I was born and raised in Greece near Athens and attended high school at Athens College, a Greek-American preparatory institution that is attended by many of the Greek elite and many scholarship students like myself.
I was baptized and indoctrinated in the state church as a Greek Orthodox Christian. The Greek Orthodox Church, which was established by St. Paul, Saul of Tarsus just a few years after Christ’s crucifixion, is similar to Roman Catholicism from which it split several centuries later in the Schism.
Greek Orthodoxy follows a very strict religious discipline. The Madonna is worshipped with ardor as the Mother of God and the source of Divine Compassion. My mother was on very intimate terms with the Madonna; she used to pray to her nightly calling her Mother of Mothers. As a child I attended the liturgy every Sunday and sang with the Church choir. On weekdays I ran after every passing black-robed, bearded, pony tail hair priest with a top hat to kiss his hand and get his blessing.
My dad, a bank manager, was a free thinker and agnostic. He died 17 days after celebrating his 100 years of age. The nearness of death had not stimulated any sense of Faith. He lived with me in his last years when his main interest was his next meal. Then food started tasting bad to him and he died of malnutrition. I lost my mother in 1997 to dementia and finally congestive heart failure at age 92. When mom and dad argued, usually over money that she overspent, she called him an “infidel.” I do not recall Dad ever saying bad things against religion and in all his lengthy life he had never done anything unethical; rather he had gone out of his way many times to help others. He had been a Christian in practice without the dogma.
As for myself, I went along with the prevailing faith, unquestioning. My first exposure to atheism came from my brother, two years my senior, when I was about 13 years old. We slept in the same bedroom and there was a period of time when he kept me up half the night with his talk on religion and his doubts about what the priests taught us in church and school.
Later in high school it was the custom for the science students to bait the priest in the class for religious catechism which was mandatory every semester. These fellows were bright, well read and vicious. They could quote readily from Nietzsche, Russell, Lenin and other atheists. Every Church teaching was held up, in their view, to the bright light of Reason and the class roared with laughter as the poor priest squirmed and wiggled desperately trying to get his point across. Finally, he would get so exasperated, he would declare “This is how it is; you have to believe this and answer correctly in your tests or I will fail you.” I answered properly and got A’s.
Thus I graduated with honors and left for the United States to study engineering. With a free ticket on S. S. Homeland, tourist class, I stood on the deck and waved to my family on the dock. My poor little mother, dressed in the traditional black dress of the middle-aged Greek women, was in a torrent of tears but I did not care. I was going to America to become learned, rich and famous. For a year I attended engineering school in Raleigh, N.C., then dropped out to become a traveler, occasional worker at a variety of trades and a would-be writer for the next six years.
These were adventurous years for me, with frightful difficulties and privations mixed in with occasional happiness. I remember the beginning of this Odyssey in a rented room in Chicago. I was working as a bus boy. One Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1954, after a short nap, I experienced a feeling of complete peace, tranquility and joy. Also, the certainty that no matter what trials and suffering lay ahead for me, I would be all right in the end and I would eventually succeed in life and be happy.
Five years later, in 1959, I had an intense religious experience; it was very confusing and erratic. I thought I had connected with God and gained vast insights about the Universe and Nature. One of my numerous visions was of planes crashing into skyscrapers, with red flashing flames. It did not seem so serious a matter. I was in the minds of the pilots, firmly believing that this whole show was unreal in a world of illusion and the real world was beyond. I decided that my experiences were not on firm mental ground. I picked up an old volume on college algebra and started sharpening my logical tools again. I reunited with my mother and brother who had by then also immigrated to the United States and with their help I was soon back in engineering school. I did well and received my first degree quickly. I devoted myself to rational thinking and for many years looked upon Intuition and Faith as things to be avoided.
Upon retirement as a university professor I was financially independent and I returned to my old love for the humanities and writing. I began a number of books such as, The Anatomy of War, Machine Intelligence, True Manhood and other subjects that have interested me, which may yet see the light of day. But I settled on God as a philosophical subject, because God has got to be the most fundamental of all issues.