This I Believe

Anthony - Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Entered on December 6, 2006
Age Group: 65+
Themes: nature

This I Believe

I believe that the universe was a creation of nature and nature alone. Being a scientist, I have not found any evidence that supernatural beings had anything to do with either the formation of Earth or its inhabitants. As a young child I was sent to Sunday school, and while attending a southern military academy for several years was marched off to church each week, so I developed some familiarity with Bible stories and traditional religious beliefs. Perhaps, because my family never discussed such things at the dinner table, I was allowed to draw my own conclusions about supernatural beings and mythology.

My last three years of high school were spent at a private school that began each weekday with a chapel service consisting of readings from the Bible and singing a hymn. I did not resent having to attend these meetings for I enjoyed good stories and group singing, and I still am fond of those old hymns. In the intellectual environment of this prep school, there were many dormitory discussions of philosophical and ethical questions, but I can recall no instances of debating theological issues.

The day after I graduated, I joined the Marine Corps and fought in the Korean War. In retrospect, I can report that seeking refuge in a foxhole does not necessarily create any interest in divine intervention. Whether because of our training or my own secular leanings, my concentration in combat was focused entirely on my fear and the practical matters of avoiding injury to myself while inflicting injury on the enemy.

In college I majored in anthropology and learned about religious beliefs and practices in tribal societies. It occurred to me at some point that what was written in the Bible was very similar to tribal mythology. From this comparative perspective, it seemed evident that this sacred text was nothing more than an anthology written by tribal men with, typically, a very limited view of the world.

Pursuing a PhD, I conducted fieldwork among a rural West Indian population where belief in witchcraft was taken very seriously. All sorts of maladies and misfortunes were readily attributed to witches, and numerous precautions were taken to protect oneself from this source of supernatural harm. I was caught off guard one day when a young resident asked me, “You don’t believe in witches do you?” Since I was there not as a missionary to change their beliefs but as a social scientist to understand them, I usually guarded against being candid about my own convictions, but this time I confessed that I was not a believer. When he replied, “Perhaps you do not have witches where you come from,” I realized how easy it is to avoid questioning one’s own faith in supernatural power.

As a retired academic, even though the vast majority of people with whom I presently interact believe in a supreme supernatural being, I remain convinced that we are all products only of nature.