denomination had only recently merged with the Universalists to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association, and the church we attended still displayed in its entryway a good supply of pre-merger literature. "What do Unitarians believe?" was the title of one pamphlet I remember well. It began by saying, "Some Unitarians believe in God, and some do not."
That was a strange position for a church to hold, I thought. But it still left room for me to be one of those Unitarians who did believe in God. Soon, however, I had to face the possibility that our pastor and his assistant were in the other camp.
As a Boy Scout I was working on the God and Country Award — not simply another merit badge, but a major project that would result in the award of a pin much like a military badge of honor. Red white and blue cloth hung from the pin, with an enamel emblem suspended below it featuring a shiny cross. For Unitarians this was inappropriate, because the sect held that Jesus was nothing more than one of many good religious men of ancient times. It denied the doctrine of the Trinity and referred to its "Judeo-Christian heritage" in preference to calling itself a Christian denomination.
Still, Boy Scouts who were Unitarians could work on the God and Country Award, and, lacking a badge specific to their church, the Scouts pinned the Protestant version of the award on the chests of these boys.
The attack on my childlike faith came during one of the sessions when I met with the pastor and his assistant to discuss my beliefs, as required by the Scout program. The pastor asked me whether I believed that God really opened a path through the sea so that the Jews under Moses’ leadership could walk out of Egypt on dry ground. I replied that, Yes, the sea had been created by God, so He could certainly cause part of it to dry up on that occasion. Instead of discussing it further, the pastor looked at his assistant and laughed heartily. "This boy's got a lot to learn!" he exclaimed to the junior pastor, and then he walked away.
I received the God and Country Award, pinned to my Scout uniform by the pastor in a ceremony at the
church, but the net result was an undermining of what little faith I had at that vulnerable time of my life.
The second attack came from the scientific community. I was fascinated with astronomy and hoped to become an astronomer when I grew up. What was out there? Life on other planets? I wanted to be part of the effort to find out. This interest led me into contact with a local amateur astronomer who invited local kids to look through his telescope on Friday nights. A human-interest article in The Boston Globe gave his phone number, and, with some prodding from my education-minded mother, I made the call.
It turned out that Mr. Lucini (as I will refer to him here) and his wife were advocates, not only of astronomy, but also of atheism. Theirs was not the religious agnosticism of the Unitarians, but, rather, a fierce 'religion-is-the-opiate-of-the-people' atheistic hostility toward God. They began introducing me to "astronomy" books that were heavily seeded with humanism and arguments against the religion of the Bible.
Scientists and astronomers were my heroes, and I wanted to become one. So, I hung on every word I read in the books I was handed by Aldous Huxley, Julian Huxley, Harlow Shapley, George Gamow and A. I. Oparin of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Were their attacks on belief in God and the biblical account of creation as solid as the rest of 'scientific truth'? To find out, I went on to read The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, and then his Voyage of the Beagle.
These books further undermined my faith, but the third prong of the attack, and the final fatal blow, came from my fallen flesh. My teenage sexual awakening brought with it a flood of fear and anxiety. Were my thoughts and my new bodily functions actually sins against God? Unable to talk with my father about such matters, I drew erroneous and deadly conclusions from the little misinformation I was able to gain from others.
Unable to banish the thoughts or the wet dreams, I felt condemned by God. There seemed only one way out. If I couldn't get rid of my sin, perhaps I could get rid of God. How could my behavior be sin, if there were no God to lay down the law? No God