A few years ago I wrote a blog post entitled "Me at 17". It briefly outlined my move from a devout Christian to an agnostic. My beliefs have evolved a little since then, and I would like to give a little more back-story to my upbringing and journey. This will not be a full "story of my life", but will focus mostly on the religious aspects of my childhood, along with a few other milestones that are important to the story.
In many ways, I am 100% different than I was 10 years ago. I have known a few people who have undergone as dramatic a change in as many years, though the numbers are few. Those who know me now would have hardly recognized the old me; I barely recognize the old me, to be honest.
At 17 I was still living at home with my parents. I was home-schooled from the age of 8 to 18, so 99% of my time was spent at home. My home-schooling was based on the curriculum from Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools (CLASS) located in Arlington Heights, Illinois. I learned most subjects from an Evangelical Christian standpoint. For instance, my science books were entitled "Studying God's World" or "Observing God's World". In addition, each year of school contained required Bible course. I learned little about evolution and next to nothing about other religions, aside from the Christian point of view. I wasn't really in close contact with anyone who attended public school, at least not until I was 12 or so. Since I wasn't socialized, I didn't really think that anything I was learning was odd or incorrect.
I had plenty of issues at home, some of which were typical, some were not. All along, I was trying to live up to the expectations that they held for me. I wasn’t expected to get a college degree, have a career or any real goals - I wasn’t even fully expected to find a husband and start a family. The expectation, or rather, the requirement - was that I would remain a steadfast, semi-fanatical, non-questioning, devout, spiritual “Christian”.
My parents came from a mixed religious background - at least from my limited point of view. My father had been raised as a semi-casual General Baptist, while my mother had no established religious upbringing. In her early 20s, however, she adopted the ideology of a local Pentecostal Church of God. She attended this church for several years, and to my knowledge, still espouses most of the belief system she learned there. Both she and my father had been on-again/off-again church attendees, and were in the "off-again" stage when they met in 1980; in a bar, no less. They attended church occasionally, usually of the General Baptist variety, in my early childhood.
It wasn't until I was nearly 6 years old, however, that my parents started attending church full time. My mother had "re-dedicated her life to God" at some point during this time period, and urged me into praying that my father would do the same. My father came around and became "saved" after a personal "experience with god" when I was almost 6. At the age of 6, I myself "prayed the prayer of repentance" and was baptized by a local General Baptist preacher. We were attending the local General Baptist church at that time, where my parents urged me to sing "special songs" during the services. My father had purchased an electronic keyboard for me at the age of 6, which I learned to play by ear well enough to accompany myself singing and accompany other church members as well.
From the ages of 5 or 6 until I was about 12, I went to various churches along with my parents - everything from Pentecostal Churches of God to General Baptist, with other similar and non-denominational churches thrown into the mix along the way. We would basically attend any church that was perceived as being "spiritual" or "on fire". "Dead" churches were quite out of the question, as we did not feel that the "Holy Ghost" resided in those churches, and everyone in those churches was just going through the motions. We had attended a lot of "revivals", some of which were held by well-known televangelists. This continued throughout my childhood - my parents still continue this habit today.
To Be Continued...