not only did he not know, but he was mad. But nothing prepared me for what came next:
"God created the world in 6 days and humans on the 6th day in the Garden of Eden. We never came from monkeys. Anyone who believes we came from monkeys is going to Hell!"
Wow. I had never heard anyone say anything so monumentally stupid in all my life. I thought he was retarded (I'd never call anyone that now, but that's what I actually thought at 10 years old). So I switched gears, and started talking more slowly.
"You do know that the world is billions of years old, right? Fish, dinosaurs, big giant mammals, us, continental drift, all that, right?"
"Why do you keep lying? There were no dinosaurs! Those were dragons! Billions! The world is 6000 years old!"
This kid really was an idiot. There were some other kids around, and I looked at them, trying to gain some acknowledgment of the phenomenal idiocy of this poor bastard, but I didn't see looks of pity. They were mad at me!
"You're a stupid Yankee, Keith. Jesus made us, not a monkey."
I had to get out of there, so naturally, I headed to the one place they wouldn't be. The library. I had to think.
Someone made these kids stupid. I mean, I could understand if they thought science was boring. I didn't, but I had known kids who didn't like science much back home. But these kids HATED science. I didn't know how that was possible. The only thing they had in common, aside from being bullies, was Jesus**. So I rapidly came to the conclusion that Jesus was more than just a boring story that ate into my reading time at church. Jesus didn't want kids to like science. I liked science. Therefore Jesus was the enemy.
To be continued.
*This is probably obvious, but just in case it's not, region plays a huge part in what gets taught in social studies. I could name dozens of historical Native American tribes in the Northeast and give salient details about their relationship to the settlers, both before and after the American Revolution. I could tell you a great deal about Nathan Hale (I'd done a report on him in 4th grade where I got to dress up and act like him) and a wide variety of figures, British and American, from the French and Indian War and the Revolution, but I didn't know a damn thing about the Civil War, because we just hadn't gotten around to it yet when I moved down here.
**I shouldn't have to mention this, but just in case, I will. Not every kid in this school was an idiotic, Yankee-hating Jesushead. But the ones who gave me shit all had that in common. There were plenty of other kids who I got along with, we played with our GI Joes, Transformers, and Ninja Turtles (mutation and evolution!), read comic books, science fiction, etc, etc. I found other kids who liked science, nerds, like me. But like me, they were in the minority, and like me, they were bullied by the redneck Jesus-bullies, which only fueled my hatred further, because if there's one thing I've always hated more than being bullied, it's when people bully my friends.