I don’t know about these days because I’ve been out of the school system too long. But in my time, if one already had a tendency to be skeptical, school would encourage that. The only exception to that was the teacher him or herself. They were the dispensers of “truth.” If you didn’t believe or questioned them, your grades would reflect that. In other words, I was trained to trust my teachers but not anyone else.
Really, that’s fine with math. Math questions are either right or they’re wrong. It works for spelling and vocabulary tests too because the teachers are picking the words. (I doubt that “irregardless” would appear on a test.) The problem came up with subjects that required interpretation and analysis.
History class probably made the most profound impact when I learned about all the evils done in the name of Christianity. Crusades, inquisitions, the wars associated with the Reformation, colonial exploitation, and the list goes on and on. (And believe me; I haven’t forgotten any of those things.) What I wasn’t given is context. I was told who did what to whom, but I wasn’t told the reason why.
In actuality, the lesson in most of those actions was the corruptible influence of great power. (The lesson of absolute power corrupts absolutely wasn’t introduced until Napoleon, but that’s another story.) However, the lesson that I learned was that Christian Church regardless of manifestation or denomination was evil. Individual Christians might be all right, but the Church was a horrible entity. And don’t even get me started on the science and religion debate. If evolution (among other things) was not compatible with Christian beliefs, you could count me out.
My time outside of the classroom was not terribly encouraging for the church either. The town that I lived in was predominantly Irish and Italian, and there was a large Roman Catholic presence. Even though my best friends were among them, I felt excluded from significant parts of their lives. (I now realize that their priests would be appalled that they didn’t ever invite me to participate.)
Moreover, teenagers are cruel, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. I felt the hypocrisy of the Church paraded before me on a daily basis by teens who talked about going to confession on Saturday then were hateful to everyone the rest of the week. There’s no way that I wanted to be a part of that.
[Just as a side note: This isn’t a hit exclusively against Catholics. Just last week, I read a story of almost the exact same treatment of a nice Catholic girl who had moved to a predominantly Protestant town.]
So, I graduated high school happy, downright thrilled that I was able to escape what I thought was my small narrow-minded hypocritical Up-state New York town.
I tried to live my life by the world’s rules, as I understood them, which actually meant the way that I saw in movies and tv. Work to achieve academic and professional success. Get money. Buy things. Have relationships with whomever you want, the more the better. Live today, for tomorrow you die.
My life made sense of a sort. Everything was logical and lived up to my cynical expectations, but something was missing. I was very unhappy. I felt empty inside. I came to the point of “there has to be more to life than this.” As a matter of fact, I felt like I had been tricked. I followed all the rules. Why wasn't I blissful? I went in search of what was missing. I started my spiritual quest, and it went all over the map.
Until next time ...