One memory from childhood stands out as a pivotal moment in the formation of my beliefs. When I was in the fifth grade (I would have been 9) there was one of those Science Bowl competition thingies. The topic for my grade level was “Endangered Species”. Being the bright kid that I was, my science teacher had selected me to be a member on the team. Not that any of this is important, except to serve as a backdrop for this story.
Being part of the team meant that I got to hang out after school in the science classroom, reviewing the material in preparation for our competition. After one of these review sessions we were all standing around talking, waiting for our parents to pick us up. It was your typical classroom with cinder block walls painted a horrid institutional green. I was standing next to the bulletin board, idly examining the way that the wooden frame had been painted over multiple times, since the chips of paint revealed the layers. I don’t remember how the conversation drifted in the direction it took, but the teacher made an interesting observation. She remarked that some people thought it was possible that humans were really aliens who had crashed on Earth. The whole business about the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was really a story about the crashed ship’s computer that had gotten garbled over the years.
Already at that age I was into the science fiction and had a huge Star Wars action figure collection. And Star Wars sheets, pillowcase and blanket. When my friends and I played Star Wars, I got to be Luke because I had blonde hair. So this idea of a space faring people colonizing the Earth was absolutely fascinating to me. It seemed way more plausible than the version that they taught in church. From that point on, any time I heard or thought about Genesis, I couldn’t help but imagine this alternate version of events and what fantasize about what really had happened.
Now, I didn’t actually believe in the literal truth of this alien story any more than I bought into the idea of an omnipotent being creating a golem out of clay. But it definitely introduced me to alternate ways of thinking about religious texts instead of just accepting the “official” position. This memory (and Star Trek) opened my mind to the possibility that the universe was much more fantastic and amazing than boring old god.