There was exactly one time I went to a “serious” church. My parents took the family to the local Unitarian church every once in a while, but only because taught more lessons about tolerance than it did about Jesus. But my parents are also classical musicians. They have a hectic work schedule, and when I was five, they left us with the nanny on a Sunday morning.
My nanny, of course, was a religious conservative. She was one of the nicest people I’ve known to this day, but when push came to shove, she took us to *her* church.
After I was separated from my siblings (by age group), I remember being placed in a room with a gigantic bucket of candy inside. Naturally us kids went nuts, so the main instructor addressed it immediately. “Okay kids, here’s the deal. You can have one of whatever candy you want in here, but DON’T TAKE THE CRUNCH BARS. I need them for a project later.” Then he left to, quote, “take care of something”.
Right away I noticed this didn’t make sense. What does a grown adult man do with twenty fun size Crunch bars? Build a sculpture? So it made sense when his assistant, a young woman, asked a little girl: “Hey, do you want a Crunch bar?” Of course she did. They’re the best. “You can go ahead and take it. It’s not such a big deal. There are a lot of them in there, he probably won’t even notice.”
And I thought, okay. Everything she just said makes sense. And she’s in charge, after all, so how can you get in trouble for doing what she says? Everybody took a Crunch bar.
A few minutes later Main Man came back, and he was furious. “Did you eat the Crunch bars? Huh? Did you?” As you can imagine, everybody was confused. Nobody was sure if we had done something wrong. To our dismay, Assistant Woman stayed silent.
“Boys and girls,” he concluded, “this was a lesson about temptation.” Woah. What? “When Adam and Eve took an apple from the tree of knowledge, it was because they had been tempted by the snake. Now you know how powerful a force temptation can be.”
I was confused for the rest of the morning because the teacher had clearly made a mistake. This wasn’t temptation: This was god telling Adam and Eve never to eat from the tree of knowledge, changing his mind five minutes later, and then banishing them anyway.
Today this reminds me of what George Orwell famously wrote in 1984: “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else will follow.”
I’m an atheist because religion makes a virtue out of believing, against all odds, that two and two make five. Five year olds can see through it, but grown men and women teach themselves not to. The result is terrifying. “Pardon me sir, are you interested in learning about why two and two make five?” “Martin Luther is famous for defying the church and teaching that two and two make five and a half.” “Don’t vote for Obama! He believes that two and two make THREE!”
Personally, I think two and two make four. Next time I’m taking all the Crunch bars.