My father was narrowed by attending a one-room, country, Presbyterian church in rural Illinois. My mother was transfigured by parochial school and Catholic masses in Hamtramck, Michigan (a Polish community in the Detroit area). So I got plenty of religious education growing up.

Our family attended the First Presbyterian Church in State College, PA every Sunday. Located near Penn State, this church membership included a large number of academic types, many of whom were quite philosophically oriented and intellectually open. My mother, whom I recall reading Kant, Nietzsche, and Toynbee all the time when I was growing up, tells me that the adult Sunday school in that church was always a stimulating intellectual odyssey.

Maybe it was great for the adults, but I never saw the point. Oh, I tried really hard to be holy because I knew one was supposed to be that way, but I never really felt right about it. So I went through the motions every week. I read my bible, learned my lessons, and prayed earnestly. The best part about Sunday is that we were allowed to head to the corner store after church to buy a comic book. (As a kid we received 35 cents allowance per week--10 cents had to be saved, 10 cents went to the church, and the remainder we were free to spend. That covered a comic book back then with 3 cents left over).

I eventually was confirmed into the church when that was expected of me. (How old was I? 13? 14?) During church services I became less enthralled by the music (the only part I really liked) and started to notice more the people who were sleeping and snoring in the pews. By the time I was 16 I openly complained and resisted, but my father said I had to attend until I was 18. And so I did until my eighteenth birthday.

After that my church attendance was limited to family sojourns at Christmas and Easter. I did get married in our church, although my wife and I wrote the service ourselves. And I attended my father's funeral service there in 1982.

As my wife and I began to have children of our own, she went through the phase that we baby-boomers were supposed to be going through (according to magazine articles). She thought it would be good to join a church so our children could attend Sunday school and so we could become enmeshed as a normal part of our community. Becoming another brick in the wall was never one of my life's goals, but I went along with the plan. We joined the Mt. Zion Methodist Church in DuBois, PA. I again made a real go at full participation. I went to Sunday school as well as church, eventually joined the church choir and even served as lay leader one year. I did what I could to make the church less narrow and more ecumenical through a series of articles in the Mt. Zion church bulletin. I met a lot of nice people and made some friends. But I just couldn't stomach the fact that the foundation of it all was something I did not believe in my heart of hearts.
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John A. Johnson
created November 12, 1995