As a Mexican, I was raised following most of Catholic traditions. Even when my parents aren’t that devout themselves (I suspect they are closet atheists), they go with the flow and as a family we participate of important celebrations. I always was critical about beliefs and irrational thinking and that got me a few discussions at school, but nothing too prominent or problematic.
Got married with a beautiful girl and as tradition demands, got married at her hometown’s church (By the way, the prenuptial “conferences” they make you take are just pathetic and it was very difficult for me not to object or run away from such nonsense. The marriage itself wasn’t better, the priest was always behaving as an obnoxious dictator who had the right to tell you how to live your life. Well, typical catholic behaviour, I guess).
The huge change came when we both left the country to do a PhD in the UK. First the cultural shock (Mexico is quite homogeneous in terms of population and faith) and second, being away from family and friends, people tend to search company and shelter in groups. By the way, International students are a good market that chaplaincies and congregations are always trying to reach.
Then we had this other Mexican family who were “friends” with us and from the beginning they joined their local Methodist church. After a couple of months they started pushing us to join and eventually the husband invited us to Alpha Course sessions at their house. After having that dose of nonsense, I did whatever a good research student would have done and spent some time on the internet learning about the Alpha Course. By that time Richard Dawkins launched the Atheist Bus Campaign and serendipitously found Dawkins’ books cited in a book I was reading for my PhD.
The rest was easy, devouring atheist books and websites, whatever little faith I had vanished into oblivion and now I’m able to see all damage religions make to mankind and society.
So at the end I have to thank our Mexican fellows (of course as good Christians they unfriended us as soon as we didn’t accept his zombie god as saviour) for awakening a level 7 atheist in me.