My parents made us go to church but never pushed religion. I loved to read, especially the mythologies of Greece, Scandinavia, Rome, etc. After going through all the mythology I could find, I decided to read through the entire bible, and quickly recognized it as another mythology. I was in the fifth grade at the time. As I've said before, Santa Claus made more sense, and when I found out that HE wasn't real, there was no hope for getting me to believe in another mythical being that made less sense! In my parent's household, the rule was that you attended church until you were 11, then you made up your own mind to go or not. My mother's frequent admonition was that she did not care whether we believed or not, she just wanted us be knowledgeable about what we did or did not believe in. This was remarkably open minded for an African American family in the early 60s.

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Comment by Sentient Biped on February 14, 2009 at 6:37pm
Gwen,
I know what you mean. My family was worried when I went through my Unitarian phase, but at least it was a church. My mom insisted that Unitarians were a cult. (Strange, a free-thinking cult with no formal structure!). Finally, they all gave up talking about it. As they say where I grew up, "denial aint just a river in Egypt. "

All that being said, and back to your original topic, your Mom must be an impressive lady, to grow up in a religious family and give her own children a choice in the matter. There must have been family pressure on HER to raise YOU "right".
Comment by Gwen on February 14, 2009 at 6:08pm
I found out about Santa when I was 10. We all thought our parents had pulled a great joke on us. We couldn't wait to tell them we'd discovered the truth (we'd accidentally found the christmas presents hidden under their bed). My father came from a VERY religious AME family. I visited a relative last year who belongs to the same church (all conversations lead to god) and thinks that people who don't attend a church are hell bound and unworthy of his association. I danced around my church affiliation because I am the family genealogist and need information that he has to offer. I have to do the same with family on the east coast where my family originated. They would not THINK of being atheist, or association with one. I keep my godlessness under my hat and continue to collect information that would dry up if they knew my true 'religion'. My out is to say that I am catholic (they are all baptist), that way they think I am strange, but still acceptable (these are third to fifth cousins).
Comment by zeeman barzell on February 14, 2009 at 2:52pm
Actually Daniel, you are exactly right about the community aspect of church going. I felt that grandparents church was not very extreme and I never thought (even as a kid) that anything was being shoved down my throat or I was never frightened into believing in god. It was always so casual and nothing to take that seriously. Like stories around the campfire....ho hum. I remember their church being the meeting place for all their friends, where they said hello to each other, sat around for an hour or so listening to some guy in a suit read to them, and then we'd all just hang out and go to lunch! Fun! It was definitely more about fellowship and socializing than about praising the skydaddy. At least at their church.

I feel like sometimes when I tell people I don't go to church, they take it personal and seem disappointed like I'm rejecting them and don't want to include myself in their social circle. I say, It's not you, it's your god.
Comment by Sentient Biped on February 13, 2009 at 2:55pm
Gwen,

Thank you for your blog post!

Someday maybe most people will grow up without having religion forced onto them. Your story gives me hope.

Oddly enough, I was taught from a very young age that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny were fanatasies, but that Jesus and God were real. So I never had that "ah-hah!" moment when finding out about Santa and thinking, "who else doesn't exist?" However, being brought up to absolutely trust authority, and then coming to my own conclusion, that the "ultimate authority" was a lie, did leave a lasting imprint about trust, and institutions, and authority figures.

It almost makes me wonder if the church was more of a community, than a religion, for your family? Regardless, it's wonderful to see how open your parents were, and their trust in you to make the right decisions.

Daniel
Comment by Gwen on February 12, 2009 at 8:33pm
Jude, thanks for the addition!
Gwen
Comment by Jude Johnson on February 12, 2009 at 8:18pm
Yes, thanks Gwen. There are sure many of us here who wish their parents were as open-minded as yours. My mom oscillated between moderately to severely religious throughout my childhood (this translated to going to church either once or three times per week).

Much like you and Zeeman, I never bought any of it after I was too old for Santa (about age 7). I didn't even think the adults in my life who were preaching it believed it until I got older -- what a surprise! I knew for a fact at least one thing: There was either no god, no hell, or neither. The loving, parental god they spoke of would never send one of us to hell for any reason -- much less for something like "coveting" our neighbor's new sports car!

Throughout my childhood and early adulthood, I'd say I was agnostic about god. I read the bible and studied it at a Christian university (as part of their core requirements) and knew it was full of myths -- many of them dangerous. I have never been able to understand why modern day people still believe that book --Grimm's Fairy Tales are much more believable -- not to mention entertaining. I still thought there was probably some kind of god -- mostly because I never met anyone who didn't believe and had been raised to believe that atheists are "satan worshippers" (-ironic huh?). I just didn't know not believing was an option I guess. I went through a long "New Age" period with reincarnation, etc... Then about a year ago I finally opened my eyes after reading The God Delusion. Ever since then I've been reading all I can from Dawkins, Dennett, Darwin, etc. YouTube is great too. This has absolutely been the best year of my life. I'm excited every day to see the world with unshrouded eyes. The universe is awesome! Gravity, light, matter, time, space -- any one of these things inspires more awe and happiness in me than any religion ever could!

Sorry I took over your blog here -- I got a little carried away.
I "covet" your open-minded parents.
I'm glad you found your way to AN!
Comment by zeeman barzell on February 12, 2009 at 3:02pm
I also was brought up in a very non-religious setting. Apart from accompanying my grandparents to church on the odd weekend when they were looking after me, as both my (non-religious) parents worked, church was not a big part of my life growing up. I learned all the basic bible stories on those random Sundays, colored pictures of Jesus on the cross and enjoyed cookies and punch with other kids my age, but I never thought what they were telling me was real history. I always thought of that stuff like just another fairy tale like Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, or the Three Little Pigs.

Pigs can’t build houses and virgins don’t get pregnant. I was sure of this at a very early age. Thanks for sharing, Gwen.

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