Several years passed, with little more religious influence other than saying a brief "grace" at the table. Even my maternal Grandmother who was allegedly religious, rarely said much about it. Then, when I was in ninth grade, I got a crash course. My best friend, and a few others in my class were attending Sunday School classes at the local Lutheran church. One of my friends was even the pastor's daughter. I went nearly every Sunday, learned a lot of Bible lessons, and really enjoyed myself. There were donuts between school and church, there were the friends, and the Pastor was very nice. It was a very touchy-feely, warm-hearted church without even a whiff of fire and brimstone.
There was Bible camp too, which was like band camp without my horn, and a lot more Jesus. And, as the year progressed, we were headed toward "confirmation." So, I quit. I reached the point of no return. While I was enjoying the fellowship, and learning a lot of (as far as I'm concerned, essential) information about religion, I realized like my Mom, that I just wasn't buying it. I couldn't very well get confirmed into a faith that I didn't really share.
I was 14 years old, and I realized I was. . .what? An atheist? I didn't have a real clue yet, but started on a mission to find out. What I knew was, the more I read the Bible (and I think I read most of it that year), the more it didn't ring true to me. And realizing that, I started to believe that it was more likely that all religions were wrong, than that they were all right. So I pursued atheism. I subscribed to American Atheist Magazine, and watched the local Cable Access show by the Columbus chapter. I learned a lot there too, and didn't find a lot to argue with.
But the Atheists seemed just a tad too hardline to me. They were as rigid and outspoken about their beliefs as the overtly religious people I'd encountered. I might not believe in any particular religion, but I had no way of proving there was absolutely NOTHING that was supernatural . I'm way too open to various paranormal ideas: ghosts, telepathy, telekinesis, poltergeists, UFOs, Bigfoot. . . OK, I don't believe in all that, but I'm not ready to reject them all out of hand, either. I do feel like there is some mystery out there, and I don't know what it is. And neither do you. I've settled on the term agnostic. It's as good a description as any.
Mom says she feels bad that she didn't expose us to more religion. I don't. In fact, I'd like to thank her right here, right now. I'm rather proud of being a generally decent person, with a conscience that isn't guided by the prize of heaven or the punishment of hell. I really believe that people who are only "good" to stay out of hell aren't really good people at all--and they scare me.
My (non-) religious outlook has of course affected my views on politics, and life in general. While I do my best to respect others' religions, I don't get much of that respect in return. Many influential people are trying their damnedest to insert Christianity into law. To hell (literally!) with atheists, agnostics, non-Christians, the lot. The current administration has probably done more than any other to entwine religion and politics. And not just religion, but a specific, evangelical form of Christianity. They claim it was how America was founded, but it was not. This as much as anything is what has earned them my antipathy.
In my experience, the more overtly a person declares their religion, the more likely they are to be utter creeps. Televangelists (with their many scandals) are a good example of this. And when one of them meets his fate like Ted Haggard did, I confess to having a hard time controlling my glee. Well that one was just funny, you've got to give me that.