I was raised without religion. I remember when I was about seven our cat Tufty died. I remember saying something about her being in heaven (not really having any idea of what heaven was supposed to be), and being told that cats don't go to heaven. I thought that heaven couldn't be that nice of a place, anyway - why would I want to go there?
As I got older, I couldn't believe that people actually DID really believe in that nonsense. I still have that problem sometimes. Especially with other biologists, who I feel have a better explanation and should know better.
I'm the son, grandson, nephew & cousin of Methodist ministers. And I almost joined them.
In college (double major in Religion & Music) & later in seminary (1 yr. only), I both (a) came out as gay & (b) began to understand that religious faith is not based on any form of reality. Instead it is simply a fear-soothing fantasy. Faith represents a security blanket at best & a tool of subjugation at worst.
I attended mass with my Catholic partner until he decided to run off with another Catholic, and I continued to be employed as a singer in liberal Protestant churches for years after that. But among the musicians, we understood that we were hired as mercenaries, employed for cash into an army that was not our own. I wonder how many who now attend their churches are mercenaries for the social life, for the help in parenting, and for not rocking the family boat, joining an army that, if they considered it, violates their own integrity.
I was born an atheist, as we all are. I was deferred for a while by attending Catholic schools for eight years. But that was also the biggest factor in my rejecting gods and religion. I learned too much about it. The closer you look...
I remember one thing in particular, however. I'm not sure how old I was, eight or so, when I saw the old movie The Bible at the drive in. I was aboslutley horrified at the pictures of mothers holding thier babies up above the rising flood waters of THE flood. Then and there I knew I wanted nothing to do with that god.
Well, I was raised in a "spiritual" home. My father was a hippy Jew who believed in Jesus' teachings (he isnt a Messianic Jew by any means, however). My mother was from a Baptist background but called "bullshit" on it all and became a hippy. My mother has always been a out-door type and my father is a scientist, through and through (psychoneuroimmunologist), and for my entire childhood that passion for science and the outdoors stayed with me.
The most important thing was that both my parents (who are know divorced) taught me to always question everything anybody told me, including them. As you can imagine, the first time I picked up my dad's old college evolution book, I was hooked.
These days, my atheism is rooted directly into my inner strength. I base my strength on me, myself, and I, which meshes nicely with atheism as it promotes a growth of your mental muscle.
I did not choose to become an atheist. I simply realized one day that I was, and I remember exactly where it happened.
I was raised by Southern Baptist parents (but not the bigoted, intolerant kind; they were pretty much Southern Baptists in name only). I attended church twice when I was a child: once I fell asleep, and the other time the preacher terrified me so badly I had to be taken outside.
When I was 12 or so, one of my aunts terrified me with stories about Hell.
And that's pretty much it. The meme just didn't "take". During my freshman year in high school - during lunch, as a matter of fact - I realized that I was an atheist. I had been one for some time, but I don't remember that transition. I only remember when I realized it.
I have been an atheist since i was around ten years old. However; in my teens, i did dabble in astrology - but i was always an atheist throughout. I still am fascinated by astrology, but that is because it is connected to my fascination with mythology. I remember when i believed in god - it wasn't because i chose to; it was because i never knew there was an alternative - i was just a child at the time and was told as fact (not by my parents) that the biblical accounts were matter of fact, so i never really questioned it until - as i grew older, i would hear the odd discussion and realised that what i had been taught, was not necessarily actuality! I never knew that my parents were atheists until i was a little older, and am grateful that they never shoved either religion or anti religion down my throat - not that atheism is anti religion, but my parents never influenced my thoughts in any way - that's something that i am certainly pleased about because i am sick of hearing about children being TOLD that they are Christians, or Muslims etc simply because of what their family believe.
(Sorry if this is bad form, but I'm re-posting my reply to a similar question on a different group page)
I was raised in the Church of England, where a lot of people find comfort in the ritual, but there isn't a lot of real in-your-face god talk. Once I was out on my own and exposed to a variety of different faiths, as well as a bunch of people who seemed a lot more sure than I ever had been about their beliefs, I started asking questions in earnest. I took some Psychology of Religion courses, explored a number of mythologies, attended a few cult-like fundy services--much akin to the other sorts of experimentation one tends to conduct while in college, only a lot less fun
And then I stopped. I had, at that point, never met anyone calling themselves 'atheist' or even 'agnostic'. I was somewhat agnostic about the possibility of some Universal oversoul type of deity (I really dug Emerson and the whole Transcendental American Lit period), but quite convinced that the Abrahamic god was as much a creation of humans as Loki or Pele or Zeus. Nothing further seemed required, however. There was no apparent 'next step' to take, other than to live a completely secular life, nod and smile politely when other people talked about their churches, and mind my business.
Two things happened to change my mind, some years later. One was that I got more involved in politics and became more aware of the incursions by the Religious Right, up to and including the outcome of the 2000 Presidential Election. The other was that I became a mother.
My son, it turns out, is one of those deep thinker types. He asks amazing questions and has been able to understand fairly detailed, complex answers from an early age. As soon as I realized this, I made a commitment to always answer his questions honestly. By the time he was three, we had already had a number of those conversations that a lot of parents seem to dread--birth, death, reproduction, etc. (all in age-appropriate terms, of course). His questions about mortality, supernatural beings, etc. required me, for the first time, to be articulate about my own beliefs, and in doing so, I finally identified myself as atheist. As soon as I actually verbalized this, I had a kind of epiphany--I remember one millisecond of letting go, consciously asking myself: "Do I really disbelieve all of it?" and answering "Yes!" followed by a sense of awe that I had finally recognized and embraced the thought which had lain dormant in my mind for the past 10 years. Since then, and especially after reading the works of Dawkins et al and finding Pharyngula, I have become increasingly unabashed at 'outing' myself, when appropriate. I think I have shocked more than a few of the soccer moms in my community with this revelation, but only because they have never known anyone who was openly atheist before. I've put a lot of effort into making sure my kids have strong moral values and lead by example with a lot of charity and volunteer work for our school, so hopefully a side effect of this will be that a few of the fellow parents will be able to say they know at least *one* atheist who isn't a mass murderer