I just got off the phone, having talked with my mother at length about, mostly, Christianity. I don't know how we got on the topic but it was a great conversation. It was nice to talk about something on an intellectual level, for a change, instead of whatever has gone wrong with whomever in the family. I cannot believe what she just told me. She asked me if she ever told me when she knew Christianity was over for her. She hadn't, and I was afraid of what I was going to hear.
My mother was born and raised in the Bible Belt, in Tennessee. Her father, who I never met, was a lay Baptist preacher and, by all accounts, a horrible human being. He was an alcoholic and was abusive to a degree from which my mother has never really recovered. By chance when I was pregnant with my son, I told her I was thinking of naming him Luke. She said, "Luke is not a good name for your son. My father's name was Luke. I don't want to have to say it," That is all I know about my grandfather.
I had always thought that my mother rejected Christianity because of her experiences as a child, and though they surely did contribute to her atheism, her description of her moment of realization that she could not be a Christian made me burst into laughter.
She said she was about 15 years old, and at church. She looked across the aisle at the opposing pew and thought of the people singing, "They look like cows." And that was it. She said that to this day every time she sees cows she still thinks they look like people singing at church. When I stopped laughing, she said, "Although I do like cows."
I will never look at cows, or my mother, or how I came to be the way I am, the same again.