When I was about 14 years old, there was this eccentric teacher in our high school named Mr. Birch. he was tall and gaunt, smoked a pipe, played bass in one of the more popular steel bands in the country and married his cousin, but that is beside the point. One day he came up with the bright idea that he was going to form a debating group in the class and suggested that the first topic to be debated would be “Religion is based on fear”.
The topic struck me as strange, but interesting, as until then I had never given my religion a second thought. I was born and brought up as a Roman Catholic; I became an alter-boy after I made my first communion and my father was on several committees in the church. Dad was a prolific writer and his articles would be regularly published in the church’s weekly newspaper, he would even write scripts for the Catholic Forum of the Air, an hourly religious program that aired on local radio every Sunday. All in all we were a traditional Roman Catholic family, or as they would say in my days, staunch Roman Catholics.
The debate never took place. I don’t know to this day what happened or why the whole idea was quashed, but since my high school was run by priests who belonged to the order of the Holy Ghost fathers. I believe he must have been told in no uncertain way that he had to be crazy to think he could tarnish the innocent minds of these young men with such a ridiculous and heretical topic. Nevertheless, tarnish the mind of at least one of his students he did, as I couldn’t stop thinking whether or not this hypothesis was in fact true.
Perhaps it would have been better if the students were allowed to debate the topic, at least I would have had the chance to hear both sides of the argument and come to some conclusion one way or the other. This lack of closure on the other hand only served to make me more inquisitive about all of the religious things I had been taught and believed unconditionally. Were these things true? Have I been living my life the way I was because I am afraid? what am I afraid of?
It was my wake up call.