My mom and I are both working through the effects of being raised by her cult-leading mom/my grandma. She recently wrote this about her own childhood, and I related it to my deconversion.

One striking aspect of how our mother raised us was how actively she defined and described the world to us. Some of the time she would teach us things, perhaps when we were in the car on the way to school or to the grocery store. I remember a mini-lecture about the banking system when I was only about six, and a few years later one time when I was sick she told a clever story about antibodies. She described the white blood cells as little soldiers who willingly gave their lives as they defended the body against infection. She could also be funny and charming, and I can remember all of kids standing in a circle around her, laughing at some joke or story she had told. She enjoyed being the center of attention with us, just as she had with kids in high school and boys in college. And we enjoyed being the recipients of her performance.

But her verbal descriptions of the world went far beyond the times she told us jokes or taught us facts. She defined life to us. She told us what mattered and what didn’t. She told us what we thought and what we felt. She told us what we wanted – and she told us who we were. She told us everything we needed to know. And she seemed to imply that anything she didn’t tell us was something we didn’t need to know. As I recall my childhood, it’s as though she was providing a narration, almost a voice-over, for my entire life, creating for it the meaning and the purpose that she decreed.

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Comment by Angie Jackson on July 29, 2009 at 11:16am
In my family, reading the Bible was mandatory. Once I got older, I'd stop reading it (but still be Christian and attend church) till I felt too guilty and had to read it again. It amazes me how many Christians act as if knowledge of the bible is optional for Christians. (If they'd read the book, they'd realize how importantly the Word treats itself!)
Comment by Jason Spicer on July 28, 2009 at 11:17pm
I wish more Christians would read the Bible. There'd be more atheists. Of course, they'd have to actually read it, not just go to a "Bible study" where some apologist "interprets" it for them.
Comment by Jennifer E. on July 28, 2009 at 9:20pm
I'm a recent atheist, although I've had doubts for at least 10 years. When I was little, we always went to church, but it was never forced down my throat or anything. In fact, my parents don't even go anymore, though they are still believers. I think that has more to do with the fact that my mom has been the secretary at their church for I think 12 years or so, and she sees all the inside politics, pettiness, and unnecessary spending. So, I wasn't brought up with too much religion, thank goodness. But, I remember questioning it from a very young age - I would ask my mom why the dinosaurs weren't in the bible and other obvious scientific contradictions as I went through school. I don't remember her exact answer, but it was enough to placate me at 6 years old. Of course, as I got older, the answers were less and less sufficient. There was a time when I was a sophomore in high school when I went through a period of rather intense belief. I was dating a guy who went to a pretty fundamentalist church and I sort of embraced it, though I never did go up to the altar and "give my heart to Jesus." I'm not sure what held me back, but I never felt comfortable with all of that. I also didn't ever feel comfortable pushing Christianity onto other people. I'm a "live and let live" sort of gal. Anyway, that only really lasted for as long as I dated that guy, which wasn't very long.

In college, I pretty much stopped going to church, except on holidays and was really questioning the whole thing. I once lightly broached the subject with my college boyfriend and he suggested I read the bible. I didn't respond, but I remember thinking "what the hell good is that going to do?" Since then, I just pushed the question aside and didn't deal with it. Partly because it was an overwhelming question for a long time, and partly because I was a little afraid of what the world would look like through the "atheist glasses," as Julia Sweeney puts it. Didn't deal with it until a few months ago when I picked up God Is Not Great at Barnes and Noble. It took me several months to even work up the courage to buy it! The whole book was such a validation of all my feelings and suspicion about religion that I haven't looked back. It's such a huge weight lifted from my shoulders just to have answered the question for myself - I don't know how agnostics do it.
Comment by Angie Jackson on July 28, 2009 at 7:33pm
No problem. Did you used to believe, or have you always an atheist?
Comment by Jennifer E. on July 28, 2009 at 6:23pm
Interesting! Thanks for sharing! :)
Comment by Angie Jackson on July 28, 2009 at 5:44pm
Well my siblings and I had seen the BBC series as kids, and I'd read LWW a few times, but when I got to 9th grade I decided to read the whole series. (By then I'd read all of Anne MacCaffrey, Patricia Wrede, Edgar Eager and Gerorge MacDonald in the library.) In "The Last Battle" which is last in the Narnia series, a Muslim guy gets into heaven at the very end, even though he never followed Aslan, just because he was a good person and lived a good life. Now, this is a very appealing character in the book, and so I was *glad* when he made it to heaven, but it popped up a question I'd never considered before: Was it possible that not everyone outside of my denomination/religion was going to hell? Might may gay/wiccaan friends make it? I managed to shove the doubts down for a little while with "Mere Christianity" and "Screwtape Letters", but SL showed me yet again that the demons are cooler characters (Lewis admitted himself he could never come up with a flip side to this book, from the perspective of an angel). And although I had no real comprehension of "logic" at that age, I was taking literary criticism in AP English, and I started paying more attention to the subtext of what I read, and to gaps in the reasoning.

Lewis wasn't the ultimate thing that led me out, or even one of the top five. But he is in the top ten. I think he was such a determined apologist, because he really did understand doubt, but wanted to pretend he had the answers for them. Those answers only work to temporarily soothe doubts of the believer, and never to persuade the well-informed atheist. (So the same lines totally wouldn't work on me today.)
Comment by Jennifer E. on July 28, 2009 at 5:37pm
Why CS Lewis? This sounds like an intriguing story!
Comment by Angie Jackson on July 28, 2009 at 3:00pm
Jennifer - yup. It's amazing how good grandma was at sounding like the KJV OT in her daily life.
Karla - I owe it to the internet and (oddly) CS Lewis
Comment by Karla on July 28, 2009 at 2:53pm
I can't believe you broke free!
Comment by Jennifer E. on July 28, 2009 at 2:03pm
Sounds a lot like the bible.

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