I was raised in the American Bible Belt by strict Catholic parents who were unquestioning in their support of Catholic Doctrine. I had two uncles who were Franciscan brothers and who spend their entire adult lives as missionaries in Africa. I went to Catholic schools throughout the week and to Mass on Sunday and Holy Days. Devoting your life in service to God and church was held up as the most worthy goal I could pursue. The only religious debate I was exposed to as a child was between Catholicism and Protestantism.
When I was 12 or 13, I began reading Robert Heinlien. His was the first voice I was exposed to that not only openly dismissed religion but mocked it. It was eye opening stuff to my young inquisitive mind. That alone wasn’t enough to turn me against religion, but it did get me to question the authority of what I had been taught to believe. I did someing that was heresy in my household. I started listening to Protestants. Unlike Catholics, they always had a Bible at hand and were quick to quote scripture to support their belief. I decided I needed to read the Bible. In 8th grade, I read the Bible from cover to cover. Over the next half a dozen years I explored other Religious beliefs and discussed and debated christianity with the hordes of evangelists that populate the bible belt. Reading the bible made it clear that everything I had been taught was a lie. As Heinlien had made pointed out, God was not omnipotent, omniscient, or loving. Debating, discussing and exploring religion from other points of view only strengthened my rejection of religion as a source of truth.
I am in my 50′s and no longer have any fire to debate creationists and fundies. They have nothing new to say and I don’t get any enjoyment from arguing with the clueless and the close minded. I am, however, happy to see gnu atheists gaining ground and public support. It saddens me to see, that in the 21st century, backward thinking fundies still hold sway over most of the political and public debate. I have little doubt, though, that freethought blogs will do for many what Heinlein did for me–provide a voice that challenges the prevailing orthodoxy and hopefully prompt more than a few people to think for themselves.