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Reblogged:Remembering the First Atheist I Knew

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Image by Immo Wegmann, via Unsplash, license.
I was raised as a Roman Catholic and attended Catholic schools from first grade through college. I didn't get the full program, though, as a friend familiar with the religion once put it, because my parents had converted to the religion from different mainline Protestant backgrounds.

In other words, my parents were not thoroughly indoctrinated into that religion and there was no long family tradition of Catholic guilt: We attended chuch each week, but I would not call my home life particularly religious, and, although my parents leaned right, they were tolerant of religious differences and politically secular.

Would I have ended up not being as independent-minded if things had been different? There is no way to know, but my life could have been very difficult, to say the least. I am grateful that my parents respected the fact that I had a mind of my own.

During freshman year of high school, I had to carpool with a family that more thoroughly integrated that religion into their lives, and it was through the mother I first heard the term atheist.

At some point during a trip from school, she asked me how I liked high school. I remember at some point saying something to the effect that my biology teacher was both my strictest and my favorite teacher. I no longer recall what led up to this, but the mother stated with obvious disapproval that he was an atheist.

I was silently shocked that anyone could speak ill of this teacher.

That was pretty much the end of that part of the conversation.

But, although the memory stayed with me, neither what she said nor how she said it made a jot of difference to me insofar as my admiration of this teacher's intellect and fairness went. He had a good sense of humor and was an excellent teacher for high school students: He dealt with us as much as possible like we were intelligent adults, and I very much appreciate that to this day.

Other than offer to let fundamentalists sit outside the classroom before his lecture on evolution (there were no takers), he never brought up religion in his class. (I did once overhear a classmate ask him if he were an atheist once during a lab section, and him answer that he was -- matter-of-factly, and steering the conversation to other things without missing a beat. He could do that, because we all liked and respected him.)

On balance, I would say I learned a lot more about my classmate's mother that day than I did about atheists generally or my teacher in particular. And that was hardly the first time I'd run into a person who professes Love thy neighbor as thyself, but smears another person behind his back for the crime of coming to his own conclusions about something.

Whether such people are following that maxim is an exercise I leave to the reader.

-- CAV

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