Between the Lines

Surprised by Believers

St. Patrick’s Church is now a modern structure consisting of two red-brick tetrahedrons sprung up, like some poisonous mushroom, over the transformed landscape.  The original building, Old St. Patrick’s, is down the street from the usurper, crouching in the shadows, dreaming of the days when a Roman Catholic church could never have been mistaken for a flying saucer.

Lacking only gargoyles, its dark stone loomed large over my 12-year-old self.  It was there that I discovered my interest in philosophy, and ideas in general, in Sunday school.  My teacher was a layman and a neighbor: a bright, 40-something housewife whose knowledge of Catholic theology inspired classroom discussion of the meaning of free will, the proofs for the existence of God, and the reconciliation of science and religion.  None of these things were ever discussed in the rather pedestrian public school I attended, just as they aren’t today, but in those days students were allowed to leave school early once a week to attend what was referred to as “religious instruction.”  What this really meant was a get-out-of-jail-free card for the Catholic kids, and they took advantage of it.  I actually enjoyed it.

Not that I was religious.  It’s just that I loved to argue, and here was someplace I was allowed to do it.  This relationship with the Church persisted...

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