Friday, April 27, 2012


When I was growing up, long before I knew enough about our Constitution to understand why the Founding Fathers drew a line between religion and government,  I understood that in school we studied things such as history, math, literature and science and that religion was a matter for church. 

Science fascinated me, especially things such as where did the dinosaurs went. Of course, the lumbering cold-blooded dinosaurs I studied then turned into warm-blooded creatures, more akin to birds than reptiles as more information became available.  This is because  the theory of evolution is always in flux. 

Religion also fascinated me because I knew there were so many different doctrines out there.  The first difference and the big one, was the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism. I knew more than most about that because my father was a former Roman Catholic-turned-Southern Baptist. 

Nobody in my circles ever mentioned the Orthodox Catholics that make up a large proportion of Catholics in the world because they were a small minority around here.  What I did know was that Southern Baptists believed in free will, but unlike the Free Will Baptists who believe Christians can fall from grace after being saved, believed that once you were saved, you were always saved. 

It also became quite clear to me that even the Southern Baptists had variations that often split churches.  One I particularly remember was the matter of the rapture and the tribulation which also involved the millennium, often called the 1000 year reign.  One group said Christians would be snatched away to Heaven and other people would go through the tribulation for a thousand years while Christ mopped up the remaining remnants of Satan’s troops. 

My father held with the rapture, which he thought would signal the end of time, not a millennium.  By the time I was 16, I had already decided that none of the disputes amounted to a hill of beans. I kept my mouth shut, though, realizing the passions the disputes could generate. I also kept my mouth shut around my father about the theory of evolution I was studying in school, being certain he probably would disapprove. 

Personally, I never saw a conflict between the theory of evolution and the biblical creation of the universe.  The details of  why things arrived where they are today, theologically speaking, always seemed to be a matter beyond my pay grade.   

Details about the theory of evolution changed because people who studied it learned new things every year and updated the conclusions to match the new information. Things concerning evolution never seemed dogmatic to me.  

Furthermore, I understood that at sea level water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and I didn’t have to accept it by faith because it was always the same. If I wanted to be believe in the Resurrection, I had to exercise faith.  

I grew up knowing about the Scopes Monkey Trial, but I assumed it was history and Tennesseans were too educated to repeat the fiasco of trying to pass laws that enforced religious beliefs.  I was wrong, though – not just about Tennessee but the entire country. 

In the Tennessee Legislature, it seems obvious that the inmates have taken over the asylum.  Whether or not a shred of logic still exists wherever the fundamentalists have gotten the upper hand – including the U.S. House of Representatives – is up for debate.  Politicians seems intent upon taking this country back somewhere before the Age of Enlightenment, when peasants cowered in their homes at night in fear of demons. 

I’m waiting a backlash of reason to put us back on the path to sanity, but optimist that I am, doubts are creeping in. When we reach a point where logic no longer rules and the line between church and state totally ceases to exist, we may be at the mercy of leaders reading the entrails of sacrificed animals. It hasn’t happened yet, but we seem to be headed that way.

1 comment:

Sherwood said...

Another excellent article, David. I really did not believe I would come across another free thinker in these parts. My roots in Tennessee are not deep, but I married a Tennessee gal in the mid 50's and lived to regret it. But it taught me a lot about people - they are not always as they appear to be on the surface.

Glad to know about these columns. I will be listening from Cookeville - halfway between Knoxville and Nashville, where most of the locals are likewise, halfway between logic and fear of the unknown.

Sherwood MacRae