Tuesday, June 7, 2011
I Was a Teenage "Gnu" Atheist
I was cleaning out a closet over the weekend and found something that amused me--an English composition book from when I was 14 years old (same age my two kids are right now). I wrote essays about the Kent state shootings, the generation gap, drugs, and a few lighter topics. Plus, there was an essay trashing the pledge of allegiance. Why should John, if he's black, pledge faithfulness to a country that "may be prejudiced against him," I ask. I also complain about the god part. "John may not believe in god," I write, "but the pledge that is meant for everyone in the United States says that our country has a god." Note how I militantly refuse to capitalize! (The teacher corrected me.) In fact, when I was that age, I either skipped the "god" part, or didn't say the pledge at all. In my no pledge phase, I got harassed in the halls. The harassers called me a "kike"--my being Jewish was more visible than my being an atheist. Not literally visible, but there were about three Jewish kids in each grade, and everyone knew who they were.
A funny thing--my kids tell me they don't say the god part of the pledge, but now, when I attend a school function, I do. I simply take it less seriously than I did at age 14. It's like the bit in "America the Beautiful" about amber waves of grain and purple mountains' majesty. Just part of the tapestry. But that's fine--there's a time for being literal and rebellious.