When you were growing up what religion did your parents practice and what religion were you raised in?
I was raised within a religion called First Christian Church and that was a church that was created actually by a guy named Thomas Campbell, of all things, in Scotland.
What he was trying – this was in probably, I don’t know, 16-1700s – and what he was trying to do was make a kind of non-denominational Christianity because there were all these denominations, and he’d say ‘Well let’s just kind of add all those together and divide by the number and come up with some kind of average thing that kind of suits everybody’s needs and then we won’t have all these differences to argue about – we’ll all just agree on some basic tenets and we’ll do that’.
So it was a very plain vanilla nondescript kind of a Christian theology that minimized secularity and dogma to a large extent. But that was because that’s where my grandparents went because that was the small church that was in their small town and it just travels through families… it’s just habit.
So I got taken every Sunday and I’d sit there and listen and like most people in-one-ear-out-the-other, you know, it didn’t just mean a whole lot to me one way or another. By the time I was probably 13, 14, 15 I thought it was all a bunch of foolishness and was an atheist and by the time I was 17, 18, 19 I wasn’t so much an atheist as I was ‘it really doesn’t matter, it’s irrelevant’ – and as a scientist I thought it was all a lot of nonsense. Then eventually I learned out the fundamental truth to it…
That was actually kind of a big surprise for me when I realized that religion actually had a lot of the fundamental truths; they already were there. Eastern religion probably more than Western. But, in general, a lot of the fundamental truths were part of the major religions and I kind of had to laugh when I got to that position because I’d been, you know, I’m like this (Tom faces his palm to the camera) with religion all along you know, don’t get that too close to me, and then I realized that love is the answer; it’s about caring and people and being kind and a lot of the things that religion talks about. Indeed, that is the fundamental truth.
So religions do have a basis in fundamental truth, but they’ve got an awful lot of nonsense on top of that as well! Some more than others, but yeah, that was an interesting kind of come-around – a whole 180 degrees to where religion is all bogus nonsense to where they actually got to the truth quicker than I did!