By Roger A. “Pete” Peterson
Just before turning five, I started attending a catholic church school in Maine. Catechism, or religious instruction, was the first class of the day. It began with Genesis, the first chapter of the Old Testament, which tells the story of how God created the earth, Adam and Eve, and the heavens. Our teacher was an elderly nun dressed in a full habit (black robe and head cover).
As the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden unfolds, Eve is beguiled by a snake and takes a bite from the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. She convinces Adam to do the same, even though they both know it’s against God’s will. When God finds out, He banishes them from the Garden of Eden forever*. To paraphrase the nun, “By eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil against God’s will, Adam and Eve committed Original Sin. She went on, “because they committed this sin, all of their children were born with the stain of this sin as well, which makes all of mankind sinful and evil.” Finally, she added, “and you cannot trust the flesh because it will always betray you.”
Wow, I couldn’t believe my ears, what an awful thing to tell kids! With my mouth open and my eyes wide in disbelief, I turned and looked around the room at the faces of the other kids to see how they were reacting to this awful thought. Until this moment all I could see in their faces was beauty, joy, and innocence. How could this churchwoman** say such horrible things to children? I was outraged and voiced my objection angrily. She told me to be quiet, so I turned my back on her in protest for the rest of the class. I didn’t want to hear anything else she had to say, which was impossible to do of course.
The next morning, as we stood in line outside her classroom, she stiffly walked up to me and asked, “Are you going to learn your catechism today?” Looking her straight in the eye, I said, “NO!” As if expecting this response, she grabbed my right wrist with her left hand and pulled a heavy wooden ruler out of the folds of her habit. I knew what was coming next so I tried to pull my hand away. Swinging the ruler down as hard as she could repeatedly, she beat my knuckles until I cried out in pain. What was she trying to do, beat resistance to her beliefs out of me with pain? I didn’t want to cry but I couldn’t help myself. Turning my head to look at my classmates through tear-filled eyes, I felt a great boiling rage rise up in me at the church and this nun for the pain and humiliation I felt.
The following day, as my seven year old brother Dicky and I walked to school, I decided not to go. I told him, I’d meet him after school for the two mile walk back home. He went into school and I headed into the woods behind the church to wait until school ended. It was scary because Dicky and his friends had told me on a previous outing that there was quicksand in the woods behind the church (a metaphor for church teachings?). I knew what happened to people who stepped in quicksand from seeing it happen in movies. It was doubly scary because I was all alone with no one to help me if I did step into quicksand. Needless to say, I pretty much stood in the same place all day. My mother always made Dicky take me with him to get us both out of the house. That was fine with me because it was always an adventure to go places with him, but he and his friends weren’t always happy to have me with them so they were often mean and liked to scare me.
After school we walked home and I told my mother what happened the day before. I also told her I was never going back to Holy Family again and meant it! When school officials corroborated my story the next day, she gave them a piece of her mind and immediately transferred Dicky and me to the nearest public elementary school. This wasn’t much better because the message I got there was almost as bad. While the church told me, speaking for myself, that I was bad and I couldn’t trust myself, public school told me I was a “blank slate” that needed to be written on. I was a child and “children should be seen, not heard.”
When asked to get up and introduce myself to the class, I gave them my name and told them why I left Holy Family. Then, I asked my new teacher how public schools treated their students compared to catholic school. His face immediately turned red and he yelled, “Sit down, shut up, and do as I tell you. I’m the teacher and I know what’s best for you!” Yikes! Where all schools prison camps run by bullies? Fortunately, I met several teachers along the way who were very nice. One, in particular, loved everyone unconditionally, and I loved her for that. She treated everyone as though they possessed intrinsic value. Needless to say, she was my favorite teacher and I worked hard to earn her respect, even though, I’m not sure I had to.
* According to teachings by http://www.christianbiblereference.org/story_AdamAndEve.htm, “God punished the serpent by cursing his kind. They would forever have to crawl on their bellies in the dust and be enemies of mankind. God punished Adam and Eve, and all their descendants, by making their lives hard. No longer could they live in the perfect world of the Garden of Eden. Men would have to struggle and sweat for their existence. women would have to bear children in pain and be ruled over by their husbands. Adam and Eve were thrown out of the Garden of Eden forever.”
Here is what appears under “Lessons”, on this website:
“This is more than a story about the first man and woman; it is a story about all of us. Adam and Eve thought they would get pleasure and wisdom from eating the forbidden fruit, but they got neither. Their lives were ruined because of their sin. We may know right from wrong, but sometimes, like Adam and Eve, we give in to temptation and convince ourselves that doing wrong is actually a good thing. Also, like Adam and Eve, we often find that doing wrong gets us into trouble and other bad results.”
** For some time, it’s been my belief that Consciousness (Aware Energy) is the Source and Substance of All That is. In larger terms, is it possible this church woman was an angel in disguise, a messenger? If it wasn’t for her comments and behavior I would probably not be so consciously aware of this negative aspect of church and public school teachings. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more “evil” than telling someone, especially a child, that they’re a blank state or that they’re bad and can’t trust themselves. If we look for evidence to support ideas like these won’t we find it, if not in ourselves, in others?
Also, if everything we perceive with our biological senses is a projection of our own consciousness, isn’t everything we perceive, part of who we are in one way? Is that me telling myself through religion that what I am is bad and that my flesh will always betray me? Through science, do I tell myself that I’m the product of a cosmic accident and that my genes control who I am, what I am and what I do? In the end, doesn’t this make us, the self, the final arbiter of what we choose to believe? Isn’t it up to us to figure out what works and makes us happy? As the creators of our reality, isn’t it up to ask:
Is what I’m doing worthy of my ideals? Do my actions improve the quality of life or undermine it? Do they improve humanity’s chances for survival or threaten it?
Doesn’t “Education” include doing for myself what others will not or cannot do for me?
Isn’t active and thoughtful participation in the creation of my reality the change I’m creating?
(Side story: One day, when I was three or four, Dicky and I were headed home through the woods behind our house, When we heard strange metallic sounds coming from behind us, followed by a loud thud as something heavy hit the ground, we turned around and saw a full grown man dressed in a devil’s costume. He was standing about a dozen feet from us. A narrow metal bed frame was tied between several trees for support above his head. It was still swinging back and forth. What was he doing, lying in wait to scare little kids like Dicky and me?
Holding a trident in one hand and his tail in the other, he bent forward, circled his arms and made an awful sound as he flexed his muscles and prepared to chase us. Even though Dicky and I knew it was only a man dressed in a devil’s costume, we both yelled in fear, turned, and ran like hell towards home. As I ran, I wished I was big enough to turn around and kick this guy’s ass for scaring us so much and turning us into chickens. Years later, my oldest brother, Rudy, told me it was his seventeen-year-old friend from high school who liked to scare little kids for laughs.)
For more, see, My Recurring Superman Nightmare.
Pete – http:/realtalkworld.com
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having (creating) a human experience.” – Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
“How you define yourself and the world around you, forms your intent, which, in turn, forms your reality.” – Seth
In other words, we create our own reality from what we choose to believe about ourselves, and the world around us, whether by intention or inattention.
If we don’t CONSCIOUSLY choose our beliefs, we UNconsciously absorb them from our surroundings.
If beliefs, attitudes, values and expectations create our reality, can we afford not to question them?
The more we love, understand and appreciate ourselves, the better we treat ourselves, and the world.
The secrets of the universe lie hidden in the shadows of your experience. Look for them!