I was young. I was in fourth grade and I have the light-bulb moment as a kid that Santa is fake, so is the Easter Bunny therefore God and ghosts and all that other stuff must be as well. This was back in 1974/5 time frame. I remember it well because our elementary school in Tomball, TX still had mandatory prayer and the Pledge of allegiance every single morning. I did the pledge and then sat down for the prayer and chose to not participate.
The teacher approached me, grabbed me by the arm, stood me up and asked my why I wasn’t praying?
I told her “Because, I don’t believe in God anymore.” Still holding my arm she marched me down to the Principal’s Office (David Small) [I will never forget because he has the same first and last name as my dad, no relation though. Just pure coincidence.] Anyway, I was in a world of trouble. I told them God wasn’t real and that I did not want to pray anymore.
The teacher left and the principal had me stand, face a chair, bend down and hold that hand rails and the proceeded to give me three swats with a wooden paddle. I was then sent back to my teacher who made me then sit at my desk the rest of the day in the hallway separated from the other students.
When I told my parents what had happened it was contrary to what the principal and the teacher told them. They said I was being belligerent and uncooperative and refusing to follow directions. My parents would not even believe me over the adults.
So I have zero tolerance for intolerance. I dread the idea that the same could happen to my kids in the small town we live in today. The writing is all over every wall, sometimes literally. But religion is so deeply infused in our community that there is no escape.
I feel I was enlightened early as a result of my experiences, That liars for Christ using pain, humiliation and deceit to spread the word of their god meant their god was worthless. It just took me a while to mature to understand it to that degree.
I have been on a never ending journey of reason since that day, even when I didn’t know it yet. It is as if that journey is actually etched into my DNA.