Now 73, I began reading science fiction when I was about ten years old. I also became an atheist around that age, in large part from reading the Judeo-Christian Bible. When I was seven, living in the tiny town of Los Angeles, USA, I wanted a Christmas tree, not for any love for Jesus, but because my friends had Christmas trees and found presents under them. Being a kind of stupid, whiny child, I thought Christmas trees meant presents.
My father took me into the kitchen, sat me at the kitchen table in our tiny rented house and said something along the lines of Stephen, we are Jews. Jews don’t do Christmas.
The next year we had a Christmas tree with some of the stupid presents I had longed for. My family, while not homeless or starving, was quite poor. The first thing I learned about Jews was that we do what we have to do to survive and take care of our children. Sometimes that kind of works; sometimes it goes very, very wrong, most notoriously in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.
As i grew up in a time before video games, I became addicted to reading at the Echo Park Library. It was cheap; my family was dysfunctional. I saw my father hitting my mother; two of my four siblings are seriously mentally ill. I kind of lived in the library as reading was cheap and it was a way to stay away from my family. We had a complete Bible around. One week while the library was closed for remodeling and desperate for something to read, I read the Bible through from Genesis to Revelation, where I go stuck.
I thought in my childish mind:
This book was either written by or dictated by the entity we call “god” or it was written by humans. It sure seems to have the fingerprints of humans all over it.
This has to be one of the most boring books ever written.
As I said, I got stuck at Revelation, I said to myself Whomever wrote this was crazy. Actually, I know now that Biblical scholars suspect that John of Patmos, the alleged author of Revelation, was either a schizophrenic or on drugs, perhaps a natural hallucinogenic drug such as ergot which can produce effects akin to LSD.
An ergot kernel, called a sclerotium, develops when a spore of fungal species of the genus Claviceps infects a floret…en.wikipedia.org
As I grew older, I came to the conclusion that the Bible and other allegedly holy books were the science fiction of their time.
As I’ve reached the age of 73, I have been bemused that we are living in a time of great cultural and scientific change, akin to other great cultural changes such as the birth of religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism (which I call Karmic/Reincarnation religions and the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam which I call viral religions because the agents (humans) are driven to spread religious memes like viruses and bacteria spread diseases.
As there is not the slightest bit of empirical evidence to support religious belief the widespread belief in religion among humans strikes me as an indication that our species is essentially mentally ill as a species, in large part because we are the only animals who reached full theory of mind, which includes realization that we are going to die.
It is also interesting to me that Bob Dylan, who was considered kind of a cute, politically correct folk singer but basically a light weight by my professors where I majored in English as a college student, has now become a Nobel Prize for literature winner. By the same token, reading science fiction in my 20s and 30s I read Philip K. Dick, who at best was considered kind of a trashy, pulp science fiction writer.
I think a lot of artists, especially writers, kind of go mad, often are alcoholics and drug users, and in a lot of senses are possessed by demons. Many years after I stopped reading Dick, kind of fascinated by his bizarre mind and visions, but not taking him as seriously as the “great writers” I studied in college, to find that he is now considered a great writers of the 20th Century. A lot of his books are now considered classics and are published in the https://www.loa.org/ Library of America which is kind of our semi-official canon of great American literature.
Now he became aware of an insidious, seeping, cooling-off which at some earlier and unremembered time had begun to…www.loa.org
Dick was really crazy, addled by drugs, mental illness, obsession with religion, and who knows what else.