I had a really good anonymous question asked of me yesterday from my, Ask Me Anything page and I deleted it by mistake. I contacted support over at formspring.me and they told me (in not so many words) I was sh*t outta luck.
So here is the question as I best remember it, "You have mentioned your religious past - what made you first think about Atheism?" I know that isn't it word for word, but I'm going to give a lot of information and hope it answers the original question.
First, I'll start with my religious upbringing. My family belonged to the Warren Avenue Baptist Church in Brockton, MA. Dad was a deacon (a church officer who, along with others, took care of the business aspects at our church) and my mother was our church's organist/pianist/choir director. So I got a lot of God. One of my fondest memories is when the Crucifixion was explained to me in detail (I think I was 7) during Sunday School (have you seen my letter concerning Sunday School? It's a hoot.) and had a meltdown. I was an extremely sensitive kid and the whole Crown o' Thorns, spear in the gut, and oh yeah - the nailing part was too much for me. My mom had to be called in to calm me down.
During those early years I sucked down all the crazy stuff they had to offer me. Every week there was a new Bible verse to remember and there was a friendly competition in class about who could regurgitate the propaganda the best. I memorized the books of the New Testament and got a fifty cent coin as a reward. When I was thirteen I was baptized. That meant a full body immersion in front of the congregation and it was a very moving experience.
My teen years were a bit more disturbing and confusing than most people's (if you know me personally one of those random stories will pop out on occasion - for the rest of you don't worry most of them will end up in a post eventually) and that was reflected in my religious beliefs. When I got into middle and later high school many of my peers had very... different beliefs. Some of my friends were pagans, some were Jews, and others Catholics. For a kid who grew up in a fairly restricted home this was eye opening. New ways of being were introduced to me. Do you know what helped?
I kept listening.
I kept thinking.
Oh sure, I did volumes of dumbass/hurtful things like talking about how homosexuals are going to Hell and the such, but at some basic level there was reality testing going on. Instead of ignoring other opinions I thought about them - a lot. At my root I want to understand the world around me (I used to pray for wisdom when I was a kid) and that journey led me away from a strict interpretation of the Bible. Finding Atheism was a long journey for me because a religion's bond with a follower is innately emotional - that meant travelling from a Fundamentalist mindset then to a Liberal view on God, and then making a quick stop at agnosticism before finding Atheism. Getting rid of the Sky Fairy baggage took time.
I just want to add that Carl Sagan's Cosmos (a miniseries) aired for the first time on PBS when I was young (yes I am old) and that made a world of difference for me. Carl Sagan was able to communicate to anyone who was willing to listen about the wonders of science. He also talked about the historical adverserial relationship faith has had with science - that made a big impression on me.
Once again it's about listening...
I hope that answered your question Anonymous Questioner.