My parents had me late in life — my mom was 42, and I was their only child. My dad taught me to read at an early age, and I devoured every book I could get my hands on.
Most of my cousins were five to ten plus years older than me, and I inherited a lot of their hand-me-down books. This was fine with me as well as my parents — save for one book that my dad took great offense to.
It was a picture book about dinosaurs. I’ll never forget one illustration of a drop in a bucket, representing the miniscule amount of time humans have lived on this earth compared to the reign of the dinosaurs before us.
My parents had a big argument when my father wanted to throw the book away. My dad was something of a “closet” fundamentalist — he was from Arkansas, and had quiet beliefs, but they were deep-rooted. He didn’t attend church and I never saw him pray, but he was adamant about this matter. At the time, I was too young to understand what the argument entailed, and I don’t know in retrospect that I really grasped the whole dinosaur thing at the time. The phrase “intelligent design” had not been coined yet — but today, people argue just as fervently about the issue as my parents did.
Nevertheless, my dad was not completely inflexible. He believed Christmas was a "pagan holiday," but he didn't disabuse me of the notion of Santa and Christmas presents. When the now "extinct" Esso gas stations came out with a blow-up dinosaur that was bigger than I was, he bought one for me which I cherished for years to come. Go figure.
Truth be told, it’s hard to reconcile organized Western belief systems with the view that we are just a blip in the universe. It’s rough on the ego to think we are so “insignificant” — and it contradicts what many of us were taught as children. And for those who believe the Bible is literal gospel, it is well nigh impossible to look at current scientific fact — at least as we know it — objectively.
My boyfriend BG was brought up Catholic, and his mom is devout past the point of reason (at least to most observers). BG and his siblings don’t subscribe to her extreme viewpoints, but despite his more rational intentions, a lot of what BG was taught as a child still colors his beliefs — especially about the "afterlife." Part of him still seems to see G-d as an old white guy with a big beard sending down lightning bolts from the sky. Heaven and hell were very real concepts to him as a child — and they still hold sway over him.