I suppose a brief explanation as to why I am the outspoken atheist I am today is in order, but in this post I’ll just tell you about my introduction to the Abrahamic religions.
I grew up in one of those small towns that had a church on just about every other block, and one of them was the ‘First Church of the Nazarene’ (pictured above), which I attended with my great grandparents. They’d pick me up almost every Sunday for church and after we would have lunch. I still have a lot of fond memories of the time I spent with them but looking back I realized that they were trying to indoctrinate me, because like most religious people, they believed that anyone who wasn’t their particular brand of Christian would go to hell. This church was a bit different than others I’ve been to, the small building on the side was turned into a daycare, which became a children’s church on Sundays so parents could drop their kids off to be filled with sugary snacks and learn the lords message via animated religious films, songs, bible jeopardy, bible bingo, etc.
Like most kids I soaked up everything. I memorized verses, prayers, and songs but I never really understood the concept of god or religion, and despite participating in activities with the other kids, I never felt like I fit in and it was the same way when I started first grade at a Catholic school around the same time. I started attending when I was about 6 so I went to kids church, which was run by a very nice married couple named Renda & Verne, the pastors daughter, and her friend.There weren’t many kids at the beginning, maybe 5 on a good day. Regardless of how many showed up they started with a prayer, we’d sing a few songs, listen to them read a verse from the bible, skipping over all the awful verses of course, and then the girls would start passing out snacks while Verne wheeled out the TV and put in a movie, which was usually an episode of ‘The Story Keepers’ or ‘McGee and Me!’.
Unlike the other children, religion was not a part of my life outside of church or Catholic school. My mom is Pagan so we obviously didn’t sit around reading bible stories or praying, although we did have a miniature glass manger scene we put out at Christmas, that I treated like action figures…I went to church with my great grandparents until I was about 10 or 11, but the older I got the less I went and the more disinterested I became. Around the time I stopped going to church with them, my great grandma had given my cousin a large check to pay for her missionary trip, and I remember being so irritated that she would go to some other place to preach to people who already had their own beliefs. My great grandmother was so proud of my cousin for sharing the word of god to these “poor people” and I just couldn’t wrap my head around it, everything about it just seemed disrespectful and meaningless.
During this same time period I was also spending a lot of time with a family friend, Robin, who was babysitting my siblings and I while my mom was at work. She was like a mother to me, except unlike my real mother she read the bible to us during dinner and had religious inspirational quotes hung on the walls. Out of all the stories she read to us though, the one that sticks out to this day is the story of Jacob & Rachel. It sounds like kind of stupid reason now, but as a kid this biblical love story really grossed me out because the two main characters had the same names as my brother and I.
I never complained about having to hear these stories or talked about my personal beliefs, not that anyone ever asked, but at this point in my life my disinterest in religion was already bordering on distaste, for reasons I won’t go into just yet, but my time spent with Robin and her family is where things really started to go south.