Monday, March 13, 2006

How BigCityLib Lost His Religion

BigCityLib is one of the roughly 20 per cent of Canadians who tell Stats Canada they have "no religious affiliation". Tonight's post is about how I got that way.

The short answer is: I blame Nuns.

The long answer is, my Dad got posted to Edmonton when I was about four or five, and I wound up in a pre-school facility run by Nuns. I don't remember much about the place other than that it was in the basement of an old church with a big tower you could see ten blocks away, when mom or one of the other army moms was driving us there in the morning. I don't remember much about the nuns either, other than that they looked like the ones in "The Flying Nun".

And I don't remember any of them ever being outright bad to me, although their Head Mistress wore thick, black framed glasses and seemed a bit stricter than the rest.

What I do remember about the place was that they had great Lego.

They had five big buckets of the stuff stacked in a closet, the buckets big white plastic things that might have once held seed or soil. And they had all the pieces, the big flat-bed pieces that combined with the big circular ones to make Lego vehicles of different shapes and sizes.

I admit I have never had the eye/hand coordination to build a fancy Lego fire-truck or anything complicated like that. I would get out the biggest flat piece I could find, stick wheels on the bottom of it, and build some kind of ungainly castle-like thingy on top, with pieces sticking out all over the place in no logical order. Then I would roll it into a wall as hard as I could and watch it blow up into a hundred pieces.

The Nuns let us play with their Lego after lunch, in the last hour or so before our parents would come around to pick us up.

And I don't remember the details of it , but one afternoon, rushing out when I saw my mom's car pull up outside the church, I left the pre-school with a grand total of three lego blocks in my back pants pocket. Two of them where those tiny little two turreted bricks, the other was a three by two.

Now, I am a Liberal and I'm proud to say that in my later years I've learned how to triangulate with respect to the strict and literal Truth, but on that day I swear I was not trying to steal. It just happened that I walked out with maybe a dime's worth of Lego in my pockets.

And the next morning something flukey happened; I was forced to miss pre-school. The problem was that Mom had bought a box of Captain Crunch cereal for the first time. I don't know if they even still make the stuff, but if they don't, Captain Crunch was one of the first wave of totally nutritionally useless cereals that got introduced in the late sixties. It was 100% sugar, and I found I loved the stuff.

In fact, I loved the stuff so much that it pissed mom off. When I asked for a third bowl, she said "Oh why don't you just eat the whole box, then?"

And I did. Though my enthusiasm eventually waned, I figured that mom would lose respect for me if I couldn't finish what I had started, and I ground through the stuff until there was no more to eat.

So I barfed for an hour and mom called me in sick to the Nuns. I felt genuinely bad for another hour, and then faked it for an hour after that. I spent the afternoon running around our PMQ.

Next day I was fine, and back in pre-school, wearing the same pair of pants I had worn two days previous. The Nuns had us go through the morning routine, and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But then about an hour before lunch-time they sat us all down in a semi-circle and told us they had a "guest" who had come to talk with us for a bit.

And damned if a cop didn't walk into the place.

The Nuns told us all that they had asked Officer whatever to address the group concerning the seventh commandment (or whatever): Thou shalt not steal.

Because a number of lego bricks had gone missing, and the only possible culprits were the kids in this room. Apparently, after we kids went home at night some poor Nun got the job of counting Lego, and had discovered the absence of the three pieces that I was even right now carrying in my back pocket!

But it got weirder, because the Head Mistress pointed to me specifically, addressed me by name, and said that the only kid in the room beyond suspicion was your own BigCityLib, because I had been sick the day before and couldn't possibly have stolen anything. Apparently, they hadn't done their Lego survey until yesterday evening.

So the cop did his little speech and around lunchtime took off in his cruiser. I don't remember much about him, either, other than that he was very tall and walked stiffly upright.

But, you can see the dilemma lain upon me. If I had told the truth, told the Nuns that the Lego was in my back pocket, a couple of things could have happened.

They could have figured that, despite my protestations, I had stolen the Lego blocks, and the policeman (I thought) might take me away. Or, they might believe my story, and then the Nun who counted the Lego might get in trouble, because she had obviously been lax. Or, they might believe my story, and all the Nuns might get in trouble, because that meant the police officer had been called to the church for no reason.

What I am saying is: Nuns made me lie, or at least stay silent, and pitch the Lego blocks in a garbage can miles across town from that old church.

And this all made me think that, as much as they said they did, maybe the Nuns didn't have a direct line to God. And then I thought, maybe there is no God. He sure hadn't stepped in to help me out. Maybe the Nuns were dressing like this and praying and doing all these things for absolutely no reason. Maybe they were gesturing in a great darkness.

And after I figured that out, its been smooth sailing for me ever since.


Anonymous said...

That's the most bullshit, lamest rationale for atheism/agnosticism I've ever heard.

If you want to be an A/A, go ahead. There are plenty of defensible reasons to disbelieve, just as there are plenty of good reasons to believe. But don't reject faith just because as a kid you observed that nuns aren't omniscient.

I came to your blog to peruse, at your invitation on Andrew Coyne's blog. I won't be back, if this is the depth of your thinking.

Anonymous said...

". I would get out the biggest flat piece I could find, stick wheels on the bottom of it, and build some kind of ungainly castle-like thingy on top, with pieces sticking out all over the place in no logical order. Then I would roll it into a wall as hard as I could and watch it blow up into a hundred pieces."

Well! Now I understand why you turned out to be a Liberal. Sounds like typical Librano thinking and strategy to me.