By the time I was thirty I had gone through my De Sade phase of Atheism where I was acting like an injured person lashing out. I had reached a stage where vilifying believers wasn't satisfying. I felt a need to understand why so many people believed in god. To do this I used the faculty I had learned as a philosophy student and motorcycle mechanic, empiricism. As an empiricist I observed god the only place I could find him/her/it, other peoples beliefs. The predominate pattern that emerged was anthropomorphism.
The earliest beliefs in gods gave almost every force a human or animal personality. As we observed the material nature of the world around us, anthropomorphic explanations were increasing eliminated. The pattern that emerges is one of psychological traits accommodating the material nature of the universe.
So what is it that causes people to indulge in anthropomorphism? If we imagine a person's consciousness coming into existence, the only thing it would be aware of is its own existence. We would be pure Ego. The next thing we would become aware of would be the existence of a caring personality, our mother, protecting us and taking care of our needs. We are conditioned to believe in a protective, caring person. This conditioning is expressed in anthropomorphism.
After thousands of years of materialism displacing anthropomorphic idealism, many of us have benefitted to the extent we no longer believe the universe has a personality and belief in god has been eliminated. If all this conjecture has some truth to it, then being religious isn't entirely an evil attempt to subjugate others. It is largely an indulgence in primitive, natural psychological traits. Atheism is the achievement of gaining control over those impulses.
This is all preliminary conjecture, but I feel it is important for Atheism to move on from the De Sade to one of developing understanding. How do you understand why people believe in god? Do you feel it is time for Atheism to move to a phase where understanding should be more the centre of our concern?