Generally, in my family religious beliefs vary and are more of a tradition than an actual commitment to those beliefs by the individuals who claim them. My trusty Sage dictionary defines tradition as: 1. A specific practice of long standing 2. An inherited pattern of thought or action. For the purpose of this post I'd like the reader to focus more on the second definition that is given since that one pretty much defines what I am about to describe.
To my knowledge as far as I know I am the only openly atheist member of my entire family, this includes distant relatives as well. It's not really a shocker because I have always been the odd man out, I have always been an independent thinker and not one of the herd. Even as a Christian I was studious and very inquisitive. I longed to know everything I could about God and his plan for mankind, and I relished nothing more than to be able one day to solve some of the so called mysteries of the bible. My ministry at the time was what is known as a deliverance ministry, and as an evangelist I actually had read and owned over 60 titles on the subject of demonology!
I didn't become a Christian out of my own volition till i was about 14 years of age. Although as I child I was in foster care and baptized a Catholic and went to Catholic school, somehow that particular religion never appealed to me. I found all of the rituals quite boring and Sunday mass was an absolute snooze fest for me. When I came to live with my mom again at age 10, she drilled into my head that the one true religion was the Pentecostal church. Although my mother was not a practicing Christian this was her conviction and she managed to pass it down to me over the years.
My mother told me many stories about her experiences with God and the supernatural and these stories at the time made me want to have similar experiences for myself. It wasn't till a couple of years later that I found out that my mom was schizophrenic and that her experiences were directly linked to her personal convictions and her disorder. She was and still is to this day what I refer to as a miracle monger. This explains her attraction to Pentecostalism. She rarely went to church services and officially was not a member of any congregation, she pretty much lived life as if God's laws did not exist while acknowledging that he did.
That's pretty much the story of my entire family. They all claim a belief in God and consider the bible to be his revelation to mankind and entirely inerrant and divinely inspired, although they have never read it nor even know what is contained within its covers. I am the only thinker in my entire family; so I guess that I would not be wrong to state that when it comes to them I am surrounded by idiots!
Not a single person in my family came to believe in God through reading and studying the bible, this includes myself. A belief in God was a given in my family we believed because that is what we were taught to believe. The same way we were taught by our parents that Santa was the one responsible for all of those presents under the tree. We didn't question or critically analyze the information, we believed it because everyone else did. We basically were following the family "tradition."
I seem to have been the only one who later on after being a full on Pentecostal fanatic for four years, decided to analyze and question some of the things I believed that I found to be inconsistent with what I read in the bible or experienced in my ministry. To this day members of my family attribute any an all misfortune I encounter in my personal life to my rejection of a belief in God. And I continue to call them hypocrites and idiots for believing in ancient fairy tales.
My whole point in this post is that tradition is a very powerful thing and can if not examined lead us into believing some very weird things. I always say that religion is a cultural, societal, and ethnic phenomenon and that all these things are nothing more than one great big tradition. Who knows how many people here in the U.S. are practicing Christians and take their beliefs seriously. But I am willing to bet that most of them don't because religion was not a conviction that they came to on their own; they were taught it.