Sundays at the Altar of Science

By Thomas Hooven, M.D.

“I think it’s sad that you feel like you’re alone in the universe,” my mom recently said to me.

We were talking about the fact that I’m an atheist. Unspoken but understood was her dismay that my son and daughter aren’t religious, either. At ages 6 and 3, I’m not sure they’ve ever heard of God.

I was raised differently.

When I was growing up, my family attended a Protestant church in our small Connecticut town. On scarlet velvet pew cushions, I sang hymns and read scripture. In Sunday school, I imagined a God who knew everything about me and everything else.

I believed in biblical miracles: stories of walking on water, talking bushes and multiplying loaves of bread. These tales injected the possibility of imminent magic into my childhood. I assumed they were true because our white-haired minister told them with the same sincerity with which he praised honesty, generosity and other earnest virtues.

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