I grew up a non-Christian in two Christian circles. While the rest of my peers were able to celebrate Sacrements, I could not. I was still very much a child when I was regularly told that I was damned to Hell merely because I was not baptised.
From this point on I was a little bit of a hellion. Ironically, telling me that there was nothing I could do about my state caused me to feel free. I acted how I wished with no regards to how it would harm other people.
This did not last long. I turned over a new leaf within a year or so. Chances are, the birth of my sister had something to do with it.
While not about race by any means, this is where my earlier disclaimer holds some weight. This was a form of discrimination I experienced daily. It was the first, and most constant input, of me being “Other”. Later in life, when I faced discrimination by other groups, the coping mechanisms I picked up here carried over.
I understand this teaching to be a religious tenant, but looking back on it now it seems cruel to tell a child they are going to burn eternally. I understood torment as a synonym for punishment, and I understood eternal. The cause (not being baptized) and effect (being condemned to Hell) where always spoken at me, and there was never a point in which I was led to understand the why. I think this is part of why Building Bridges, especially with people “unlike” me in some fashion, is important to who I am.
I have always been a comic book fan. I always aimed to be a hero. One of the good guys. Being told on two fronts that I was inherently bad had a negative impact. I still accept, and perhaps amplify, the Bad in me even as I aim to spread Good among me and mine.
An odd thing I remembered while writing this is that I had been baptized. There was a third, non-denominational church I went to. In response to all of the “you aren’t baptized” matters, I went and did just that at the church I liked. Even still, when this was reported in my other two circles nothing changed because the ceremony had not happened inside their religious sect. This began galvanizing me to the opinions of others. It also led me to see similarities across any Great Schism.
In hindsight, I am thankful to my parents. While I felt religion to be cloying at the time, and my anger hammered in a particular worldview, they themselves never forced me into anything. At this age, my peers and I were just kids. My teachers were kind to me. Dogma and strictures were harped from on high. My parents never forced me into one one belief structure or another. They let me choose. And, while I identify rather far from Christiandom, I am good by merit and deed as much as a human can be. I think this plays into why I think Choice and Free Will are important.