I don’t believe in doing good, in the hope of heavenly rewards in some what I consider fictitious after-life.
My Dad was certainly not a church-goer. I don’t think he believed in religion, but I think he may have had some vague spiritual beliefs but he certainly would not talk about them. I know he had been quite shocked by my Mum’s belief in spiritualism.
When he first met her family they had invited him to a séance. He’d treated it as a joke. He’d had a close friend who was a submariner who had been reported missing in action during the war and took along a cap-band of his friends. During the séance he offered the cap-band and was given a set of numbers. He followed it up and discovered that they were coordinates. The MOD enquired where he had got them from. The coordinates were fifty miles from the last known position of the submarine.
Dad never went to another séance and did not want to know about it. Anything to do with religion, death or spirituality was off the table; he did not want to give it headroom.
I don’t know how true any of that was.
I taught a section on evolution. California State law stated that equal time had to be given to Creation. I had parents sitting in with stopwatches, and one with an egg-timer, to check that I kept to the law. That was a new experience for me. It is quite difficult to generate enthusiasm and involvement with a group of sullen adults staring at you as if you were Satan.
So, what, as a non-believer, do you tell anybody about creation theory that can possibly take as long as explaining the intricacies of Darwinian evolution through natural selection?
Easy. I sent the whole thing up. To start with I put on my best, over the top, Monty Python voice. I made expansive arm movements. I got them to close their eyes and imagine nothing. We spent ten minutes trying to hold that concept. I then got them to picture God. I asked them what they thought he looked like. It is astounding to me how many eighteen-year-old students and forty-something -year-old parents actually believed that God was this old geezer with long robes, long hair and a great straggly white beard.
I find that absurd. If someone proved to me that there was a god and asked me to picture what god was like, I would automatically think more in line with the forces released in the centre of a hydrogen bomb, or the energy that holds atoms together.
But they all did as they were asked and took it very seriously. They closed their eyes and tried to make everything black and empty. Then this old geezer comes in stage right and does some hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo complete with hand movements and there is a great flash of light. Then he makes this plasticine stuff and spends six days rolling zillions of stars and planets and spinning them around and painting oceans and mountains. Then he made living stuff and breathed into them to give them life and last of all, the crown of creation, he made man – little models in his own image. Then he took a bit out of one of his models and made woman. I have always thought that this story was a bit demeaning towards women. It was straight out of the Abrahamic tradition of pandering to some mediaeval theory of women being lesser beings, subservient and not really made in God’s image. But there you go. You give the folks what they want to hear. That’s entertainment!
What it isn’t is education.
My lesson on creation worked a treat! They were well pleased. All the Monty Python, over the top Magnus Pyke presentation, was British eccentricity and passionate theatre. After all, they were used to it with all those evangelist preachers. I was in good company. They loved the ranting, visualisations and role-play. They could visualise the old man rolling up balls of plasticine. That made sense to them. Two of the parents actually commended me on my lesson.
Liz castigated me for making a mockery of peoples’ beliefs. I protested. That wasn’t really the case. I’m a tolerant person. I just do not believe that religion has a place in education. For me to teach it as if it was factual made a mockery of education.
Liz said that I should not have ridiculed their faith in such a manner.
Perhaps she was right.
See. Liz says I’m arrogant. I acknowledge that at times I can certainly come across that way. I sometimes think that I have good reason to be. Many people are simple and stupid. They don’t delve below the surface. How long does it take to roll up a few zillion balls even if one takes point zero zero zero zero zero zero zero zero one of a second? Can you do it in six days?
Why does God, who is infinite, get knackered and have to have a rest on the seventh day?
How big was this dude?
No. They were more than happy with the old bloke rolling up balls, breathing life into stuff, modelling mountains and spitting out oceans. Especially as I took longer over the creation theory than I did with the evolution bit plus I was far less animated and theatrical with evolution. I did that in my normal voice.
It seemed to me that half my class were born again Christians and half the class were stoners. The strange thing was that half of the born againers were stoners. I found this bemusing and asked one of them.
“Where’s it say in the bible that you can’t smoke dope, man?”
Well he had a point.
I do believe in infinity, mystery, wonder and awesome beauty.