I remember in vivid detail the day I came home in 7th grade with a C+ on my report card for, of all things, English. My father's fury shook the room, even as he lie there recovering from open heart surgery. He was livid - and not because of the grade itself, but for the neglect it reflected. He demanded I go to a particular bookshelf and get a large, cumbersome hardcover book that seemed bigger than I. It was The History of All The World Religions.
"Read that - the whole thing - and be quick about it. You're going to be tested on it when you're done."
And so I did. At 12 years of age, I sat in my corner bedroom, propped up with pillows, reading a book that could have served as a coffee-table, it was so large. I read about the origins of Christianity; I read about Judaism and Islam; I read about Buddhism and Hinduism, Sikhism and Baha'i, Confucianism and Jainism. Maybe halfway through the book, I actually started reading for the joy of it instead of for fear of further punishment.
It took me an entire school term to finish that book, and I remember going to my father when I had completed the task and asking for the test, to find he had completely forgotten he had assigned the book in the first place. "Well, good for you for finishing it. Did you learn anything?" he queried. And I sat for a few good hours by his bedside, sharing my new passion for religious inquiry.