As far back as I can remember, I wasn't ever forced into religion. I never went to a Christian school and, save for a few months here and there whilst living with my parents, I was never made to go to church.
My family would always have pictures of the cliche assumption of what Jesus looked like and an abundance of crosses on any number of given surfaces around the house. A few members of the family are so devout that they pray before meals and celebrate Christmas in a manner other than simply exchanging gifts.
I don't remember ever having especially strong feelings for or against religion until middle school when I decided I should actually read this Bible which was being sold to me by anyone and everyone, it seemed. I wore a cross and carried around a small pocket Bible so that I might read it at school when I was bored. However, upon reading said book, I almost immediately converted from broad spectrum believer to full blown Atheism. I spent the majority of my years reading some good fiction (I'm an avid fan of Stephen King) and I like to think I can recognize fiction when I read it.
When I decided I should probably tell my family about my lack of faith, I was wrestling internally with the prospect of revealing to them all that I am also bisexual, an aspect of myself that I imagined would prompt them to abandon be for going so blatantly again their god. Ultimately, I decided that I should share both truths, as I thought this would be difficult as an either/or situation and might as well kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
To my surprise, the fact that I was a bisexual paled drastically in comparison, at least in their eyes, that I was an Atheist. I remember them telling me that I needed to get right with god or I would go to hell. I remember the looks of distaste as I can only imagine they tried to understand how I, the straight A student with no disciplinary black marks or otherwise undesirable behavior, had strayed from religion.
They continue to invite me to church and tell me they will pray for me. While I am glad they care about my well-being, however I can't help but have a sour taste in my mouth when they bring up religion to show they care. I want respect, not god.
Perhaps the thing that has turned me from a minding my own business Atheist to an outspoken, budding antitheist was the increasingly apparent frequency of visits I would receive from Jehovah's Witnesses or preacher advertising the grand opening of their churches. And not only this, but the fact that upon telling them I was an Atheist, I would be met with passive aggressive threats, including the ever popular, What if you're wrong?
Being a citizen of the United States, I am well aware of our constitutional right to freedom of religion (or lack thereof) and so it really gets under my skin that this behavior is allowed to carry on. Even more worrisome is the rapid evolution of our republic into a nation ruled by Christianity.
I'm glad communities such as this exist, as they give me a reason to have even a small bit of hope that this country will not proceed down that toxic path. I look forward to our discussions and with you all the best.