Although I am supposed to be Protestant "by birth", I was fortunate enough to be raised in a non-religious home. The extent of my being exposed to spirituality as a child was being taught by my mother to say the Lord's Prayer every night (which I did, excuse the pun, religiously. I would even end it by asking god "to please look after my mom, dad, sisters, grandparents, my dog etc.... and eventually adding every person I knew).
So, I pretty much grew up knowing absolutely nothing about who or what "god" really was except in the most basic of terms (a loving "father figure" in the sky). My family never went to church... I had never even seen a Bible until I was in my late teens. Also, my two younger sisters and I were never baptized due to having not one, but two sets of my god parents divorcing before the event was to take place. My mother jokingly told me later on in life that she "took it as an omen" and decided to just forget the whole thing.
Flash forward to my 15th year in high school where a chance encounter with a Souther Baptist kid I had just then recently befriended whom, upon learning of my unbaptized state, told me in no uncertain terms... without knowing anything else about me or my religious beliefs... that I was going to hell when I died.
This "news" both bothered and confused me, since I considered myself to be a good person who said her prayers every night and I told him so. He responded with "It doesn't matter", and then went on to lecture me about the only way to salvation was to accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Feeling more than a little scared, I went home and told my mother what had happened. She replied that he was wrong. Now, this created even more befuddlement for me, since here was my mom... who does believe in god... contradicting an obviously devout individual who seemed to know what he was talking about.
The end result was my spending the remainder of my teenage years disillusioned about just who in the hell was this supposed loving god was supposed to be, and what exactly did he want from me? I didn't have any answers, and had no idea where to find them. My response was to become increasingly bitter at this god who would damn me to hell over no fault of my own (not being baptized).
It wasn't until I was 20, where another pivotal encounter occured between a Born Again co-worker (and my best friend at the time) and myself. I truly trusted her opinion, and knew she would be completely open and honest with me... so, I told her that I felt that it was wrong for her god to judge me, and that all that should really matter is whether a person leads a good life. I then asked her if she thought I would burn in hell for my belief. I still remember how her eyes teared up and how she did not want to answer my question... but upon proding her, she sadly said that I would.
It was around that time that I finally learned to use logic and deductive reasoning to dwell upon my dilemma, and to my pleasant surprise I discovered that I was worrying about my "eternal soul" for nothing: in my research, I came to the conclusion that not only was there not one shred of credible evidence to support this particular bit of religious dogma, but that it appeared that all relgious belief systems were nothing more than man-made contrivances that used fear and threats to keep ignorant people like myself in line.
From there, it was only a short step to conclude that the Judeo-Christian/Islamic god... and every other god for that matter... were also made in man's image, not the other way around.
And Jen lived happily ever after.