I blame my parents.
All through my life, my parents taught me to question everything. "Don't believe everything the preacher says. Look it up for yourself." I suppose their honest intention was to keep me from being pulled in by a heretical cult, but this admonition along with my naturally inquisitive mind led me on a path they cannot fathom.
My parents made two other big mistakes with regard to my remaining a theist. First, they raised me as a Southern Baptist. Baptists are taught (or at least were taught) that the Holy Bible is the final authority in all questions, and that only the Holy Spirit can lead the believer to interpret what is contained in its pages. Second, they sent me to a Baptist college with required religion courses. For some, that may be a good thing, but for me it was a chance to really learn what religion was all about (also, attending a Baptist college one might find there is a stunning correlation between homosexuality and the children of Baptist ministers).
In the end, I took on a religion minor to go along with my music degree. This meant taking courses like "Ethics" and "Theology" and "World Religions" as well as courses on Christian scripture. All this had the effect of creating a hunger for more knowledge in these areas. I sought out literature that both affirmed and questioned my religious paradigms.
Early in 1998, I read the book Honest to Jesus. Twice. It was the first time I had read anything that came close to questioning the precepts of my faith. Up until that point, I had mostly read books that questioned doctrinal points, but here was a book that questioned the very document I was dependent on for my beliefs. It had an honesty and candor that I had not encountered, and by the time I had finished reading it the second time, I was no longer a Southern Baptist. Reality had left me with two options: Either close my eyes and continue on the path of belief without reason, or take a giant leap and pursue the truth no matter where it led. Having always been a sort of skeptic, I was mentally incapable of following the former path.
At the time, I still considered myself to be some sort of Christian, yet I spent months in total physical and mental agony when I was separating myself from my denomination and many of my beliefs. Looking back, it was such a minor move that no non-Christian could possibly understand, but at the time it was gut wrenching. I had honestly grown to love my faith. God was my friend and fellow believers were my spiritual family.
The more I examined my beliefs, the fewer I was able to defend. Soon I was questioning whether or not there was a God. If he did exist, he was certainly the worst possible self-promoter in history. Somehow, only people west of the Ural Mountains, north of the Congo, and east of the Atlantic Ocean were suitable candidates for salvation for nearly 1,000 years after the death of Jesus. So I took the transcendentalist approach to the deity: God exists, but only as the "unity" of cosmic intelligence and only to give the universe purpose while remaining impartial to its physical existence.
Of course, that lasted about a year. Finally, I decided that the question was no longer important. Perhaps it was the fact that I had finished grieving my loss of faith and had moved on to acceptance. Whatever the reason, I began calling myself an "agnostic." It was a liberating moment, and I was able to view my religious upbringing in the "rear view mirror" and see it as it really was.
For some reason, I was swayed by the Christian argument that "atheism" was a religion that required faith in a principle. I reasoned that I could not be an "atheist" because atheists were "certain" that there was no God, and I was not that certain. Once I realized that the term "atheist" only implies that one has no reason to believe in gods, I could no longer deny that the word applied to me.