Home > background > A lot can happen in 20 years – Part 1

A lot can happen in 20 years – Part 1

9 January 2009

Originally I thought I’d share my road to reason in this post, but I’ve realised it’s quite a long story, so instead I’ll break it down into smaller chunks. I find it very easy to write a great number of words on most topics, but that doesn’t convert well into blogs. Who wants to read 10,000+ word posts? I know I don’t; I wouldn’t expect you to, either.

Sitting in a meeting this afternoon I realised that today is the 20th anniversary of my entry into the full-time workforce, having graduated high school at the end of 1988. (Twenty years! It’s amazing, as I don’t really feel that much older now than I was then). On the morning of 9th January 1989 my father drove me the 15km to the place I was to do most of my 4 year apprenticeship, and I’ll never forget the experience nor the date. I was a year younger than my graduating class, so this all occurred while I was not quite 17 and not even eligible to drive yet. Some of my graduating class — all due to turn 18 that year, able to drive and soon able to drink — had continued on to university, but I was raised in a “Every man should have a trade, son” family. It made sense, so I was happy to follow their advice, and planned to enter university once I had complete my trade, being the first in my family ever to do so.

Around September that same year, I split with the girl I was certain I was going to marry: my First Love. We’d been together for 3 years and nothing was going to separate us; together forever. Of course something did, and it left me emotionally shattered. A few months later I met a family with middle-aged parents and children spread throughout the teenage spectrum, and I became close friends with most of them. They called themselves Born Again Christians and they were all enthusiastic members of what was recently the town’s small non-denominational “church in a tent” or “church on the green”, though they had moved into former office space a few months prior to me joining. There were perhaps 30 members, aged from children and young families through to older families and even elderly people who lived in nursing homes. Many, but by no means all, were related one way or another (but that was nothing to do with the town’s age, size or history).

This family was my first such experience with that kind of religion. My prior experiences had been:

  • The strange Spiritualist Church that some of my family attended, as did my mother until my birth. I was taught nothing about religion at home, but heard talk of their seances and circles which, as my older family members were involved in it, seemed nothing out of the ordinary.
  • Knowing that my “god father” (a friend of my mother and my grandfather) who was a father figure to me when I was young, was a Mormon, but not knowing anything about it.
  • The nuns from a nearby catholic school giving scripture lessons at my primary school after classes had finished. With my thirst for knowledge (something I still have even today), this seemed like a great chance to learn.
  • A friend of my mother taking me along to the local catholic church for a few months when I was 10. The morbidity of the rituals and the castigation for daring to eat a wafer (and drink some grape juice) without turning up the following Wednesday to tell the priest how naughty you’d been struck me as bizarre, considering I was told it was all supposed to be a celebration.
  • The “secular” youth groups run from the various church buildings around town. Complete with the opening and closing prayers.

All of these experiences seemed surreal and the concept of religion seemed about as believable as a certain fat red man’s annual visit and his choc-aholic rabbit friend a few months later, but it did give me the impression that belief in something other than the physical and provable was perfectly normal, and that all adults believed in something. So while I didn’t buy into religion, I did buy into belief.

With a gaping hole where my heart and sense of purpose once was, I met this pentecostal Christian family at exactly the “right” time. Although they introduced to me a world of bizarre behaviour, their absolute certainty and immutable conviction (and dogma) was a source of comfort and it very much filled the hole I had. It was made more appealing as this also included a very nice congregation who made me feel instantly welcome and loved and, if I’m brutally honest, I very much liked one of the daughters in this family. As is often the case with mere males, a woman was involved!

So I immersed myself into this world with this church for the next 12-18 months, knowing even with my rose-tinted glasses that some of it was pure fantasy but hanging onto other parts that I could believe, and finding comfort in it. Over time I found some of that church’s beliefs, policies, behaviour and dogmas untenable (this is apart from the pastor being convicted of embezzlement and his wife being caught out having affairs), so I moved to a larger church in a neighbouring town with a congregation 10-15 times the size, that happened to be denomination that was a major American export (if you know anything about American pentecostal denominations, then you know this one).

Continued in Part 2.

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