Were you always an atheist? Were you at one point in time a Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc.? What made you stop believing?

I'm sure we could all give voluminous answers to why we don't believe in a personal god including, but not limited to: Personal, philosophical, scientific, historical, etc. reasons; which are all perfectly valid. But I want to know what spurred you to question your former beliefs and become an atheist.

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Good for you Jenni! It's too bad that others in the Mormon church are blind to the truth and intimidation by the elders ensures that it stays that way. Joseph Smith - what a con artist - with his magic tablets and seer stone!
I could post a very long, detailed explanation, but my experiences weren't hugely dramatic or profound or anything like that.

What it comes down to is this; I am an atheist because I can't lie to myself.

If I spend this life looking in vain towards an eternity with something I can't prove exists, then I am wasting the little time I have here.
"My whole family (two parents, two siblings) still believes, and they don't know that I don't. I think it's better that way: my brother's kind of young-earth creationist and all that born-again nonsense."

I gotta ask: Why do you think it's better? I'm inclined to disagree, but then I'm not familiar with your situation.
So do you lie to them then? Just avoid the subject? What happens if confronted? Will you lie then? Wouldn't you rather avoid an issue in the future? Have you considered trying to help them be more rational, and maybe get at it indirectly, or at least get them prepared to try and see things your way?

The benefits include openness and honesty with your family and all that arises from that, and avoiding future problems that may arise. They are your family, and they ought to accept you for who you are. It may not be a good idea to blurt it out or something, but consider warming them to the idea if you can.
Apparently 36% of Americans think that the bible is the word of God and should be taken literally.

Literally? Really? Highly disturbing things happen when you take the bible at it's word. It condones slavery, rape, mass slaughter, etc... But they way you interpret it can make it mean anything.

I used to go to a religious school too and they were very selective about what they taught, and when you're taught something from birth you think, at first, that everyone believes it, and since it's in school it's practically normal curriculum. In a way it really is brainwashing.
Like every child I was born as an atheist, but like most children my parents and their environment tried to raise me in a religious way. But I was also born as a sceptic and could not take things for granted. So when I grew up I investigated the nature of things and that included the religious ideas that surrounded me.
At the age of 12 I had the courage to stand up against the delusion and refused to participate in any religious activity. Philosophy came into my life and I started to read about the origin of the cosmos. Of course this spawned more questions than answers, but with every new question that arose my desire to know answers became stronger. The final question about "the cause of everything" was never answered but I never felt the urge to turn my back to science and philosophy and take the easy road to the "answers" religion provides. I only made a small detour when I investigated Gnosticism, as a possible way to fulfil my spiritual needs. And because I admired the spirit of the Gnostics when they resisted the authority of the Church in it's early days. That detour was not very successful because I soon observed the same flaw in their ideas that any religion has.
Radicalism in politics by religious politicians nowadays pushed me towards atheism as a way of speaking out for myself. So I started reading Harris, Dawkins, Philipse (Dutch philosopher who wrote "The Atheist manifest"), Dennet to gather a concept for an atheist way of thinking. That, listening to Pat Condell and visiting hundreds of blogs and websites about atheism, has brought me where I am now.
Still investigating (why do people need religion?), but even more active in refuting the way religious people think they have the right to interfere with my life. Atheism has become a political issue for me at this stage. Laws that are only based on religion are unacceptable for me. No fundamentalist government has the right to produce religious laws that will hinder the process of my death when I think my life isn't worth living any more. No fundamentalist has the right to start a war against "disbelievers".
And last but not least, no one has the right to indoctrinate innocent atheist children with an array of lies and superstition.
I'm very happy to have an atheist son and daughter and an atheist little grandson of 2. He is a 3rd generation atheist now after hundreds of years living according to a big lie.
Atheism has become more of a political issue for me as well. One of the reasons I'm starting to "come out" to my friends and family is because of the religious right trying to push Christianity on us.

Anti-evolution bills, creationism in the classroom, the military and their strong Christian ties (I'm thinking of the atheist soldier who died a few months ago and the military wouldn't help his family b/c he was an atheist. And more recently the soldier who became an atheist while serving in Iraq, and he needed a body guard b/c his life was threatened on many occasions).

I knew that most people had prejudices against atheists, but the more I started investigating I realized that the problem was worse than I thought.
For me it's fairly simple. I've always been very curious by nature. In my childhood and early teens I was part of a fundy church and would get chastised for all the questions I asked. Well, the older I got, the less satisfying the answers to my questions became until, naturally, I began questioning the very nature of my belief system. It was pretty much all downhill from there.
I was never religious. We never went to church or anything as a child, so religion was never around in my life, I would only hear about god occasionally, but that was only enough for me to put god into the same category as santa claus. I always thought most people were kinda the same and thought "god is possible but no one knows for sure" so I never thought about it much. I guess I could be considered agnostic for most of my life. It was only when I got older and started realizing that a lot of people truly believe beyond question, that I asked myself to make a decision and I realized I never really believed so I am now an atheist :)
I was born an atheist and never had a reason to change from that position (or, at least, by the time I had a reason, it was too late). As I grew up, I wasn't actively atheistic, but rather apathetic about the whole thing. I became an active atheist when my father became ill with cancer (which eventually killed him). My mother telling me he had cancer was the first time I felt the need for something bigger than myself and the world, and after a pathetic 2 second attempt to pray, I felt like I was talking to myself (thankfully I was alone...that'd have been embarrassing). That's when it truly occurred to me that I really didn't buy this shit.

My father was Protestant (as far as I know), my mother is Methodist. She had always said she never took us to church or pressed us with religion because she wanted us to make up our own minds. Of her three daughters, she's got a Pagan, and agnostic, and an atheist. I'm the one that disappoints her most, and I can live with that. In recent years, she's expressed that she's regretted her decision. We no longer discuss it and her only comments are passive-aggressively through "God Loves You" email forwards. That's that.
I'm naturally inquisitive and curious. I was always wondering "Why?" about everything. I wasn't raised to be religious, but I did end up going to church, and considered myself Christian for a time when I was younger. But I had questions, and doubts, and couldn't get satisfactory answers. My natural curiosity led me to read and learn, and find answers to my questions. I turned to science as it had the best answers, and is the best means to truth. Inevitably it led me to the position I'm in now.

I have questions of my own for people here. If you considered yourself religious at some point, are you happier now? Do you think you might be happier if you were still religious?
I'd say I'm a lot happier now. I could never really grok the whole god thing, so I spent half of my time wondering what was wrong with me and the other half trying to convince everyone else that I believed just as much as they did. Because I couldn't make myself believe in god, I was afraid of going to hell. Hooray for faith-not-works theology!

It was a huge weight off my back once I realized that there really wasn't anything to understand or be afraid of after all.

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