Roger Smith, brief Sunday school recollection


We had a wonderful Sunday school program in the Unitarian church in Canton, MA in around 1959-1960.  The Sunday School curriculum for that year was called the The Church Across the Street.

Mr. Ralph Sanford was our Sunday school teacher. He was superb.

We visited a Buddhist temple, a Christian Scientist church, and many other churches which I forget, plus a Catholic church.

After mass, we had an audience with the priest, who was very nice.

He asked at length if we had any questions. I raised my hand and said, yes, I did have a question. I wanted to know, if God was good and all powerful, why did He let evil exist (and in fact predominate) in the world?

The priest had a hard time answering me. I was very into rational discourse (I was on the debate team in Canton High School) and found his answers inadequate. I kept persisting.

The priest did his best to answer me and kept his composure, but he seemed a little flustered. It was kind of an awkward standoff.

Our minister, Rev. Al Fowlie, was present on this occasion and he told me afterwards, after we had left the church and were going home, that the priest had asked him, had I been coached by anybody to ask this particular question?

Rev. Fowlie told the priest, no, I hadn’t.

Rev. Fowlie then asked me, where do you get such questions from? Don’t you know, he said, that religious thinkers have been struggling to answer this question for centuries? (I learned later that St. Augustine in his writings and preaching gave some of the best answers.)

I did not know this at the time. I told Rev. Fowlie that it had just occurred to me as a natural question to ask based on my own reflections and that I hadn’t intended to be a smart aleck or wise guy.


Rev. Alfred Fowlie. A magic man

Rev. Alfred Fowlie


About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1), a personal site, he also hosts a websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim Aleksandrovich Sorokin.
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