I'm Balthazar. No, that's not my real name.
I've been an atheist for about 4 years now, and have just recently driven myself to find a friendly community. I feel i needed some support and a haven place in my world of "insanity".
If you're up for a story, here goes.
I'm a freshman in HS. I've got a pretty good set of friends, theists as well as non theists. They all know of my atheistic views, and they're cool with it. We often talk about religion and the meaning of life (if there even is a meaning), debating on which is most trustworthy, and which is "better", etc. Basic arguments, and they always end in stalemates. But I always get a feeling that I've won.
I seem to have mentally matured a lot quicker than anyone else i know. I knew back in the third grade that school was important, not from experience, but from reason. I have a long 80+ years out on my own in a life i may only have once, and i don't want to live it stupidly, like some dolt on the street that dropped out in tenth grade because he was lazy and makes a living off of old bottles. (Mind you, i am aware that many are on the streets now not because of unwillingness to learn, but because they cannot support themselves, no matter how hard they work.) No, i want to live a long, healthy, productive life with the valuable privilege of a middle class family and understanding people surrounding me. It seemed back then that everyone was carefree and didn't abide to laws strictly. Though I realized that laws were abstract, i still followed them, because i knew that there was a good reason for it. Consequences could be really bad.
I have, i believe, a moderately raised consciousness, for which i can attribute most of my success in school. I am very proud to be able to think the way i do, and treasure it above all other things. I am capable of thinking ahead because i was motivated in the first place to collect the info required, so i can predict the consequences of events in the world sometimes. This assists me in math greatly. I raised my consciousness for the first time in the fifth grade, and began to respect the natural world more so than i had worshiping any god, and so began my road to atheism.
The thing i fear most is loss of memory, or mental disability. It would sever my connection to the world completely, and i would rather die conscious than as a mental baby. Physical pain is easy to endure; its mental pain that worries me the most. Threats against my body are useless against me.
I was born into a baptist family, and raised in the baptist way of life. Had i remained, which would literally have taken a mind changing "miracle", i would have joined the National Christian Society to become a missionary and fanatic, and be rude and outspoken, not the reserved, polite, kind, soft spoken person i am now. I say i would have been rude because i was raised believing that every culture was inferior that wasn't American Christian, that the world had to be cleansed. I would have been an extremist, a member of the KKK. I am not, thank Dawkins. For i believed that believing in the bible would mean believing the word of god, which would not allow exclusion, or leaving out, of anything. Thank god I'm atheist.
Before switching directly to atheism, however, i decided to choose a different path. I am adopted into a Japanese/American family. My dad is half German, half Japanese, mom is from a mix of different Gaelic societies in Europe. I was fiercely interested in Japan. Not its manga and anime, no, but its ancient culture, and its code of Bushido. I made comparisons of ancient Shintoist Japan and Medieval Europe, and found that, after much delving deep into library books, the Japanese were far more honorable and civilized than any of the Christians at the time. And, to top that off, the Christians were following the bible literally, so that made my distrust of Christianity even deeper. I became Shintoist, and many of the teachings learned from it and Christianity live on within me to this day. I began to wash more regularly, as shintoism requires cleanliness and purity. This made sense, but i now know that the "cleanliness" was just absence of odor creating bacteria, and any sensible deity would protect even the bacteria from harm somehow. Alas, he does not. But certainy, Shintoism was much more peaceful. No more feelings of sorrow and hate. No more killing insects out in the yard. No thinking of others as lesser. I still feel guilty when my hand accidentally crushes an ant that has found itself between me and the table. Overall, i felt better.
But then, i thought... Why doesn't everyone else do this? Because they think it absurd. I questioned why... and eventually found atheism. It was like looking down at a world and seeing all of these religions fight amongst themselves when really, you knew that they can't all be right, even though they all claim to be. Why not a Hindu believe in Christianity? Because he is scared; he doesn't want to. That goes for all religions.
S, that's my abridged story.
If you must be theist, go for Shintoism. Its really nice. Atheists have lots to learn from it too.