I had one advantage over many others. I knew what God looked like. There was a picture of him in the front of our bible. There He was lying on a cloud, with white skin and whiskers, and what I took to be a rather malevolent look on his face. He was peering down and watching what we were doing, every minute of the day and night, judging us.
His personality projected jealousy, anger and revenge, all of which seemed to dominate his predispositions. He also like to be worshiped. Recognition would do for most of us mortals. Of course, God being much more powerful could be expected to handle worship. I failed to understand that if He were so omnipotent and we were of such despicable unimportance, why He would be so concerned as to how we felt about Him.
Oh! We did sing, "Jesus loves me, this I know." There was mention of even God, Himself, loving the world. But, that seemed to be of relatively minor comfort when accompanied by all the threatening implications which appeared to dominate His relationship with us.
We applied all sorts of rationalizations to sweep away biblical inconsistencies which conflicted with our secular concepts. Drinking was taboo, therefore the wine Jesus produced from water was in actuality non-alcoholic. It was grape juice, just like we used in communion. Surely that was what our Lord offered in the cup at the last supper. When real sticklers were encountered, as Joshua commanding the sun to stand still while he disposed of the enemy, we could always fall back on miracles. Anything is possible with God.
But, sometimes that explanation left an uneasy doubt. Because of all the human and institutional meddling which has occurred along the way, I now think of revelation as the basis for accepting something as truth risky ground.
To me the fundamental, literal interpretation of the Bible is somewhat like a notion expressed in "Alice in Wonderland," where one is asked to believe six impossible things before breakfast. The implication that there was no rainbow before the Flood, asks us to believe that refraction of light from water particles in the air was invented as a sign promising no more big floods, and that this phenomenon never occurred prior to the Flood. Possibly, the incorporation of these old myths in the Bible detract from the tremendous store of theological wealth.
We not only received a goodly dose of religion at Sunday school and church, but a steady stream of it from my mother at home. We were not allowed to say "Gee," for that was a substitute for saying, "Jesus." "Darn," really meant damn and "heck" stood for hell. All were forbidden. Some of my earliest memories are of her reading the bible stories and trying to teach us the values in which she so strongly believed. There was a dreadful sense of impending danger in her presentation.
All of this was serious business to a four-year-old. (Which makes the year 1915.) My nightly prayer was:
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
To me, this implied that I might not make it until morning. I must always be prepared, for there were dire eventualities hanging over daily existence. The control of my destiny was not in my hands, but according to the whims of some inscrutable god.
I suppose had I remained in such a closed society for the rest of my life, those beliefs, which made up the cornerstone of my early years, would have remained the same. But, I didn't. Certainly for my own life, and for most of the rest of our society, the days of old and rural traditional society were numbered. I'm not going to speculate at this point regarding the advantages and disadvantages attending such change.
But be assured, the changes in store were beyond the wildest imagination of the most perceptive soothsayer.