Escape From The Woo Zoo: The More You Read, The More Things You Will Know
I spoke in my last Escape from Woo Zoo about a recent event that confirmed my non-faith in the supernatural. But the truth is, my journey into Skepticism started earlier. Much, much earlier.
I guess the specific background to this is, I was raised into the Catholic faith by an Atheist and an Apathetic Cultural Catholic (probably nowadays Atheist) who were poked and prodded and pushed by four very devout grandparents. I was sent to a Catholic primary school, and we attended church with some regularity. My school reports from those early years often read “Lauren has excellent spelling skills and is very receptive to the teachings of Jesus.” In all honesty, I was receptive to any kind of teaching, and inclined to throw myself head-first into anything and everything. So I was very diligent in my religious studies, probably much more so than most of my classmates. Yet, I was filled with a gnawing doubt of the form that much of what I was taught was vague and speculative (not that a young me would have used those words), and I just could not recreate the spiritual experiences of others for myself. Add to the mix that my Dad was the only one who would ever voice any irreligious attitudes, and usually my Mum would tell him to be quiet and let us make up our own minds. An attitude I appreciate today, but it certainly made clawing my way out difficult.
So there I was, a little girl who wasn’t quite sure that what she had been told was true, but the only argument to the contrary seemed to be very dismissive without any explanation as to why. And why was quite important for a little girl with an appetite for the truth.
Then a few things happened. My family transferred to a different city, which naturally meant a new school. My parents did their research into schools, before presenting my sister and I with two choices: Another Catholic school, or a state school. My sister being a few years younger than me (and myself only nine at the time), the decision was up to me. I can’t remember my reasons exactly, but the prospect of going to a state school filled me with excitement, and so it came to be.
So I had removed myself physically from a religious environment, but it would take some time longer to completely undo the indoctrination.
My interest in science was yet to be sparked, but I was a prolific reader. So naturally it came to be that my original dissent from religion came in the form of a book. Two books, actually.
Two books that, although it has been years since I read them (and alas, my local library seems to have found them a new home, so I can’t re-read them any time soon), I can vividly remember several chapters and how well they articulated the things I had been thinking, and allowed me to not feel guilty for thinking them.
Each chapter was a different “Philosophy File”, posing a question and then answering it (or at least, attempting to), in plain language that I, as a pre-teen, could clearly understand. These files covered God, Evolution, Morality, The origin of the universe…and even sillier things like UFOs and much, much more. You can read one of the files on UFOs here, I’d highly recommend it. The one chapter- and I for the life of me cannot remember which “file” it was- that really made an impression on me was a chapter that outlined a logical argument for exactly why faith wasn’t the virtue it was so expounded to be by religion. With that: I was free, I could let myself find “It takes faith” an unacceptable answer to anything.
These books sparked a scepticism in me and ignited a passion for not caring if there weren’t answers to the questions, you still could (and should!) ask them anyway. I became further interested in Philosophy, and consumed other Philosophy books, especially Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder. All of which paved the way for teachers in my High School years to inspire me to head into science, as a way to not only ask those questions, but actively look for answers.
I remember first letting myself think that I was an Atheist after reading those books. It took a lot longer to unashamedly say it out loud, and several experiences since then to reaffirm that position, but I credit those two books as having a huge impact on my current Skepticism, and my enthusiasm to share it with the world.
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