I have a similar background to Rich Meredith's tho I live in London. I was also told by my parents that some people believed in God but that my parents did not. I also find that most people do not believe in gods but may call themselves Christian as a sort of traditional patriotic thing. However, I have always been someone to over think everything and when I was at school, we had Christian assemblies and compulsory worship and Christian RE.I began to read the bible - I had a children's bible which incredibly had a picture of heaven where people sat feasting watching people trying to escape the flames of Hell. I learnt that people who did not believe in God go there - that would be my parents.
My parents were not strongly atheist - they were the same as the majority of white Brits - called themselves Christian but did not believe. They allowed me to go to Sunday school where I independently approached the vicar about being baptised and confirmed at 11 and 12. I read the bible for an hour every day,prayed more and became the most annoying born again Christian you can imagine. I was looking for some sort of structure - my mother has bipolar disorder and my homelife was very chaotic and unpredictable.I wanted solid rules and black and white morality. I tried to convert my parents who did not realise the terror I felt and just got annoyed with me. I had endless panics because they refused to remove a Buddha ornament. I lost my childhood to excessive Christianity and also felt very isolated because nobody else was as devout as me.I am now very grateful that they weren't because I am not sure I would ever have got away.
I began to question Christianity when my RE teacher told us all that homosexuality was a disease which could be cured by prayer. I had a gay cousin and loved him and his boyfriend very much. I did not see that they were wrong. I also began to be interested in boys myself. At 16 I had sex with my boyfriend of two years and had a complete breakdown with guilt and stopped eating to punish myself. This led to an eating disorder and general fear and guilt all related to Christianity. I then spent several years veering between angry atheism (which was not really atheism at all because I was angry with God) and terrified repentance. I finally stabililised at genuine atheism at 26 but have had to spend many years deprogramming myself! I felt that no-one was to blame for my deluded belief in God except myself - secular country, atheist parents but have come to reassess that recently.
My issues with Christianity are with the schools and the habitual christianity of the majority of British people. We accept Christianity in schools because we have these happy memories of school nativity plays and harvest festivals and we comfort ourselves with a vague idea that there is a heaven for all good people and we like to marry in churches and have our children Christened for the traditional celebration aspect of it. This is my husbands memories of childhood.He managed to go through school without ever thinking once about God and most people don't. They let the vicar's sermon roll over them and don't take it in. There is not the fervour and fundamentalism we see in the US but this does not mean that children are not harmed by this - I was and my daughter has been.
I realised this last year. I had debated with my husband (who now identifies as atheist too) about withdrawing our daughter from assembly and RE because she would miss all the school plays and getting housepoints etc and be singled out.My husband thought it likely she would be like most children and let it all wash over her and not give it any thought. He is a very relaxed person and so am I now after the anxiety of my childhood. My daughter had a stable homelife so I hoped she would never share my overthinking tendencies.I was wrong. At 6 the school taught her about The Great Flood. Her best friend came out singing 'The animals went in two by two, Hurrah! Hurrah!' and my daughter came out crying and shaking and asking if the mummies couldn't swim and keep the children up until the water went down. At this point I asked the school to withdraw her from anything that would not be PG rated if it was a film. They seemed to believe that teaching her that God turned rivers into blood and killed the first born sons was OK so we had more sleepless nights and terror.
My daughter starts the Juniors on Tuesday and I met with the new headmistress to discuss religious education. She was extremely unsympathetic when I told her about Lucy's fear and the fact that she is being referred to a psychologist about this and asked me if I wanted to withdraw her from history as well as that gets pretty gory and they will be learning about the Tudors this term. I was speechless at the time but responded by email withdrawing her from RE and saying that it will not be necessary to withdraw her from history as, unless they intend to tell her that Mary Tudor is immortal and omnipotent, this will not make her fear for her life. I quoted Professor Dawkins on the 'severe mental abuse' that is Christian mythology.I now teach her about religions at home and privilege none of them.She is coming to the conclusion that there is no truth in any of them all by herself.
I am now a member of the British Humanist Association and campaign to get religious worship out of schools. I believe that teaching children that God kills people 'in a good way' is not the moral message we should be passing on to our children.I fear for my daughter's mental health if she hears about Hell. A school is not the place to be teaching supernatural nonsense as fact. Many children are worried by what they hear and if they, like me, try to reassure themselves by reading the bible they are only going to become more and more afraid. There are counsellors whose speciality is in listening to people who have been indoctrinated with Christian violence, fear and oppression.
Christianity is all about fear - Hell, Judgment, genocide, oppression of women and gays, racism and bigotry, intolerance and superstition. It really worries me that in the US, the superpower in our world, 40% of people deny evolution and don't believe in global warming because of Christian beliefs! The other Abrahamic religions share this refusal to accept knowledge that contradicts the old scriptures - we know the damage caused in the name of Islam. My adopted daughter is a survivor of the Hare Krishna Gurukulis - a reclusive group of Hindus who live in the temple - child sexual abuse occurs regularly there. She left them at 19, in no way equipped to deal with the world and with a terrible mistrust of men. We hope to help her overcome this.
Well, that is my story. :)
Yes, I did not want to raise my daughter as an atheist because I don't want her to rebel against us by becoming a Muslim or something! That's why we teach her about a lot of religions and tell her its up to her. I feel that learning how many gods there have been puts Christianity into perspective for her.