"Only people who are personally weak go to church or believe in gods." ~ My Mother
Unlike a lot of Ex-C'ers I wasn't raised Christian. I was raised in agnostic/atheist household. The extent of my exposure to Christianity was being baptized as a baby to appease my fundamentalist grandparents, and that was the end of it. My parents were both ex-Christians. My mother came from a highly religious and fundamental Presbyterian household in the Deep South, and my father was a Danish Lutheran. My mother never spoke of her upbringing much, I just knew she had suffered a great deal of religious abuse at the hands of her church and my grandmother, whom she hated, and that's why we weren't Christian. I don't know what she said to my grandmother on the subject, but my grandmother and grandfather never dared try to influence me either.
My father...well, I didn't even know his side of the family was Lutheran till I was 25 and I received a beautiful Italian mosaic cross that belonged to my Farmor (Danish for "grandmother") for Christmas one year. When I asked about it, my mom told me my Dad's family had been Lutheran. Considering his side of the family still lived in Denmark and we barely ever talked, I never knew much about them.
My mother was an avid student of various religions. She saved all her old textbooks from college in the 1960's (the ones that still called Asians "Orientals"), and had multiple analytical books about the Bible, the Dhamapada, the Bagahvad-Gita, the Torah, basic old "religion for dummies" type texts, and so on. We had a huge built in bookshelf in the wall dedicated to these texts. Most of which sat undisturbed for years and are now currently sitting in my storage unit. I have old hymn books and Bibles from before the Civil War era that belonged to my ancestors.
It was a bit rough being an atheist child. I found myself at a disadvantage and feeling like an outsider many times growing up in middle-class suburban America. It was like the rest of society was in on something important and no one was telling me what it was. We did celebrate Easter and Christmas in our house, but without the religious bent. Simply from being American, I picked up the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, Moses, the birth of Jesus (thank you Charlie Brown and Rankin Bass), and Jesus teaching and healing the sick, and finally being crucified through daytime television. I remember listening to Jimmy Bakker and wondering what he was on about. I just didn't get it.
I wasn't a very popular kid and other kids liked to take advantage of my ignorance about Christianity. I remember once in fifth grade and it was the rise of the AIDS epidemic and homosexuals were being especially persecuted. I didn't pay much attention to the news then, just briefly heard the word "Homosexual" and that it meant men had sex with men. One day in class someone stuck a sign to my back that said "Lesbian" on it. When I finally pulled it off and looked at it, and I didn't understand what the word meant. I asked another student, and they giggled and told me it meant I loved other women. I knew from the cruel sniggering this was some sort of an insult, but I didn't understand why. When someone finally told me it was taboo for girls to love girls or boys to love boys and we were supposed to hate them because the Bible said so, I suddenly laughed and blurted out aghast, "Seriously?! That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard!" I could not believe that there was actually a "rule" out there over something so silly! I knew that people loved and had sex with each other, so why not girls with girls and boys with boys? It seemed like the most natural conclusion in the whole world to me that boys would fall in love with other boys or girls with girls. Especially since I actually DID find girls attractive. I thought that was normal. I had never heard otherwise.
Apparently that was really the wrong response, because the students got pissed at me, and I got a stern talking to from the teacher about respecting other people's beliefs, and I was not to call their religion stupid. My mother wasn't best pleased with that, and told me that I was the one who was right.
I also remember being asked in sixth grade "Are you a virgin?" and I blinked and asked them what that meant. Cue a lot more taunting about how I could POSSIBLY NOT know what that meant. Then they finally explained it and the virgin Mary, and how you are a virgin until you have sex for the first time. Again I thought that was pretty stupid. Why would anybody care enough about something like that to give it a name and make a big deal out of it?
My mother explained the origins of the word to me after school and how it used to be used to denote a woman who had chosen not to marry and handed me a book on Greek Myths.
It was instances like that and many more that sparked my interest in religions. Being a teenager however, I didn't just want to learn about them, I was awkward and wanting desperately to fit in...I was weak. I wanted to know this God I'd heard about all my life and this peace He was supposed to bring me. So I converted to Christianity at around age 12 and prayed to Jesus. My mother needless to say was quite disappointed, but she stood firm in her convictions that my spiritual choices were mine to make alone...just don't drag her into it.
I thank my mother for her own insatiable curiosity and vast education. I'll save my exploits as a newborn-for-the-first-time Christian (since I wasn't born "again") for the future, but that's the background needed for my further thoughts in this blog.
Thanks for reading, I hope to be mildly entertaining.