I’m an atheist because I grew up in an environment free of the notion that religious teachings were true, in any sense. Whenever atheists who’ve recovered from religion talk about it, they seem to have had to sometimes struggle to reject the claims of faith – imagine how easy it was, for me, growing up with the opposite assumption: that it was a historical artifact and belonged with times gone by. When I was a kid I learned about the ancient Greeks and Zeus and Olympus, the Romans and Poseidon, the Vikings and Odin, the Jews and Yahweh, and the Egyptians and Bast – and it’s blindingly obvious that these myths are just stories to tell around the fire. For most of my life I largely ignored religion, until I started to study political philosophy and became uncomfortably aware of religion’s long role as a technique for political control. It was Seneca’s quip: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful” that made me realize that if you’re going to engage in a political dialogue with another person, you will often need to address religious indoctrination just as you sometimes need to overcome national or tribal indoctrination. Since I realized that, I now am willing to engage in frank dialogue with another person regarding their religious beliefs in much the same way as I would with a person I encountered who held repugnant racist ideologies, xenophobic politics, or a counterproductive political philosophy. So, I’ve always been an atheist but now I am “strident” about it because I’ve realized that religion is one of the things that exacerbates ‘normal’ conflict and therefore needs to be argued against.