Growing up, my mother liked to quote Frederich Nieszche a lot. "That which does not kill you will make you stronger," she often liked to remind me when I came limping home, either emotionally or physically from playing in the neighborhood. But her favorite mantra of all time was,"God is dead, Namaste. The rest is just man's way of coping with mortality."
My father, on the other hand, was something called a "Lapsed Catholic". While I knew that my mother's atheism had to do with her anger towards something really big called "organized religion", I didn't have a clue what it meant to be "lapsed". However, when I did the research and realized what "sin" meant, (which I preliminarily pronounced as "sign"), it didn't take me long to figure out that my father must be a sinner for marrying my mother, the non-believer. By the time I was 10, I had finished reading the Old Testament, and on my way through the New. I had no idea what I was reading, but I paid careful attention to what the big people said around my little ears. I secretly began to compulsively worry about my parents' fate to burn in hell, and, yes, I prayed for them every night before I went to sleep, just like my grandmother taught me. 3 Hail Mary's and one Our Father...sometimes two. I would end these prayers with the request:
"God, thanks for not sending little children to hell, but I really love my parents, and I would appreciate it a lot of you will forgive them of their sins when they die so that we can all be in heaven together. They may be kind of dumb, but they're really not that bad."
Meanwhile, my mother's younger sister, Aunt Stella, claimed to have "found Jesus" sometime in the 70's. One time I asked Aunt Stella where Jesus was (location-wise) when she "found" him? Outside or inside? In a tree or in a house? What was he wearing? Was he hungry? Did he miss his parents? She laughed and told me that she found him in her heart, just like I was in her heart. Then she told me that if I wanted to go to heaven, I had to believe that Jesus was my savior and that he died for all of my sins. I told Aunt Stella that I was too young to have any sins, but she insisted that this was because of the Jesus guy had already saved me with his love, whether I knew it or not. She went on and on about how he was a lamb, and we were all lambs and sometimes lambs get sacrificed to God? The whole thing was disturbing. I was neither interested in being a lamb nor being sacrificed as one.
Upon hearing the sacrificial lamb bit, my little brain started to shut down. It was just too brutal to me. This whole sacrificial lambs stuff seemed to involve way too many angry men carrying large, wooden crosses on their backs and nailing people to them. Not cool. Moms used to say a lot of things about Aunt Stella's religious conversion to the Baptist church being a reflecting of her emotional instability. After Aunt Stella refused to take me to the pool one afternoon until I swore with my hand on the Bible that Jesus was my savior, I thought that she was pretty crazy too.
After my bible-swearing religious conversation in Aunt Stella's kitchen, however, I was pretty convinced that I must be a Christian. I figured that the Jesus guy seemed like the plausible way to go, since (outside of my parents), the majority of people around me seemed to be doing it. Still, I wasn't so clear on the Son of G-d thing versus G-d himself. I left that to the Bro to figure that out for me a few years later...