"Were you still a religious person when you visited Turkey and the other countries you've been to or were you already a non-believer?"
Carl, I just wrote a long response to your question and by some dumb move on my part, it disappeared. So I am giving you my short answer: Yes and No,
I began my Heros Journey as a believer and returned home as a nonbeliever, confident that I am on a healthy path to complete my life's journey. I am comfortable in saying, loudly and clearly, "I am an atheist!" There is not a spark of doubt and I am able and willing to take on any debate.
Seeing the old woman in China sitting on a hospital bed who was suffering from back problems caused by her mother binding her feet when she was four-years old so that the little girl would grow into a woman with feet small enough to fit into the mouth of a man so that he had sexual pleasure. Her mother didn't think it was immoral to deliberately cripple her daughters' feet. Things didn't change for wealthy women in China for a thousand years until women stood up to their husbands, parents, society, and culture refusing to intentionally bring women to their emotional knees.
Talking to an African woman while sitting on the steps of The Greek Temple of Poseidon where the poet Lord Byron, in 18ll, chiseled his name on a column and wrote a poem about the view from the temple of Cape Sounion.
Place me on Sunium's marbled steep,Where nothing, save the waves and I,May hear our mutual murmurs sweep.
She was a teacher in Africa on vacation and we shared our stories. I told her I was looking for stories of women from different cultures in order to understand family violence.
Her story was as wrenching as was the Chinese woman. She was born into a society with tribal rituals, one was to remove the clitoris of a girl before she started menstrual periods. The mother did the cutting with other women of the tribe holding her down. They used broken glass, sharp stones, knives that were not sterile, or any sharp object they had available. These were African traditions. The family had accepted Christ as their Savior and were born-again Christians. Even though they had responded to an evangelical before this teacher was born, the old tribal customs survived.
Carl, Part two of my response:
The mother sewed up the labia so that the girl not only lost her clitoris; she was closed too tightly so that menstrual flow could not escape her body and was absorbed. She developed an infection that nearly took her life. She survived, married, and her husband forced his penis through her scarred labia, tearing it open. She developed further infections. She was barren, could have no children, so her husband threw her out as did her parents. These were the customs of her tribe.
Somehow, she ran into the group, Women Helping Women, they gave her health care, food, housing and an education. She became a teacher and this day we sat in the shade of the beautiful temple at Cape Sounion.
From these two discussions, I came to my "ABCTVs" "Attitudes, Beliefs, Customs, Traditions, and Values.
From where do VALUES come and how can one identify them? Individuals, born into a society with ATTITUDES about women that place them in second class citizenship or personhood, with BELIEFS that they have the rights and responsibilities to take actions that may be detrimental to a person's mental or emotional being. Join these factors with CUSTOMS that come from ancient sources, sometimes from primitive tribes, and TRADITIONS deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of people, there is no escape. From the time a child is born, parents, family, and society indoctrinated him or her into their tribe.
Observe the behavior, listen to the words people chose and one can deduce their value system.
Attitudes + Beliefs + Customs + Traditions, = Values.
Joan, thanks so much for your interesting and thoughtful reply. I asked my question because I was curious how you viewed the different religions and practices you encountered as you traveled around. It sounds like the personal stories of the women you met who suffered horribly as a result of religion made a big impact on your road to reason.