Sent in by Pretzel
I was raised by a mildly Christian mother and an agnostic father. My dad never talked about religion at all. My mom, on the other hand, told me when I was a kid about Heaven, Hell, God, Jesus, etc. But we didn't go to church or anything.
I only went to Sunday School during the summer of one year, I think, maybe between second and third grade? I forget. It was rather uneventful.
I remember my mom once asking me if I wanted to join something called God Squad. I remember thinking that name sounded cool, and being envious of it. Nowadays, I think "God Squad" just sounds corny, but when you're a kid, anything that sounds "important" and "grown up" sounds cool.
Anyway, I didn't think about God too much when I was a kid, though I did believe in heaven or hell, but that was it.
When I was 11, though, everything changed at once. You know how people's brains start to work differently when they hit puberty? I don't just mean the sexual attraction thing; I mean changes in how you view the world, sudden gains in intelligence (or in some ways, the opposite), and things like that.
Well, I started to think about God again, and thought that I'd better seriously consider my future, and get into Heaven. That meant going back to praying (something I only did once or twice before), and doing what I could to get into Heaven.
On the other hand, all that thought about Heaven brought thoughts of Hell. Which in turn brought terrifying questions. Why would God punish all those people in parts of the world where people hadn't heard of him? It's not their thought they didn't know about him and Jesus. Which brought another question: why are there so many religions if a specific one is true? How are we supposed to know? I was told that Christianity (though not a particular denomination; and I didn't yet know about the many denominations in existence) was true, but I was just told that. If it's true, why doesn't God appear and tell everyone else? Which then brings another related question: why didn't God bother to prove his frigging existence? Yeah, the universe exists and it's very complex, and I admit I have a hard time believe it just "popped into being" or such (then again, that's not really what the Big Bang Theory actually is, but it's called "theory" for a reason - it's not proved true yet). Still, that doesn't prove that a *specific* religion is correct.
So in short, we have a God that refuses to actually prove its existence as opposed to all the other gods people believe in, and which expects us to pick a random "holy book" out of the many that people invented, and just somehow know that it's true. And if you don't believe, you'll be tortured in some place called Hell for the entire rest of your existence after death. You know, after your brain has shut down and you can no longer think or feel - that existence.
However, since questioning God's will and existence was wrong, that of course brought another fear: that if I was wrong, God would punish me for thinking that way. But in the end, the unanswered questions won out, and I stopped believing. I became an atheist.
Christmas was coming up (I'm guessing maybe I was 12 then, not 11), and I told my mom this. She blew up over it, and called me "you who does not believe in God." I got upset over this, and she later, either the same day or the next day, told me that I'd still have a great Christmas, and I forget what she said about my non-belief, but she wasn't happy about it.
I did occasionally argue my non-belief, and my mom said that while I could "choose what to believe" (belief is not a choice! Choose to believe in Santa Claus. Can you?), she felt I was wrong.
Later, she got over it more and more, but told me not to influence my younger brother's belief while he was growing up. I mostly didn't. Mostly. He was going to church and such with some friends, so he was a bit more involved in the religion than I was.
Now that the Internet was coming into the popular usage at the time, news stories about anything were within reach. I mentioned examples of Christian extremism that I read about, such as a priest who cut up Pokemon toys with a sword (!!!), and my brother and mother both agreed that these people were "freaks", but that they didn't represent what Christians were normally like. Still, it was nice that my Christian mother and younger brother were able to acknowledge the existence of these "freaks" within the religion.
In fifth grade, my brother told me that kids in his church group were making fun of the things they were taught on the way back home on the bus, which indicated to me that these 10 and 11 year olds didn't really believe in it either. I was actually rather impressed.
Anyway, over time, my brother got out of the faith, my mom became increasingly angry at Christian extremists and people who support Bush for religious reasons, and even made a disparaging comment about "is that why the Christians like this movie so much?" when we saw the first Narnia film (which I liked, btw), when the movie mentioned "sons of Adam and daughters of Eve".
And we're pretty much out of the faith. My dad is an agnostic, who believes that the universe came about somehow, but we don't know how. My younger and older brother are non-religious, though both of them have more positive views on religious folk than I do (they don't believe extremism is as common as I feel that it is). My mom is still a "God loves everyone" Christian, who was taught to believe "the Gospels, but not the Bible". Me, I'm an agnostic. Maybe the Big Bang Theory is correct, and the current ongoing experiment will show evidence that it is. Maybe it isn't. But one thing for sure, no human-made religion is correct! Whether you are a good or a bad person is all up to what you do as an individual, not what religion you claim as your own!
Funny thing: if non-religion is so bad, than why does my town have a low crime rate, with only one murder in the past ten years? I guess we atheists must be evil indeed. And we're actually below the standard income-line for the state of New Jersey, so it's not like we're upper class!