Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

Worship and other secrets


I was going to write about my frustration of getting very little done over the past few weeks due to almost constant migraines and the resulting “brain fog”, but my thoughts have been hijacked.

The shortest day of the year has just passed, so it can only be upwards from here on, as the days get longer (unless you’re in the northern hemisphere, in which case, you’ve just had your longest day, and you’re now on a downward slope toward slope towards winter). It’s a lovely sunny day (but very cold), blue sky, and the wind turbines are glowing brightly on the horizon. The camellias and rhododendrons are coming into flower, and the silver green magnolia buds are swelling. There’s a grey warbler singing it’s heart out nearby, and outside my window there’s two pair of fantails performing their aerial dance as they chase insects too small for the human eye to see.

Altogether, the day is so pleasant that the frustrations of the past fortnight have all but disappeared. what remains doesn’t warrant a blog post. There’s also the fact that a post over on Mindful Digressions diverted my thoughts in another direction.

I’m often reminded that only the brave or foolish blog about sex, politics or religion. I’m not particularly brave, and I don’t believe I’m foolish, although there are some who may think otherwise (regarding me being a fool). Never the less, I’m going to attempt to flesh out my religious beliefs over a series of postings. The intention is not to sway the views of readers, but to help me clarify what I really believe. Doing so on a public forum will likely encourage me to be think more carefully than I might otherwise, and the postings might elicit a few comments that will assist my thought processes.

With the introduction out of the way, it’s time to proceed.

When I was a small boy

As any young child does, I enjoyed listening to stories without discriminating between reality and imagination. It made no difference. My mother read stories to us every night and I was an avid listener of the children’s hour on the radio every evening. I was also an avid reader and absorbed stories about historical events, scientific discoveries, myths, legends, fables and fairy stories with equal enthusiasm.

I’m not sure what age I was when I began to recognise the difference between fact and fiction. Certainly by the time I was seven, I knew that stories such as Alice in wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels and Peter Pan were entirely fictional, as were fairies, the Easter rabbit, dragons and talking animals. In the case of Santa Claus, I had already concluded that reindeer can’t fly, and it would be a physical impossibility for one man to visit every home in one night nor was there a sack big enough to contain at least one gift for every child. This meant the the entire Santa story was a fantasy. Had I considered, the possibility the the jolly man might have been able to distort the space time continuum in order to deliver his gifts, then I might have believed in the story a little longer. But such concepts were beyond the reach of this seven year old boy.

Living in a nominally Christian society, biblically based children’s stories were ubiquitous. I had absorbed these just as readily as any other story. By the time I had decided Santa wasn’t real, I already understood that the creation stories in the Bible were similar in nature to other creation stories I was familiar with, such as those those from Maori and Greek mythology. I didn’t know what the symbolism of the stories was meant to be, and I didn’t know how to ask adults the appropriate question. My peers weren’t of any help, as they insisted that the biblical stories were true while the others were “just stories”, but were unable to justify their logic.

I was convinced that adults had a reason for making up myths to tell children, and that I didn’t understand because I was “too young”. I was sure I would learn the symbolism when I was older. I held the same notion about many of the bible stories, but I never questioned the existence of God or Jesus. I believed the adults knew the bible stories weren’t true but I was expected to believe them because I was a child. As I was convinced that I wasn’t meant to know the stories weren’t factual, I didn’t dare to approach adults about it.

On Sundays I attended Sunday School. We sat with the adults in Church for the first fifteen minutes of their service before filing out to Sunday School proper. In my mind, religion was a bit like sex. I understood the basics of procreation, but it was very evident that there was a lot more to sex than what I was permitted to know. In a similar vein, my child’s mind had concluded that there was a lot about God I wasn’t meant to know or understand. I accepted this as a burden I had to carry by myself as children shouldn’t know there was more to religion than we learnt at Sunday School, so it would be wrong of me to destroy the illusion. I was sure all would be revealed when the time was right. I reasoned that adults didn’t attend church just to pretend there was a God for the sake of their children, therefore there must be secrets about God in much the same way as there was about sex. That was enough “evidence” to cause me not to doubt the existence of God.

If you are still reading, you’ve possibly come to the conclusion that I had I had a somewhat unusual view of the relationship between adults and children. On that score you would be right. I was sure there was an adult conspiracy to keep the some truths from children, and that it involved creating elaborate stories (lies?) to keep even the existence of the real truth from us. I was also sure that there was a good reason for this deception and when the time was appropriate I would be let in on the secret. Because I believed I shouldn’t have had the knowledge that there were secrets, there was no one that I could turn to for answers. I was desperately curious, but knew I just needed to bide my time.

All that would change drastically before I turned eight, and that will be the subject of the next post in this series.

Author: Barry

A post war baby boomer from Aotearoa New Zealand who has lived with migraines for as long as I can remember and was diagnosed as being autistic aged sixty. I blog because in real life I'm somewhat backwards about coming forward with my opinions.

3 thoughts on “Worship and other secrets

  1. As I was reading that you didn’t think Santa could get to every boy and girl in one night, my first thought was a bend in the space-time continuum. Then you mentioned that – Ha! so cool.

    Jesus is, at one point, asked by a disciple in the Bible why he spoke in parables, and His answer was “How else would one describe the Kingdom of Heaven?” It is prettty apparent, and literally confirmed, that the stories are parables, metaphors, analogies – all pointing to something that can’t be described in regular words. That is a common theme in philosophy : there is a driving/explanatory force in and around us that cannot be decribed with words. Dante (in Inferno) wrote (to paraphrase): “I was walking down the street with the Devil on my shoulder. I spotted a man walking on the other side of the road and said to the Devil:’That man knows the truth. What are we going to do?’ And the Devil replied: ‘ That’s fine – as soon as he tries to put it into words, he’ll lose it.’ ”

    No, the Bible is not, cannot be, and even says it is not literal, which does not detract any from its value. The apparent contradictions are, at least in part, a result of trying to understand the Bible as literal. I don’t doubt that some parts have a basis in reality, But the majority is a way of explaining a higher understanding, a perspective, a way of thinking, that cannot be put into words and upon which our world is built.

    Anyway, great post Barry. I apologize for taking so long to comment on your new site – i had pushed “follow” when you originally started, but I did not get any e-mail notices. I’ve fixed that now.

  2. I agree. Great post. I’m looking forward to your next installment, but alas, I have to start my day job, you know, the one that pays for my food, shelter, and clothing. So I’ll get to it later.

    And Paul, I agree with you about the bible being a book full of parables, metaphors, analogies. Unfortunately, at least here in the States, there are an awful lot of people who take the Bible literally. It’s the true word of God…the Gospel. I wish more people in my country shared your view…the correct view…of the bible as a book of allegorical stories and parables.

  3. It always makes me glad to see that others agree with my view on this. I grew up in a religious (Christian) home, however, unlike you, I did not question what I was told as a child. I took it at face value until I was about high school age. I now realize that the Bible is a collection of mostly fictional stories, which are meant to describe the morals that we should live by. I am quite cynical when it comes to religion and I am always fascinated by the people who take the Bible literally. As Doobster stated, the majority of the religious crowd here in America falls into that category.

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