“Did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons?”
It was a question in genuine need of an answer for a curious child, but it always resulted in the same outcome: Being shown the door for being a smart-arse.
It was only once a term but Mum reckoned an hour of Religious Instruction “wouldn’t kill me.”
Now I’d actually gone through a religious phase at age 7 (between circus phase and ponies phase) and stated I wanted to go to this impressive “Church” place that the other kids went to on a Sunday.
One visit to an endless, boring-as-bat-poo Sunday service and I was cured but by then Mum was on the church cleaning roster (and not at all impressed!)
She dragged me along to polish pews as penance but we only cleaned once because our sheepdog Skeeter made his feelings about religion quite clear by peeing on the pulpit.
No more church for us!
As a 12-year old rebel I was ruffling feathers by refusing to swear allegiance to God each week at Girl Guides.
I was an atheist with attitude. Religion sucked. How could people be so gullible?
At 16 I found myself at University in the city.
It was like a different planet for a kid from out in the sticks and day one was a doozy. Armed with my 20c I stood at the bus stop to take my first ever bus ride into the campus.
No one had thought to mention that buses had different numbers…and went in different directions… whoops.
An expensive taxi ride later and I was standing in line to enrol in the subjects that would form the basis for my study over the next few years.
It was tempting to go for the familiar (and what I was good at) like everyone else seemed to be doing, but I’d looked at the list and thought: “What do I know nothing about?” and “What would really challenge me?”
There it was: Religious Studies.
Of course everyone thought I’d lost the plot.
After all I was as big a heathen as you could get and there were other subjects I would cruise through.
After the first weeks I thought I had made a huge mistake too…
The course was filled with mature-aged students and most were from religious backgrounds and all were very strident in their beliefs.
The only atheist was the ignorant, pimply-faced kid in the corner.
Then there was the terrifying lecturer: “The Doctor,” who seemed to delight in frequently singling me out as a striking example of “those lacking in a formal classical education.”
Delivering tutorials under his disdainful eye and being constantly and pointedly corrected for my mispronunciation of words or names in front of a room full of adults, was incredibly intimidating and my cheeks felt constantly on fire.
Little did they know that I had lived in a town so remote, that by Year 11 I was pretty much the only one left standing. There was no television and not much chat about ancient history and philosophy in the sheep paddock. Much of my knowledge had come from books that arrived monthly wrapped in brown paper from the State Library…(and books don’t bloody well tell you how to pronounce words!)
But I stuck at it and over the next years journeyed through a smorgasbord of world religions. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and every flavor and variety in between.
I visited places of worship, read sacred texts, argued, wondered why and asked my endless questions. I scared away every poor Jehovah’s Witness and Mormon who knocked at the door and I escaped the cunning clutches of some hair-brained cults. I saw the good, the bad and the downright fruit-loopy. I knelt, tambourined, hymned, happy-clapped and sometimes hysterically giggled my way through rituals, baptisms, exorcisms and more than a few lunatic rants.
I left my comfort zone behind and went exploring… and my world expanded.
It was just what I needed.
Most people don’t believe me if I tell them what I majored in at Uni.
“But you’re not religious!” they say.
Nope, I’m not.
Maybe it’s because no-one ever gave me that answer I needed…
Did Adam and Eve have bellybuttons?? 🙂