Was there a specific instance where you started to identify as an atheist/agnostic, or was it a gradual process?
There was for me. It's quite funny how some memories stick with you so well. My mother who is now what I call a spiritual atheist (one who doesn't believe in a soul but feel as long as her body returns to the Earth without being cremated she will unconsciously live on as nutrition in plants and animals.) I kind of like her philosophy. When I was born, she was a Catholic, and my father was an Atheist. She insisted on sending me to Sunday school and church. My father would tuck me in at night, and we talked about all kinds of things. He'd tell me stories about what the Earth was like a very long time ago, and he would ask me questions about God and then ask why I believed it was true. I gave the typical 5-year-old responses. He told me that he didn't believe in God. At five my father was the smartest man in the world to me and if he didn't believe I didn't believe. It's odd, and this is the part I remember so well, but he told me he was disappointed after he had just told me I shouldn't just take peoples word for it. He wanted me to think before I believe. I've written this story before on other sites, and the responses were negative toward my father. Most said my father shouldn't have done that to me at five years old. I disagree, I never felt unloved by him, and his disappointment kept me from indoctrination. I'm sure it was the last thing he wanted to do, but when I asked him years later, he claimed to have no memory of that night. I don't think I believed him.
It started in about 6th or 7th grade. I had some really disturbing religion teachers with really fucked up worldviews. Some of them seemed so unhinged and unreputable, I think everyone in my class grew a bit skeptical. When Brother David, the only redeeming figure of the church, jumped in front of a train -- our religion teacher told us all he was going to hell. They never had a service for him. I remember being disappointed to find my friend was being confirmed Catholic. I was already halfway through 12 years of Catholic school as a Methodist and their intolerance made me much more prone to resistance. I refused to do the sign of the cross or kneel during mass. I felt isolated when I had to cross my arms over my chest when everyone else received communion. When I asked one of my teachers about reincarnation, I was laughed at (and this was maybe 4th grade). The constant slights bred contempt. I clung to my traditions in the Methodist church up until 8th grade, feeling they belonged to me and I needed to defend them. I was baptized but never confirmed.
When I was about 13-15 my parents decided to start going back to church. They brought us to one with a live band and the drums would give me headaches. I liked the quiet hymns and my grandma's organ playing. We never made friends there. Everyone stayed in their cliques and would give praise so loudly and obnoxiously, arms high above their heads, it felt incredibly insincere. They forced me to go on a white water rafting trip I didn't want to go on, which fell apart and became a sleepover at some church lady's house I did not know at all. I wasn't friends with anyone, I didn't make friends, and I'm glad no one tried to take advantage of my vulnerability because I was terrified of it happening... I didn't know them at all.
All throughout high school I would spend mass daydreaming and being generally uncooperative. We finally made it out of sacred scripture and into world religion, and my beliefs and understanding of the world gained more clarity.
I even stopped cooperating at home, where after refusing to say the blessing, I was beaten and my food was thrown into the next room. I already knew that it was a false display of Christianity to begin with and I had no more respect for it anymore. So of course you would throw the food you asked me to bless and be violent. It was definitely gone by then.
If it weren't for my grandmother... I'd never have seen the good in Christianity. She was the only real one I knew, and much of her advice still stays with me. Much of it fueled my resistance to the constant performance of belief, and I'm so grateful she helped sow in me the seeds for my own self-determination.
I would say I was swinging like a pendulum for years between belief and lack of belief. Then, I watched a Psych 101 course on iTunes University from Paul Bloom (a professor at Yale). He was talking about Alzheimer’s and I don’t remember exactly what he said, but it gave me this sudden dawning that we can’t possibly have souls. If disease can completely devastate our personalities, memories, and essentially dismantle who we are, then we are simply a personality of our brain’s functionality, and once that functionality is impaired or ceases, then we too cease to be. I don’t believe in God, because what evidence there is is based on ancient, outdated, fantastical literature and the very clear point of it is gap of knowledge explanations, control and order attained by fear. It doesn’t hold water, so I had to let it go.
When I was 19.
I was a Hindu till then. Wide variety of gods to choose from, no rules whatsoever, even if there are any rules nobody forces you to do anything.
Then began to learn about other religions and their concept of god.
Then started reading atheist literature and attending science lectures.
Threw away all belief in god and learned to live confidently without the aid of invisible deities.
When I was about 15. I have grown up in a country where religion has more importance than humanity and over the years seeing all the rituals and fanatic sects and tons of contradictions between various religions despite all of them claiming that there is one god. So I chose to put my belief in me, being a good human, keeping my conscious clean, and doing what feels right.
As an undergrad, Stetson required a course in Judeo-Christian heritage that was taught by an outstanding professor with a PhD in Theology. He was Dean of the Chapel, but warned that after a critical study of the bible, theists would have more questions and atheists would be smiling. True to this, that course really opened my eyes to the fiction of the bible (e.g., there is no "virgin" in the original Arabic) and I took more of his independent studies---by the time I left for my Ph.D. in Neuroscience, I could no longer reconsile religion and intellect---so intellect won
Never being invested in any of it despite being surrounded by it helped me see it all for the BS that it was. At best I was agnostic when I was young, but late teens and on wards I still remained thoroughly uninvested and unconvinced, so I was pretty much atheist at that point. Religion class in school is one of the driest, most boring, and repetitive classes to sit through as a kid. They mostly taught us the new testament stuff and the more lubby dubby happy go lucky roman catholic stuff. And when I started to see how inconsistent all that crap was with reality, I took it as seriously as any fairy tale.
I ever considered this my natural condition. But essentially started labeling myself as such in 10-th grade.
For some years considered myself "atheist". But then had some... let's say "religious experiences" and started considering myself agnostic or following a one-man religion.
In 7th grade, My parents raised me to think for myself. Was never made to go to church or forced into religion. 7th grade i truly wanted to see what religion was all about. Plus this girl I had a huge crush on at the time was a huge christian, so I went to 2 bible school events. After questioning everything that was being preached, and getting terrible answers. I decided religion was a made up tool to control my mind. I was way ahead of my time
I was 9 years old. I was brought up in a religious family who were regular church goers. There was so much bickering and bitchiness, even at 9, I could see this went against the notions of God I'd been taught to believe. From then I saw religious communities as hypocrites. This coincided with me getting a telescope and learning about astronomy. There was no evidence of God being present in such an expansive universe.
As soon as I realized that religion is BS, back in high school. I come from a predominantly atheist family. I got brainwashed when we arrived in the US (2nd grade) and the Jewish organization stuck me into Hebrew School. I was just getting over one kind of brainwashing while undergoing culture shock, and thus fell for the 2nd set of brainwashing. By hs, I started observing how many different religions there are in the world and that they are constantly fighting against each other, even within certain variations of their own beliefs (like different types of Christianity). I also noticed all the brutality going on in the world, and was wondering where is that omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and all-loving god. That's when I figured out that there is not god, by the end of 11th grade. I switched hs my sr year, and there people already new me as atheist.