Even as a small child, I had skeptical tendencies. As a toddler, I had to personally determine whether “hot” meant the same thing for fire, water, the furnace, the stove, candles, and the liquid potpourri. (I like to think that this is a sign of my natural curiosity, rather than stupidity, because I am a social scientist, so now I have a job that eerily parallels this experience, as experiments have to be replicated over and over before an effect can be deemed valid.)
I spent my childhood in a state of apathetic agnosticism once I was old enough to ask existential questions. I went to church every Sunday, but I had my doubts, mostly because some of the kids that spent the most time there and whose parents were the most “devout” were the least Christian, in the sense that Christian means kind or humble or charitable or at least unlikely to make fun of you and pull your hair.
I was a thoughtful kid who grew up to be a skeptical adult, and I couldn’t help noticing that my prayers for people to be less poor or to not die went unanswered. “Mysterious ways” didn’t seem like a good justification for arbitrary punishments to be meted out to good people, at the same times hypocritical and plain selfish behavior went presumably unnoticed.
What kind of God, thought my seven-year-old self, could be so capricious and cruel? If there was a God, thought my ten-year-old self, where is he and what exactly is he doing? If coincidences and self-delusions are so likely, thought my twenty-something-self, why should I believe in the supernatural at all?
In next week’s post, Brittany will discuss being a respectful family member.