As a little Jewish girl in North Dartmouth, Mass., Amy-Jill Levine loved Christianity.

“I grew up in a neighborhood that was almost entirely Portuguese and Roman Catholic,” Dr. Levine said Sunday at her book party here during the annual American Academy of Religion conference. “My introduction to Christianity was ethnic Roman Catholicism, and I loved it. I used to practice giving communion to Barbie. Church was like the synagogue: guys in robes speaking languages I didn’t understand. My favorite movie was ‘The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.’ ”

Christianity might have stayed just a fascination, but for an unfortunate episode in second grade: “When I was 7 years old, one girl said to me on the school bus, ‘You killed our lord.’ I couldn’t fathom how this religion that was so beautiful was saying such a dreadful thing.”

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