Religion did not play a significant role in my life growing up. My parents did not force me (or, later, my sister) to attend church on Sundays or Wednesdays, or Christmas or Easter. I’m sure my parents had a BIble or two in the house, but I don’t recall seeing a copy (my memory becomes hazier the further back I try to recollect, so they might have had one and I don’t remember). We said grace before big holiday meals like Easter, Turkey Day, and Christmas. Mom and dad would occasionally pray to god for one thing or another and mentioned that they didn’t want to belong to any one church, so they were non-denominational believers. Aside from that, religion was not a presence in my life growing up. No Bible was ever put in front of me, nor was I told I had to read verses before bed or other stuff many kids have to do. In fact, to this day I’ve not read the Bible cover to cover*. Church was such a non-presence in my life that by age 21 I had only been inside three churches. The first time was for a funeral. Second time was for a wedding. The other was a trip to New Orleans with friends and we walked around a cathedral (can’t recall the name of it, but I think it had some really nice stained glass windows).
For all that we weren’t a church-going family, we did consider ourselves believers, even if nominally. My parents used to say “we don’t believe in organized religion, but we do believe something is out there” (I’ve occasionally thought about discussing this with them bc the statement “we don’t believe in organized religion”–taken on its face–is nonsense, given that organized religion *does* exist and here in the Southern United States, we have evidence of it on what seems like every other damn street). I don’t ever recall asking my sister her thoughts on religion, though with the eight year difference (she’s younger) she may not have given it much thought until her teen years bc our parents did not foist religion upon us. For my part, I remember as a teen holding beliefs about a vague universal guiding force that created everything. I didn’t worship him (and yeah, of course he was a him, thanks patriarchy), but I believed he existed. When I finally started coming out of the closet, my views shifted a bit, bc I wasn’t seeing any evidence there was a god. So I became an agnostic. And when I went to college and took some philosophy courses and an intro to logic course, I ditched agnosticism and chose atheism (though technically I’m an agnostic atheist, as I don’t know for sure there is or isn’t a god, but either way, I don’t *believe* in a the god of the Bible any more than I believe in any of the other thousands of gods humanity has created).
One thing I noticed as I got older was how much in the dark I was about religious issues. My lack of religious background as a child left me incredibly ignorant on many things that others find mundane. When I first heard about PZ Myers’ Communion Wafer incident, I had no clue what a Communion Wafer was or what Communion was (now that I do? what a weird belief). I knew nothing about the Establishment Clause and how important it is to our secular society, nor had I heard any of the cognitive fallacies that theists engage in when trying to demonstrate their deity exists. I also knew virtually nothing about Judaism or Islam.
Then there’s the harmful stuff I knew nothing about. The morally repulsive stuff. The stuff that leads to an increase i suffering. Among the deeply disturbing information I discovered about christianity was the opposition of the Roman Catholic Church to the use of birth control, the Religious RIght’s war on queers, the use of the Bible to support slavery, and the history of child sexual abuse cases from the Roman Catholic Church.
Speaking of the child sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Church, another example came to light today: Cardinal George Pell, the third highest ranking Vatican official has been accused of multiple sexual offenses: