Hello. I’m Dave, and this is my story.
My parents were very Catholic and I went to a Catholic school, so I didn’t have questions about religion until I was about 12. It was when I transferred to a public school and met other Christians (Methodists and Presbyterians mostly, with some Episcopals and a bunch of Catholics) that I began thinking about beliefs that are held by churches. According to the church I went to, they couldn’t be saved and according to theirs, I couldn’t be saved, even though we’re both Christians. The Jews thought they were chosen and we weren’t.
One very strange event occurred not long after the first year at the new school began when I went to school on a Jewish holiday. It was a holiday when the Jews took the day off. My name sounds Jewish and apparently this confused some people. One of them asked why I was in school on a Jewish holiday. When I said “Because I’m Catholic”, she got this look on her face for a brief second and said, in a much more friendly voice than was in her question, “Oh. I thought you were Jewish”. Hearing that exchange, this guy turned around and said “You’re Catholic?!” There actually was a brief discussion with my classmates about that I was Catholic and went to St. Leo’s. This monumental issue between my seventh grade Christian classmates and I regarding my religious affiliation was quickly resolved when somebody from St. Benedict’s Catholic church said I’d been there a few times. Following what happened that day, some people actually treated me differently. It wasn’t necessarily that we were in the same Christian sect; it was that I wasn’t Jewish. Being mistaken as Jewish by young Christians then proving I was Catholic and seeing the result was astonishing.
Even though my parents were very religious, they didn’t force me to go to church when I was in high school past a point in my sophomore year. They knew they couldn’t since they knew we were skipping church for coffee and doughnuts. My friend’s dad walked in one day and spotted us. He called my dad and our other friend’s dad and we were busted. While they didn’t make me go to church, they did express their wishes that I would go. By then I was definitively agnostic and had no interest in attending church or supporting any church. They couldn’t all be right, but that didn’t mean that God didn’t exist. Some other religion could be right but as far as I was concerned, religion was a non-issue in my life that I might or might not address as I saw fit at some future date.
Over the years I read and heard about religions other than Christian as well as about the crazy evangelicals and fundamentalists and it became apparent that there wasn’t any evidence that God existed. Western New York is a pretty secular area and there wasn’t any real pressure or reason to take a stand one way or the other, the way there is in Florida, and I didn’t much bother with religion other than to be aware that there was more evidence against than for God’s existence and therefore I felt that the probability God existed was very, very low. It still wasn’t something that was worth the time, as far as I was concerned.
Several years ago, when I was living in Phoenix, a very good friend and neighbor of mine was an ex-Mormon with a degree in philosophy. We had some great parties and barbecues where we talked about why and how we ended up as apostates and eventually didn’t see any reason to suppose God exists. Having been Mormon he had way better reasons to leave his church than I had for leaving mine but it mostly came down to the same reasons: lack of accuracy and inconsistencies in scripture, the organization is set up to control (and fleece) the flock, and there is no evidence they can present to support that any of it is true. It was around then that I considered myself an atheist.
If I had been from a state that was not highly secular it would have taken years less to crystallize my thoughts on religion. It never was an issue, particularly not a political issue, as it is in Florida. Not long after I moved here and saw what the religious are trying to do to with education in particular it wasn’t hard to take a stand. Actually, it was rather easy. Anyway, that’s pretty much how I came to be where I am today.