I was brought up as a Catholic (my mother is a strict Catholic). I was Christened, Baptised, Confirmed, and had to go to Church every Sunday. I went to a Catholic primary and secondary school (where I was given “religion education”) and even prayed every night like a good little girl should. I was indoctrinated, as were my brother and sister. I was never given the opportunity to doubt the beliefs thrust upon me and my childhood dreams/nightmares were often filled with religious imagery (the result of having to go to Church every Sunday to listen to the bizarre readings and witness bizarre rituals).
I remember the day I felt the first pang of doubt in my mind. I was about 18 and I was playing hymns (on the piano) one Sunday for my local Caltholic Church. The priest talked about women becoming priests and poured scorn and mockery on the Church of England for allowing them to do so. I was shocked (although I had heard such nonsense and bigotry before) and in that instant it was as though the scales had fallen from my eyes. His silly comment somehow fired a synapse in my brain and my “beliefs” started to unravel. I started to read the Bible properly, with fresh eyes and I realised quickly that this could not be the word of God. I read the Dead Sea Scrolls Deception and felt physically sick. When I gave a copy of the book to one of my school friends, his mother (a devout Catholic) took the book away and told him not to read it. (Incidentally, this school friend has recently become a Catholic priest, much to my sadness). I became somewhat bitter about all my lost Sundays and about the religious “education” I had received, from a very young age. I felt incredibly angry at having been taught pure myth as though it were irefutable fact. We were taught very little quality science in my school, something which I am incredibly upset about. We were taught “balanced science” (rather than physics, chemistry and biology) and I do not recollect ever having been taught anything (for example) about evolution or about Einstein's theories. I am now trying to make up for it by devouring as much real science as I can.
For a long time I was the only atheist I knew (and I still do not know many!), however reading Richard Dawkin's books has given me such confidence. Knowledge is power, which is why so many religious people are frightened of science (and which is why, I believe, I had such an impotent scientific education at school). When I have children I am going to make sure they do not go to a religious school and that they are encouraged to embrace science and the joy of learning about the natural world.