For anyone who may be interested for some reason... Firs of all, to answer a question asked by another thread here, no it was not a "handed down" thing. My parents weren't terribly observant religious practitioners but they believe in God, or at least they did last I checked. The bottom line is I'm an atheist because I've never been given any reason to be anything else. Growing up I bought into the usual pleasant fictions we sell young children. Tooth fairy... Easter bunny... Santa Clause. They were happy things to believe existed. Made the world a more magical place you know? But, as you grow older and start to develop slightly more refined critical thinking skills the puzzle pieces start assembling themselves and those beliefs go away. It's just silly to think some magic fairy is sneaking into your room at night to pay you for old teeth. And the bearded guy with the flying reindeer needs to be breaking the light speed barrier to get all those deliveries done in one night, not to mention the payload his sleigh needs to carry. And come to think of it that time you thought you saw him he looked an awful lot like dad with lots of facial hair... and you know about fake beards now. So, even though it's nice to think these things exist, you leave them behind and face reality. Or at least, that's what I thought the idea was supposed to be. Now like I said... my parents weren't terribly religiously observant. The concept of god played very little actual role in my life so I never gave it much thought until I was older. I mean, I was aware of the concept but it was always something going on on the periphery. But, once I got to around 12 or 13 I think I started taking more notice of it and it sunk in that people were actually serious about this. Not just kids... adults. And lots of them. And frankly the only reaction I had to that was that people were trying to tell me there was this magical being who could supposedly see me when I'm sleeping, knows when I'm awake, knows if I've been bad or good so I should be good for goodness sake... and I'd already ridden that ride thank you very much. And while it was a fun ride, well, fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice... (Spare me the exclamations that I was giving it insufficiently rigorous theological analysis. 12 or 13 remember?) Anyway, basically I wasn't indoctrinated with this belief when I was very young. No regular visits to church, no Sunday school bible study, etc... so I didn't currently possess it. Which means in order to adopt it I was going to have to be given a reason to believe it. And it was going to have to be a lot better than "just believe it, god totally exists". That one had already been proven to me to be less than reliable. And people kept coming up really, really short on the "reasons to believe it" front. Early attempts to get me to accept this idea, once people around me started realizing I didn't already, tended to center around three central themes. 1. But you'll go to hell!!!! 2. Where do you THINK all this stuff came from??? 3. EVERYONE believes in God! You think you know better than EVERYONE? All three of which I found, to be blunt, pure idiocy. People telling you their magical superbeing is going to condemn you to a nasty fate if you don't believe in it lacks intimidation power considering you... you know... don't believe in it. I was about as worried by pronouncements I would end up in hell as I would have been by ominous warnings that the troll under the bridge was going to leap out and eat me on my way to school if I didn't walk across really quietly so it didn't hear me. As for the "where did this stuff come from then" crowd... they weren't presenting me with any actual answers to their question. "We don't know, therefore it was obviously magic... duh" lacks any explanatory power whatsoever. And I was considerably more interested in finding real answers to those questions than just pretending I knew the answer because I'd slapped a name on some totally inexplicable supposed "cause" that didn't explain a single thing. It's all well and good to say "God did it" but what the hell does that mean? HOW did he do it? WHY did he do it? What processes were utilized? What does this tell us about future behaviors of the system? Blank stares were generally the only responses to any of these questions. I quickly realized that most religious people I was conversing with didn't think anything beyond the three words "God did it" were actually required to understand how the entire universe took on its present form even if those three words gave them exactly zero knowledge of anything involved. They had slapped a name on a state of total ignorance, decided that naming it and explaining it were the same thing therefore mystery solved, and were content. And as for the "Everyone belives it" folks. They did make me think twice for a while. A short while. After all, if everyone beliveved it there must be SOME reason I was missing? Except I quickly realized everyone most certainly didn't believe "in God". They believed in a thousand different sometimes totally mutually exclusive concepts that they all just slapped the same label on. One minute they might be telling me "everyone" believes god exists but 5 minutes later the same person is arguing that most of the planet doesn't know what they're talking about because they obviously believe in the wrong damn version. So everyone CAN be wrong as long as it's the "everyone" that disagrees with them. In fact, considering the different competing claims on the subject not only could the vast majority of the world be wrong, it almost had to be. They sure as heck couldn't all be right. In short, religious people around me were not exactly covering themselves in glory when these discussions occured. That state of affairs continued until I was about 20, ran across some online discussion forums, and discovered that the internet was more than just an e-mail and porn delivery system. While online discussions of religious matters still tended to be dominated by, to put it bluntly, the same idiots I had already been dealing with before... I began encountering people who believed in God and actually appeared to have given the matter a respectable amount of thought. Which in turn kicked my brain into higher gear on the subject (It's difficult to take a subject too seriously when the people arguing in favor of it are of the caliber previously described). One of the people who rose above that crowd was an evolutionary biologist I encountered who spent a lot of his time laying the smackdown on creationists. Had no patience for these people, considered them reality denying morons, but was a conscientous practicing Catholic and believed god certainly existed. That intrigued me. So I started trying to figure out why. And eventually, a few things became clear. The man had a firm grasp of scientific principles. Completely understood the importance of objective investigation and observation to reach conclusions. Knew that unfalsifiable appeals to supernatural mechanisms to explain something just because you don't undertand how it happened was a bogus approach. And deliberately elected not to apply those rules when it came to god existing. Knew he did it too. Simply declared that god's existence was a "special case", the same rules didn't apply, and that was that. He chose to live his life believing god existed because he wanted to and if everything he knew about legitimate ways to evaluate knowledge of the world around him didn't match up with that belief then he was just going to ignore them because hanging on to that belief was more important to him personally. I could understand it. I was sypmathetic to it. I was also incredibly dissapointed. He had made a decision to live in a state of total cognitive dissonance and abject hypocrisy because it made him feel better to hold onto this belief. In the meantime I was also interacting with other more intellectually engaged theists of various stripes, and I was beginning to pick up on a pattern. There were in depth arguments about first causes and discussions of the proper manner in which to interpret the philosophical teachings of the bible and al manner of other attempts to rationalize belief but if you talked to them long enough it would always come around to one thing eventually. They were all afraid of living in a world where god didn't exist. It scared them. Thinking about lost loved ones never ever being seen again saddened them. Thinking there was no ultimate benevolent guiding purpose to the universe upset them. And mostly, they were afraid of dying and not having anything on the far side but oblivion. Just being... gone. Over. No more you. Terrifying. And god is presented like the world's biggest life preserver that can rescue you from that fate. And this pattern held with the people whose opinions on the matter of god's existence I held worthy of considerably less respect when I went back and looked at their patterns of arguments. And over the years I've seen that pattern hold up as I watch these discussions play out. Ultimately, it's been my perception that people don't believe in god because they have a good reason to think he DOES exist. I have yet to encounter anyone who could provide me with one of those I found even marginally convincing, although they insist THEY find them convincing. They believe in god because they have good reasons to WANT god to exist. And that doesn't cut it with me. Wanting doesn't make it real. So, an atheist I remain.