I Wish I Didn’t Know

I had to make an unexpected trip to Tennessee this week to deal with some family matters.  All is well and I’m back now.  While I was there, I fell into a religious discussion with someone who attends a fundamentalist Baptist church, much like the one I grew up in. 

In the course of our discussion, he made the statement “I wish I didn’t know what I’ve learned about astronomy and geology and biology.  I wish I could go back to when I just believed what the Bible said.”

To those of us who hold dear the “free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” this statement is unthinkable.  We have committed both to search diligently and to accept what we find.  If our studies and our experiences lead us to a different path our integrity demands we follow it.  Yet we must never forget that there are many others who cannot or will not take on that search.

A church sign near this person’s house said “Life has many choices, Eternity only 2”.  If you have lived your whole life in a religious environment that preaches eternal joy for those who follow the right religion and eternal torment for everyone else, that teaches the Bible is the literal and inerrant Word of God, and teaches that Satan is constantly looking to deceive those who lean on their own understanding, accepting scientific and historical evidence that is well-supported but counterintuitive isn’t as easy as those of us who’ve already changed religions a time or two may think.  If even a Ph.D level theologian can see no choice but to accept what he’s always been taught, how difficult can breaking away be for those with lesser education and intellectual skills?

My conversation with this person was polite and friendly.  I stated my beliefs, made my case, and then listened politely to what he had to say.  It was a conversation, not a debate.  One of the good things about being a universalist is that I don’t have to worry about people ending up in hell if I can’t convert them to my way of thinking.  I hope I managed to clear up some misconceptions he had about science and about Unitarian Universalism.  I hope my example of following where the evidence and my religious experiences lead will give him confidence to ask difficult questions and accept the answers he gets.

But as long as he’s in this fundamentalist environment (not just his church, but also the wider environment that includes church signs), that will be a difficult journey.

And this is why I say yet again:  UUs, Pagans, and practitioners of all free and liberal religions must never stop preaching universalism.

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  • Anonymous

    For support, I suggest you pick up a copy of "The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Text of Hate to Reveal the God of Love" by Bishop John Shelby Spong. He likens the Old Testament to the "Iliad" and "The Oddessy."

  • Been through many a conversation like that — even with a handful of Pagans I know. While most of the conversations have been polite — there have been a few where I've lost friends over the entire discussion…which leads to a perspective concerning how much of a "friend" they truly were if a conversation like that changed their understanding of who I was…but that's a completely into-the-wilderness track from where this is. 🙂 You know me…always trying to walk through the woods instead of along the highway. 😉


  • Hi,

    Read about your post on the UU "Interdependent Web," and came here to read it.

    Reminds me of a conversation that I had with my Dad a couple years ago. I was trying to explain fire to him, like down to how an electron releases energy as a photon when it falls down to its lowest orbital. He looked mystified and said, "It's easier to just believe in God."

    It made me mad at most churches that they encourage intellectual laziness. I love that UUism does not encourage that.

    TK, a Nuubie