I was about 13 or 14 and I developed two problems with the core belief of Christianity; the belief that God loved humanity so much that he gave his only child, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins. My first problem with this is that if a human were to try and sacrifice their child so that someone could get out of jail or something, it wouldn't be called "Divine Sacrifice" but rather "Bad Parenting", giving your child to die for any reason is wrong, even if it's to forgive the sins of an entire race of people, and especially if the child has to die in such a horrific way as crucifixion.
The second problem I have with this is the idea that God loved us enough to want to do anything like this. This is a guy who, according to the bible, got someone elses wife pregnant against her will, tricked Abraham into nearly killing his own son, sent a prophet to the city of Amalek with the intent to kill basically every human and domestic animal there, destroyed two cities and turned a resident of that city who had been promised to be spared into a pillar of salt, and nearly wiped out all life on Earth with a flood.
I thought to myself "this is the guy who set down the very foundation of our morality?". I didn't give up on religion indefinitely, just the monotheistic faiths of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, since they all seem to worship the same god but simply call him by different names. I couldn't find any religion that I really related to, so I just chose Atheism.
It's funny, when I became an Atheist, I was actually training for my own confirmation.
Chris, your story is much like mine. When I began reading the bible in earnest, I was horrified by god's cruelty, jealousy, injustice, and blatant savagery. I, too, was being prepared for confirmation. When confirmation day came, I was resentful, angry, and confused. When the Archbishop slapped my face, I felt like hitting him back. Later he stood on the church steps for us to line up and kiss his ruby ring. I refused to do it. After going through a hating god phase, I read about other religions and decided that it was silly to waste emotion on hating an entity that I had no reason to believe existed. I was an atheist.
Turning to atheism was easy; five years ago I jumped down off the agnostic fence where for fifty years I'd lived quite happily.
Turning to agnosticism from Catholicism was a leap from certainty to uncertainty. My mom kickstarted me when she announced that I was going to college (after a hitch in the Navy) because I was too lazy to go to work. Her views and my dad's never differed, so I knew they had composed the message together. I threw them and their god out of my life. I researched the alternatives available to me and settled for agnosticism.
For me there were many many reasons. I would say that the final straw was once I read enough and learned that there really is no evidence to support any religion. I couldn't go back at that point. Prior to that I had much of what you asked, I had some bad experiences with religious folks, harsh rules, etc as well.
I feel that I didn't really turn to anything. All my early childhood was spent listening to religion as propounded by my Russian Orthodox grandmother and her hippy-xian stoner jesus whatever daughter. I don't think that I was ever much of a true believer since birth; by the second grade I was refusing to ever attend Catholic school again. This was much to the chagrin of my grandmother who was paying for it. Our relationship was never the same after that also. I think most atheists finally become secure enough with themselves to admit that they are outside of the mainstream as far as belief systems go. I don't feel that there was a time that I was ever a true believer, only afraid of the retribution I would receive if I announced my heresy. Which is why I am here now, I get this feeling us atheists are the first on the list to go when the battle for Jerusalem begins. I am looking for a place to hide already. Anybody know which communities are most open to freethinkers? America is becoming a dangerous place to live if you don't belong to one of the acceptable cults. Remember: Only the paranoid survive. (Quote from tv series "Person of Interest" I liked it.)
"Battle for Jerusalem"? Of what speak ye?
If you're looking for a "safe" place, Canada's not bad. Depending on what happens with the Presidential election in November, I may be moving there. Anywhere in Europe is also safe as most European countries are much more open-minded, secular and progressive... Norway, Sweden and Denmark come to mind.
I found lots of freethinking company in San Francisco but housing is costly. If I were to move again, I'll look for a city with a major university and settle down nearby.
I think the operative word, in my experience, would be "changed". I was born atheist, with no one to inculcate me into a religion, and so I remain. Both of my parents are agnostic, practical people and never forced me to attend religious functions or to accept certain theories. They are what I hope to be- at peace with what they do not and cannot know. I'm a contrarian by nature, so I fight religious advances with gusto. I simply do not believe in the Bible and find many contradictions within the basic fundamentals. I am still relatively new to the intellectual dissection of the holy scriptures, which is why I joined the site.
I live in West Virginia, so I do find myself defending my beliefs (or lack thereof) a lot more frequently than I'd like to. I've been assigned a permanent seat in "Hell" by many of the neighborhood Christians, so I would say I've been on the receiving end of, as you put it, "bad experiences with religious folk."