As Bob Dylan sings,
“The country I come from is called the Mid-west,
I was taught and brought up there the laws to abide,
and that the land that I live in has God on it’s side.”
Northern Wisconsin was sparsely populated with mostly farms and forests,
not far from where Dylan was born. Most of the population was made up of
Scandavian and German Lutherans. In the very small town we lived near,
there were two Lutheran churches. The one we went to didn’t have the
means to have a permanent preacher, so one came in the summer and my
siblings and I had to go to Sunday school and the sermon.
Most of the sermon was given in a foreign language I didn’t understand
and a shorter part was in English. We sang hymns out of tune. In fact, I
rather enjoyed it because after the sermon there was a pot-luck lunch
and I was able to play with children from all the areas around.
The Sunday school stories were OK for children, but not as good as the
ones I read at school or at home. I had Lutheran confirmation classes
where the only things I remember learning were how to use a condom and
smoke a cigarette during the breaks.
Later we moved to a “modern” suburb in the city. We went to another
white Lutheran church which was bigger and richer. Sunday school was now
year around and I was bored because I had already heard the stories.
There are not that many: Jonah and the whale, Daniel in the lions’ den,
Jesus walking on water, etc. The heroes and their exploits were less
exciting than those–like Heracles and Thor–of the Greek and Nordic myths.
I just wanted to play basketball with friends or go to the beach, or
just hang out, with them. I never had a clear idea of what was meant by
God or the Bible teachings or belief in them even though I once went to
a Billy Graham show in a stadium. I guess that if that don’t get’cha,
nothing will. Around 16 I started to read Nietzche and discovered that
other people had similar ideas and good analyses of the history of those
beliefs and I discovered the word “atheist”.
At 18 I left home and never went to church services again. I didn’t need
to let go of God because I had never had any real belief in it. I don’t
remember being traumatized in learning that there was no Santa Claus
either, though I firmly believed in him, and I had evidence: he gave me
presents every year. From God I got zilch. I didn’t learn moral behavior
at church but from my parents, family, and school and just having
simple(well, not always simple)interactions with fellow students and