I was raised by atheists. My parents went through the motions of baptism and confirmation (in the predominant denomination in Germany which is Lutheran protestant) and the xmas service with us kids but this was just an exercise of not being different. Occasionally, my father would issue a long speech about the failings of religions and the christian churches in particular but that was it.
For a while, we, the kids, sans parents, would go to the childrens' Sunday service because at the end they gave out these little pamphlets with stories and quizzes and rebuses. We loved them. My parents abhorred comics, so this was the next best thing. I remember my father waiting for us at the garden gate on a Sunday when we had walked back home, asking about the sermon and shredding it to bits, the stuff we were able to recall anyway. I remember vividly his outrage when we told him that the sermon mentioned the killing of Robert Kennedy. No respect for the dead, no decency, he shouted, they will just use anything to brainwash people.
So - in a part of the world littered with medieval cathedrals, baroque chapels and crisscrossing pilgrim trails - I grew up godless, without prayers, bible stories, confessions.
When I was a teenager I went to a Baptist church for while because my best friend in school was part of that church. They had fun evenings with handsome guys playing guitars and I was invited to come along to their youth camps, a summer week by a lake in Sweden, a winter week in the Alps. At that time, I was waiting for god to speak to me. I was 15 years old and I expected him to speak to me in a real voice or at least in a way I could recognise as something not made up by my imagination. Somehow I was convinced that he was most of the time speaking to all of the others and one day soon, this would happen to me. All I had to do was catch up with singing and praying and believing. Although as the daughter of scientists, I wasn't too sure what believing involved. Anyway, there was lots all night singing and prayers and enticing whatnots. And during one of these nights I - somehow fed up with waiting - asked one of the fervently praying handsome guys for guidance and he replied, what do you mean god speaking to you, surely you are not expecting a voice like humans, use your imagination.
Well. That was my oh shit moment when I knew that it was high time to leave that particular setup.
Still, some nights I am hoping, quite desperately, that I did not make a huge mistake. That there isn't the slightest chance of me, once I am dead, that I will have to watch from heaven how the future unfolds on earth.
If there is one thing I believe it is that, surely, we - i.e. people with the power of language and memory - figured out at some stage how distinguish between good and evil. Generally speaking. I realise there are endless variations. We all know what pain is. And we know that whenever we deliberately cause pain, physically, emotionally, in whatever way to someone, be it a person, an animal, any life form, we do evil.