ABILENE INTERFAITH COUNCIL
NEXT MEETING: 12 noon Tuesday, April 10, Gerhart Hall, Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, 602 Meander St.
PROGRAM: Loretta Fulton, “Covering the Religion Beat”
DETAILS: Free and open to the public. Lunch provided by donations or bring your own.
By LORETTA FULTON
Stephanie Hamm and Norm Bowman grew up as friends at Burkburnett High School, close to Wichita Falls.
They still are friends but have taken different paths. Hamm is an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Abilene Christian University. Bowman is an atheist. Bowman, who lives in Dallas, was guest speaker for the March meeting of the Abilene Interfaith Council. He was invited by Hamm.
Bowman’s walk toward atheism started when he was about 9 years old. His father was a United Methodist but was more likely to be on the golf course on Sunday mornings than in church. His mother was a Baptist who did good things for others like making blankets for the poor.
Bowman questioned messages he heard in Sunday School and church and didn’t get satisfactory answers.
“I came to the conclusion that what I was being told just didn’t add up,” Bowman said. “It wasn’t rebellion to me, it just didn’t make sense.”
He talked to ministers and psychologists, but still he didn’t feel a sense of faith in his life. And, he didn’t see anything good being done by people of faith around him. He saw people hurting others in the name of faith. He saw megachurches that wouldn’t open their doors to the homeless during bad weather.
“There are a lot of things I see that are very contradictory,” Bowman said.
Bowman’s wife is Hispanic and was raised Catholic. She now is agnostic, he said. They have two teenage children, a son and a daughter. The son is a fact-based, science kind of guy, his dad said. Their daughter “wants there to be a God.”
Bowman said he always has told his children he would take them to a church if they wanted to go. He does not try to force his beliefs–or non-beliefs–on his children.
“This is my road,” he said, “they have to take theirs.”
Among common misconceptions about atheism, Bowman said, is that they want to destroy religion and that they are arrogant. Personally, Bowman said, he does not have an agenda, certainly not one that includes destroying religion.
“My agenda,” he said, “is to find a happy medium and live in harmony.”