Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Once upon a time, I too was brainwashed

In the Melbourne press, an article by Leslie Cannold [display] draws attention to the fact that Australian school children are being brainwashed by religious marketeers, apparently with the approval or complicity of educational authorities and parents.

This alarming article has been reproduced on the website of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

I understand the substance of this cry of alarm. Back in the 1950s, I happened to be a pure specimen of the kind of mindless brainwashed individual that well-intentioned Australian scripture classes were trying to sculpt. I hardly need to say that, today, I'm embarrassed by the ridiculous tone of the following article:

The 5A mention after my name means that I wrote this tripe when I was in the A-class of the 5th grade at Grafton High School, in 1956, when I was about 15 years old. One might consider (along with me today) that I should have known better. But the truth of the matter was that I was a stupid country kid, in the desertic intellectual atmosphere of Grafton, molded by ugly forces such as the local Anglican church... not to mention the total absence of explicit parental guidance. I was a floating electron...

To understand the mundane context in which I penned such shit, you need to know that, at that time, the dean of the Anglican cathedral in Grafton, Arthur Warr, not so speak of the bishop, Kenneth Clements, probably imagined me as fine fodder for their future theological ranks. And I was indeed that kind of candidate, as an inquiring adolescent tuned to philosophical interrogations. Dean Warr, a kind but silly old Anglican fuddy-duddy who played chess regularly with my grandfather, gave me a brand-new copy of a book by an American evangelist (whose name I've momentarily forgotten) that promulgated all kinds of ridiculous US shit… which was decidedly new in Grafton. Fortunately, at the age of 15, I came upon a magnificent subversive book written by a great French doubter, Ernest Renan: The Life of Jesus. Between the dean, the bishop, Renan and Jesus, I had a marvelous opportunity of escaping permanently from the clutches of Christianity. So, I emerged rapidly and happily from this quagmire, and grew up quickly.

Today, I take pleasure in revisiting the Christian wastelands, from time to time, in my perusals of archaic phenomena such as Master Bruno and the Carthusian monks… who existed too early to know Renan.

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