never been in a religion and i stopped wanting to be around age 13. my mother raised me in scientific though my whole life. nothing but pbs and discovery channel all my childhood. i havnt changed my mind or discovered a scientific reality that i never had, though the realizations within science are infinitely unwraveling to me, evolution was always the way it was for me. my mother left my spirituality up to me, and ive dabbled in many, looking for divine revelation in ancient texts that acually corrolates with recent scientific theories and i have found nothing. the only "religion" that ever made sence to me was paganism, and i would hardly call it an organized religion. but the philosophy of neo paganism is completely open to the laws of nature and isnt trying to pull a veil over the eyes. i am committed to reality in all its wonders and horrors without handing over its causation to an invisible, sentient being.
and its not as empty or cold as the religious hold it to be. i am insignifigant in the face of all the wonders we have in the rational world. my heart flies sitting under the canopy of the hayden planetarium or having a heated debate over the philosophy of time in the realm of memory or having sex or other such stimulating, humanly persuits. the only real thing that is cold and lonely about atheism isnt the knowledge that there is probably nothing after one dies, but the isolation of living a life among the delusional. people whose thinking hasnt evolved past the "god/tooth-fairy did it" explanation of non explaining. its like having a really nice, civilized loft inside a dysfunctional mental institution. and thank you dawkins/hitchins/dennet for the courage to stop apologizing for referring to the religious like the child minded people they are.
Both sides of my family were pretty religious. My maternal grandparents were from Scotland, and raised 5 children as Roman Catholics. My father was one of 8 children, born in Italy, and raised solely by his very stern, Catholic mother. Despite their combined religious backgrounds, I was never brought up as Catholic. I went to church up until I was 5 years old, but my mum only took me out of what I think was habit. Her mother had died of cancer when my mum was 16, and this is what caused my mother to lose her faith. My dad has hated the Church since he was a child. He went to these terrible Catholic boarding schools in Italy where they were were mistreated and abused by the monks (or nuns, for his sisters), like literally fed molding food. I think he is spiritual though. He doesn't talk about it very much.
When I was 6, I remember talking to another boy the same age as me on our way to school, and I mentioned something about God. He stated "I don't believe in God." I'll admit, I was aghast. I don't think that it had occurred to me that some people didn't believe in God. I think that I thought there was a god much like I was convinced there was a Santa Claus. I'd never really cared much for going to church, and today I wouldn't count myself as believing in anything back then. In church, all I ever really did was play around with my younger sister, crawl under the pews and try to read Peter Rabbit books.
I questioned things a lot when I was younger. In grade 5, a Catholic friend of mine invited me to go to church with her one Sunday. I was feeling bold, and I asked her how their could be a god when there were little babies in Africa starving to death. How could God let that happen? Her response was that they must have sinned. Well, needless to say, that was it for me. When I was 12 I discovered the word 'agnostic' and felt that that was something I could define myself as, since I didn't want to tread on any toes. But once I hit high school I wasn't really satisfied the whole "not committing to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god" definition of agnosticism, and decided that atheism was much more my cup of tea.
I envy those who have no memory of ever believing in a cross dwelling sky god or damning viscous violent tribal deity.
How embarrassing for those of us who did. I REALLY believed.......for shame.
As long as I can remember for me.
So, around 10 years of age atheist power!
Here's a hint: Second grade the nun would grab a kid at random out of the rows of chairs, put her grips on the child's upper arm and shake the livin' Frank out of the child until it was a whimpering pile, wet itself on the floor. I watched this half a dozen times (before it was my turn) and thought that the nun must have been an evil robot. Yeah. (After a couple parents got wind of this, the nun was "retired" and replaced by another strange woman in the lord's service.)
I don't remember the grade I was in, early on I suspect, when the nun introduced the idea of superstition being a sin. She said things like "a rabbit's foot wasn't lucky to the rabbit" and such. I thought about it for a while and knew by then not to ask what the difference was between the rabbit's foot being lucky and eating a piece of dried bread whatever being Christ joining up with my body. (I think about that now and wonder at how Freudian it sounds.)
Then one of the brothers in high school got me for a chat one day after classes, proposing that, since I didn't have a girlfriend (Holy Frank! I was 14 fer Frank's sake!), I obviously had a calling from the Lord and should otter focus on becoming . . . You get the picture. Mean guy too, that bro. Then senior year the German teachin' priest called me into his office with the same suggestion. Weird. My German grades went down after I refused to even consider it.
Raised bilingual (tri- actually), I got interested in conlangs. Make up a language. Got me thinking about making up a religion. Too bad L.Ron beat me to it.
So, no, I ain't been an outright atheist since whenever back. But I had always had my doubts, each of which early on caused me great spiritual anguish &c at confession time. When I finally turned my back on all of it, it took a while for me to realize the depth of freedom I felt. As I have become more open -- as I came out of the atheist's closet -- I have realized how wide that freedom is. And how much it brings others to consider what doubt about the dubious means.
I don't worry about the how long back it was that I began to disbelieve. I just don't now & that's fine by me. I do wish that my parents hadn't had to waste so much of their hard earned money on what I feel is and will always be a cut-rate education. It was such an egregious waste, all of it.