When I was 7 years old, my 2nd grade teacher was giving a lesson about dinosaurs. Another student asked a seemingly sensible question at the time, why hadn’t the Tyrannosaurus Rex eaten all of the people. The teacher replied that dinosaurs and people didn’t live at the same time. This answer didn’t sit well with me and in a rare case of assertiveness, I muttered defiantly, “Yes, they did.” The teacher’s eyes went wide and her gaze snapped onto me, burning the image into my memory, and stated, “No. They. Did. NOT!”
I can only imagine that my teacher must have thought she had a creationist in her class. But in my young, malleable mind, I was calling forth reference materials such as “The Flintstones” and “Captain Caveman”. While her harsh admonishment may have temporarily put me off from classic schooling, it started something else in me. If I was to be so publicly scolded for my ignorance, I wanted to know why I was wrong. More than that, I wanted to know how to find the real answers.
That philosophy of curiosity stuck with me. When I tried to apply this in my catechism classes however, not only was I not given a good reason for many of the strange traditions and beliefs in the Catholic religion, but people became angry with me for honestly trying to figure them out. Their anger told me they didn’t know either. “Faith,” I was told tersely, was essential to understand, but never once given a reason for that either. I got the distinct impression that discovery was not a valued virtue in religion. So, it ceased to be important to me.
I am an atheist because the things I want to believe are only the ideas that have a satisfactory answer to the question I should have asked my 2nd grade teacher and have since asked repeatedly of those seeking to share the “truth” of their religion with me, “How do you know that to be true?”