So apparently it is tradition to tell how you became enlightened when you join A|N, so here it is:
I am Logan Grado, 18 years old and grew up in a not so strictly christian family (presbyterian), and attended a catholic high school.
I spent the first 14 years of my life quietly accepting religion as slightly ridiculous but true, because my parents are definitely smarter people than I (Both being M.D.'s) I was always a critical thinker and always ahead in school, so I knew a lot about physics and chemistry even at that age, and was always hungry for more. Logic and reason are my guides in life.
I went along with the catholics, going to masses as instructed and being quite during prayer. But the more I learned, the more ridiculous they sounded. I mean, could these people actually believe what they were saying? Did these kids around me really believe in creationism? Evolution, something I learned for myself in the 6th grade, made so much more sense! Did they really believe that bread and wine could be turned into flesh and blood? How gullible could they be?! The more I learned about religion, and the more I learned about the world, the more I realized they don't fit together.
So I became one of probably 5 atheists at my school, a school of 800 outspoken catholics. But I have always been one for a challenge. Other kids were shocked to find out that I was Atheist. I mean, they knew I wasn't catholic, but to find out I didn't believe in god at all was shocking. These kids spent their entire lives surrounded by the church, and by other people that shared their views. Most of them had never even met an atheist before (Needless to say they are in for a culture shock when they go to college)!
Now this wasn't as bad as it may sound. In fact, it wasn't bad at all. The kids at my school were not prejudicial at all towards me. Of course, me and my friends would joke back and forth, but no one thought less of me because of my lack of belief. The experience of being immersed in a completely religious environment had the effect of strengthening and tempering my atheism, and I even converted a friend and planted the seeds of doubt in others. I always had fun debating religion with friends, because in the end, their arguments always disolved into "I just believe it. Its my faith." Pure indoctrination.
So anyway, after reading books on string theory, Richard Dawkins The God Delusion, and many others, my ability to defend atheism and attack religious fallacy has reached new heights (heights that are above most of my classmates heads).
Personally, finding atheism was extremely depressing for me for a period of about 6th months (a long time for a teenager). For a person such as me, who is extremely purpose driven, and who must always know how and why, it was a very stark and depressing realization that this life is for naught, that our conscience is just a complex chemical interaction, that there is nothing after.
So after a lot of self examination, I came up with some satisfactory answers. Life is really really short. 75 years on average (for men) is nothing compared to the 14.5 billion of the universe. And 1 life is nothing compared to 6 billion on the planet. But I can make myself into those 6 billion, and I can extend that 75 years into the length of the human race. Children is one of my answers. Having children is the most permanent thing you can do to spread your mind and your genes throughout time and space. Not only that, but I hear making children can be really fun, as well as raising them. Your children are the better part of you, and are extensions of you. As long as you have children, you will not be erased from the earth so easily.
The second thing I thought of myself, I did not read it anywhere, but rather combined a few scientific principles to come up with this:
There are more than just this universe. This assumption is supported by quantum mechanics, as well as by time. There is no reason to believe that time started at the beginning of this universe, but rather it must have been going on for infinity before and will go on infinitely after. Therefore, there has been, are and will be infinite universes, each one starting with a big bang (or big crunch if your a proponent of String Theory, or M- Theory) and ending with another big crunch. At each crunch, the probability of another universe forming in exactly the same way as the one before it would be incredibly incredibly small. However, because it happened before, it could happen again.
This is the cool part: in the presence of infinity, the smallest probabilities become certainties. That means that if time is infinite, then there have been and will be infinite universes just like this, with you and me in them, and every possible variation. So basically we're immortal. I think that is pretty cool.
While the above has no direct effect on my life (it doesn't really change anything) it is a very cool and comforting thought.
Thats all I can think of for now.