Well, I've been lurking around on this site for a while now, so I thought it was about time I joined and introduced myself.
I'm Miriam, a highschool student from England. I''ve been an atheist for around 1 1/2 years now, and it was actually a very sudden change. It also would not have been too difficult a transition for me, if not for the generally negative feedback. I come from a pretty religious Jewish background and know a grand total of 1 other atheist (and he's not a friend, just someone I vaguely know). All of my family and friends are religous, but I have been open from the beginning about my disbelief. However, it is still very much expected of me to continue to follow the Jewish laws and traditions as I was brought up to (eg going to synagogue, dressing according to Jewish law). This has proven to be quite frustating for me, especially since I am strongly opposed to certain laws and practices.
I am also often faced with strange misconceptions that people around me have about those who are not religious (bear in mind that many of them around my age are not close friends with even people who are in less religious sects of Judaism than Orthodoxy). Like the fact that I am an atheist must mean that I am some angry, rebellious tenager trying to get back at my parents. Or that I'm suddenly going to lose my sense of moral compass, and go around pushing old ladies down stairs, or murdering babies (well, not really, but you get the point)
I keep on holding on to the fact that I only have (hopefully) one more year of living at home, before I'll be going to university, where I'll be free to do as I wish. However, I am very much aware that even then, I will face a lot of family pressure to continue living as my parents would wish, whichis quite daunting. I always feel terribly guilty when I'm disappointing somene, even though I know rationally that I cannot spend the rest of my life trying to please my parents.
Anyway, now I'll stop rambling, and come to my main point; it's really nice for once to be around people who actually understand me.
It's nice to meet you all :)