When I was about 10 a friend died during unnecessary surgery. Somebody -- my Sunday school teacher? -- wondered aloud whether he was in a state of grace at the moment of his death. If so, he was already in heaven. If not? Well, he would already be in hell for all eternity. I thought "What kind of god would do something that disgusting to a kid? For that matter, how would anybody deserve that kind of treatment?" This was about the end of World War II. Should that happen to Hitler? If anybody deserved it, he would. But I couldn't consign even him to such a fate. Therefore, hell is a fraud. My other choice would have been to see that, if hell was allowed to exist, then god was a fraud. I wasn't ready for that yet.
My Dad is a Pentecostal minister and we grew up in a few VERY Evangelical churches. Lots of speaking in tongues, laying on of hands, "dig deep to donate to God", if it's not of God it's of The Devil, End of Days stuff.
I was exposed to a lot of people having very intense emotional reactions from a lot of adults being "moved by the holy spirit" type stuff and I noticed that never once, did I feel what they felt. I never heard the voice of the lord. Never felt moved to tears or compelled by any unseen force to do anything. Even when everyone around me was clearly sharing an experience, I was just a kid in the middle of it.
Whenever I talked to my Dad about it he just said to pray on it and to try harder to listen to The Lord.
I prayed, I read, I studied, I questioned, I got in trouble for asking questions and not accepting "because God" as an answer.
By about 14 I had sorted out that whatever it was that let people experience God, I just didn't have it. It took another 15 years or so or reading, studying, questioning every religion I could get my hands on to eventually sort out that it's all man made.
I started to doubt while in a Catholic school religion class. When a nun told me that when someone hurts me I should turn the other cheek, I was telling myself I had only two cheeks.
Years later I edited that. For a woman I really like, I have four cheeks.
For me it was bit by bit: understanding that the Bible did, in fact, contradict itself and that these contradictions were real, not just "apparent." Realizing that some of the stories, Job in particular, could not be literally true and still be describing a good and just God. Moving on to recognize that the diversity of human language did not begin at the Tower of Babel. There was no worldwide flood. Genetics teaches us that it takes longer than Noah's ark to bring us back to a common ancestor (why do we not know the name of Noah's wife, considering that we are all descended from her? You would think her name would be more widely known). Man was on earth long before the Adam and Eve story would have taken place.
Once you recognize Adam and Eve as a myth, the whole notion of Christ's sacrifice becomes impossible to accept as a necessity. And then you realize just how non-credible the resurrection story really is. BAM! You're done.
That's how it was for me, anyway.
I think I simply was lucky - there was no aha! moment.
I was born a non-theist and managed through chance and temperament to reject indoctrination. As a child, and much to the embarrassment of my parents, I was asked on two different occasions not to return to Sunday school until I stopped asking inconvenient questions and laughing at the "lessons." It never took root.
They sort of gave up on me after round two.
Haha! Inconvienient questions = Religion's greatest enemy.
I went to a Catholic boarding school - boys only. Did the religious instruction, etc. - was going to be a priest but only because when you are surrounded by it, it seems like the right thing to do. Had a great deal of fun (out in the bundu - bush to you guys overseas) and was a reasonably good little Catholic - not a great education but think that was my fault! Being around the priests and brothers you start observing their not so christian behaviour and start questioning things. Then the whole confession idiocy became apparent. Confessing to someone you didn't respect that much - weird! Then confessing that you had sworn, etc. when you knew you weren't going to stop. What a waste of time. And when I had the chance to experience sex, I knew I was going to like it and no rules were going to stop me. Realised then and there it was all a pointless exercise. It has been uphill ever since. Cheers
I was very lucky in that my parents were very cool and relaxed about all things religious. My father's an atheist and my mother doesn't really care about spiritual stuff so, I was privileged in that respect.
As a child I was a massive reader and loved reading books of all kinds. Aged about 10, I read a book about bible stories (Samson and Delilah, David and Goliath, Adam and Eve, etc) and found it fascinating. Naturally, I thought because I liked the stories, and from some indoctrination at my school, that I was a "Christian". Although I never went to church or anything, I did pray occasionally.
Aged 14 or 15, I was in a religious education lesson at school, about heaven and hell. I asked the question, "Who decides who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?" The teacher said, "St Peter's at the gates, and he decides". Having a logical mind, I responded with a barrage of questions like, "So what if someone does something with good intentions, but it has bad consequences? What if someone has a mental illness, do they get an automatic pass?" and so on... The teacher just eventually told me they'd have a discussion with me after the lesson! That was when I realised that...it just didn't make sense, it wasn't logical.
About a year later, I read the God Delusion, and that cemented my beliefs (or lack of them!).
An interesting question and I've loved reading all the responses!
I was a Christian. Not only a Christian, but one who believed in reformed theology, or Calvinism. I read the bible and believed it's literal translation. God choses those that will be with him in heaven. Fast forward 20 years, and I decided to go to college. I started to learn about research and evidence. I read Frankenstein and the Metamorphosis. I did papers on each story, comparing our lack of free will and how God controls everything, even if we do not like the consequences. My history of civ class revealed the fact that there are similar stories written that predate the bible. That's when I decided to do research. Long story short, I came to the conclusion that all religions are wrong, and I became agnostic at that point. After reading The God Delusion, I reevaluated and decided that I am truly and atheist. Fortunately for me, my wife was already secretly agnostic, and my son had decided that God is as real as Santa. A few friends know, and I'm sure others do too as I follow more than a few atheist facebook and twitter feeds, but nobody has really shunned me.
After being told about and reading 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
"women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
I had been taught about how awesome and loving god was. The guy commanding this sounded like a jerk. I decided that I must have read it out of context, so I read the whole chapter. That didn't help, so I read the entire bible from cover to cover. By the time I was done, I not only still didn't agree with 1 Corinthians, I found a lot of other detestable verses, passages and entire overarching messages. It wasn't long before I had shrugged off Christianity. Sure, I remained spiritual for a long time. I wasn't ready to shrug off the god that I had grown to know and love. That was the beginning though. I sat down and read my bible from cover to cover. It's one of the reasons why I actually support biblical literacy. I encourage every Christian to read the whole bible, for this very reason. Nothing destroys faith in Christianity like knowing what it's really about.