I was raised lightly religious, Lutheran, went to AWANA with friends. At 14 I joined De Molay. They say prayers at regular intervals. The prayers are all non-sectarian, but everyone knows they’re said to Baby Jesus. It’s also a great way to meet the ladies. I’m sure most everyone lost their “purity” through club hookups. Around age 17 that just kinda petered-out (no pun intended) and I didn’t give it another thought.
In the early ‘80s I was in the US Army and was sent to Germany. I jumped into The European Experience with both feet. Bought a motorcycle, got a German girlfriend and set out to learn the language. I learned “Tavern German”, that is, I learned it by talking to people, carrying a notepad and flashcards. I did a lot of traveling with Deutche motorcyclist throughout the Black Forest, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Highly recommended by the way.
As I learned the language and made friends I learned the meaning of the term “culture shock.” On the surface everything seemed to be the same. There’s McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut. Same fashions, same cars driving on the same roads. We’d go out dancing and it was the same music my brother was listening to back home. The shock part came in as I slowly realized that Germans people think differently than I do. Before this I had no idea what this “Culture” thing even was! It was in every way an eye opener.
During this time I also read “Thy Neighbor’s Wife” by Gay Talese. It’s about a commune back in the sixties where there was no ownership, not even sexually. The idea of exclusivity, possession was thrown out the window like dishwater. I would call it a classic.
Well, all this forced me to ponder my own culture. Why do we do the things we do? Why do we do things the way we do? Why do we feel jealousy, possessiveness? Naturally, the questioning, the “soul searching” included religion. I examined religious rituals. What does that even mean? Why do we do that? The deeper I dug, the fewer answers were unearthed. I finally decided “there is no there there” and threw out the dishwater.
I’m not a scientist in any way, but my current interest are philosophy of science, philosophy of mind(thank you Dan Dennett!), logical fallacies, evolution, evolutionary psychology, and thanks to PZ I’m hooked on cephalopods. I’m firmly convinced that cuttlefish are from an alternate universe, it’s in their eyes.
In summary, I think I became an atheist through the three e’s: Education, exploration and exposure. Exposure to new ideas, new cultures, new ways of thinking. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.