There are four years difference in age between my brother and I; he’s four years younger, and we were raised mostly by my mother as my father worked long hours that often went throughout the night so we barely saw him. My mother was brought up well by her parents and passed on her upbringing to me and my atheist brother who’s ironically called Christian. We were taught to be polite, always use our manners, and respect people, and if we disobeyed we were punished in accordance to the severity of the crime.
I once had my mouth washed out with soap and water for cursing at a woman who lived further up the road. My parents were strict, but only because they believe that humans have standards that need to be maintained. They were focused on personal hygiene and always made sure we folded clothes up and made our shoes shine, but that taught us respect. I’m quite sure I resented my parents many times, but their dedication to making their children decent human beings has paid off. Neither of us has ever been in trouble with the law, we both hold down jobs and pay our taxes.
None of this was influenced by any belief in any gods.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my parents are atheists as I don’t think the existence of any gods has ever been a concern to them, but we were raised without any religious influence. Like most families in my neighbourhood, god wasn’t really a thing. People had crucifixes in their lounges but often it was passed down from relatives and it was of sentimental value. I went to a Church of England school, and every morning we had assembly where we’d read the Lord’s Prayer, and one day a week we’d have a religious studies class. What I remember the most about those classes was a boy who’s name eluded me, who was removed from the religious syllabus and wasn’t present during Christmas and Easter celebrations. At the time we had no idea why, but it later came to light that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and they don’t accept the Church of England’s views, so he literally became that kid; the outcast. That’s the first time where I experienced a valid argument for secularism as due to his family’s faith he was a minority during Christian teachings and celebrations.
In my early teens a mini bus used to drive around my home town on a Sunday picking up children to take to Sunday school, and in a way it was the church’s attempt to recruit to their church. They used to have a time of Bible reading then one of the teachers would hold a quiz and ask questions about passages we’d read. Every time you answered a question correctly you were awarded with a token which you could redeem at the tuck shop at the end of the class. In other words they were providing children with junk food to attempt to indoctrinate you about their god.
This is where my cynicism and scepticism was born as I saw for the first time how manipulative religion can be.
In my late teens I dated a Catholic girl who wasn’t terribly religious, but was very fearful of her parents who were very devout and both held high positions in a Catholic society. I wasn’t as outspoken by any means then and was only just beginning to understand what atheism was. At dinner one evening out with her parents, Jean, the mother asked if I believed in god. I said that I didn’t, and that my experience with religion hadn’t been positive. She quite aggressively informed me that I was ignorant of god, and if she’d known that I was a heathen she would have forbid her daughter from seeing me. As you can imagine, I didn’t date her for much longer and that encounter encouraged me to question everything.