Chip Levine Memorial Award (CLMA)
for Devotion to Jewish Studies, 1964
To all appearances, I was quite a religious boy. I'll say why, and then talk about what happened.
We didn't go to services every week, but we did go on major holidays and some other occasions.
I started kindergarten at the synagogue, learning to read before I entered first grade.
I went to Sunday School through confirmation at age 16. I won the Jewish Community Center's Bible Bowl (named and modeled after TV's College Bowl).
I went to Hebrew School twice a week. Almost everyone stopped going to Hebrew School after Bar Mitzvah, but because my Bar Mitzvah was in October, and I had already begun the new academic year, I finished out that year, almost a full extra year of Hebrew School. Because of that, in May, I won the gold watch pictured above.
I was in SAFTY, the San Antonio chapter of the the North American Federation of Temple Youth, and went to SAFTY and TOFTY (Texas) events. I won one of the Temple's four camperships to NFTY's Hagigah, a two-week arts camp in Warwick, NY.
In college, I went to quite a few Hillel events. In grad school, I still went to a few.
But starting years earlier, I found the number of religions, each claiming The Revealed Truth, baffling and impossible and the very idea of God dubious. Conflicts between religion and science, historical and current, pushed me away from religion. Coming to terms with being gay was the final breaking point.
I have now been an atheist for decades. My hatred of religion has only grown over the years. I think raising children to be religious is child abuse. (See all my blog posts tagged 'religion.')
I reluctantly attend religious weddings and funerals, but otherwise I don't even step into churches, temples, or cathedrals. I respond negatively to anyone pushing their religion in my face, including fish on cars and crosses on homes, saying, if only silently, "Keep it to yourself!"