In the early years of Rayan, I steadfastly rejected religious claims, but for the most part I did so silently. It’s not that I had complaints about the telephone game, extraordinary claims, or even the utter implausibility of the stories in the bible; I really merely did not believe what people were saying about the bible. I was a de facto atheist without knowing what that word even meant. Today I was thinking about this period in my life—where, presumably, I had no reason to reject the teachings of my grandparents’ parishioners, and I believe I’ve pinpointed the exact moment where disbelief became my default position.
It was Moses.
Although my parents—despite their Christian leanings—never asked me to attend religious services as a child, my grandparents did, and I accompanied them to no fewer than 20 Sunday services. It was at these services that I discovered my first critical view of religious teachings.
Initially, I was taught by Grand Mommy and Pop Pop that the Pentateuch was written by Moses. I remember fondly my grandmother sitting down to finish an Old Testament-inspired puzzle and discussing Moses’ authorship of the first five books. She would sit me on her lap and read from the OT, insisting that it was penned by Moses himself (despite his writing about his own death in the third person). I remember her pointing out the bible verses to support this claim. But when they took me to Sunday school and dropped me off with the other children I learned something different.
The Sunday school teacher insisted that Moses played no role in the books’ authorship, but rather his life’s tales and teachings were documented by lay eyewitnesses and eventually compiled into the first five books of the bible. This caused in me great discomfort.
The bible was obviously wrong! To be honest, I put more trust in the Sunday school teacher than I did my own grandparents, but to also be fair no reputable, modern biblical scholar would ever claim the bible was correct about its authorship (for a bibliography, see the bottom of this link). And also to be fair the teacher cited her own pastor as an authority on the authorship of the OT.
In other words, a foundational question about the bible had contradictory answers. Should I accept what the bible says, or should I accept what people who study the bible say about it? I obviously went with the latter, but from that day forward I was filled with a healthy dose of skepticism that has followed me to this day. In a very short matter of time I went from a de facto atheist to a full-fledged religious critic, demanding answers to unanswerable questions, and I would never develop any level of belief even remotely akin to religiousness.
Thank you grandparents.