When I was a kid I lived in the quiet, almost exclusively white, middle class, Mt. Tabor neighborhood in S.E. Portland, Oregon. There were plenty of neighbor kids my age to play with. We had a tree fort, rode bikes, roller skated and did plenty of mischief. It’s a great place to raise a family.
Like most kids my age the slings and arrows of the dominant culture had not yet impacted my childish world view. I was blissfully unaware that I and my family were exceptional in any way until the day a new friend introduced me to his mother. I recall standing there expecting a “happy to meet you”, but no, she stood there looking at me contemplatively. She intuitively discerned that my last name was not Anglo-Saxon and an intarigation would surely reveal my hidden shame. Her narrow line of inquiry focused on “what kind of name is that”? With a knowing expression on her fizz, she informed me, in a stern tone’ that my ability to interact with god was dramatically impacted by my fathers heritage and my prayers would go no further than the ceiling. Then, with a note of certainty, proclaimed I was a prime candidate for a one way ticket to hell. She was quite sure about this and my “friend” agreed with credible certainty. Damn.
My nine year old self was startled, nervous and confused. Prayer? Hell? What did that have to do with Graham playing at my house? Prayer? What brought this on and how could his mom confront me like that? Never mind that religion was rarely, if ever, discussed in our home. Things like wishes I was familiar with. Prayer, not so much. If I wished for something and told mom or dad I had a reasonable chance for a positive outcome. If I didn’t the odds for success were nil.
When I had a problem, issue or question that was beyond me and those were legion; I was a kid after all. I had parents, teachers, relatives and friends to help should I need it. My mom tried explaining religious intolerance but being a youngster I had no experience with prejudice and failed to see how it could apply to me. I think I was more confused than enlightened. Where did my friend and his mom’s antipathy towards me and mine come from? To my ear the tone of her declarations were accusatory. These concepts were not part of my prepubescent paradigm. No, this was a conundrum that I needed to work through and to this day I credit the experience for being the vaccine that inoculated me against unfounded claims to knowledge.
Today, I’m simultaneously amused and incredulous by people’s propensity to embrace avenues to truth that rely on faith. Faith is the descriptor people use to justify their conclusions on the validity of a claim on insufficient, poor or no evidence at all. Put another way, the only mechanism we have to evaluate the validity of any claim is to use an evidentiary approach to knowledge.