Question 2: (Note that the list had this question listed first, but I thought the post I typed yesterday had a better lead off question)
At what point did you know you were an atheist? Why did you become one, what were the factors leading up to the decision if you weren't always one?
Hmmm, there's a lot there. It was a gradual process, but it started when I was a teenager, and going through the confirmation process of the Catholic church. As part of the preparation for confirmation, I was required to go on a weekend retreat held at a small house on the church grounds. There were about 8 boys and 8 girls total, and we spent Friday evening, all day Saturday, and Sunday morning engaged in instruction, prayer, and ritual. At night, the boys were locked in one room and the girls another, with the hallway patrolled by nuns so there would be no hanky-panky.
As part of the instruction, one of the nuns told us a story about how the Russians launched all their nuclear missiles at the US in the 1950's, but thanks to a group of nuns known as "The Blue Army" who prayed really hard, God made all the missiles blow up and crash in the ocean. Nope, not making it up, that's what she told us. That's when I thought to myself, "I know that didn't happen, what else are they lying about? And why is this person in a position of authority lying to me? Isn't lying supposed to be a sin?"
From that point on there was a gradual falling away. I stopped going to church except for weddings and funerals. "Nominal Catholic" is the term I believe. I still followed the rituals on the one or two times a year I might be in a house of worship, but I was just going through the motions, muscle memory, if you will.
I continued to read a great deal, and came to the conclusion through my reading that recent religions like Mormonism and Scientology were made up religions, one by a guy who wanted to boink multiple wives, and the other by a guy who wanted to make money off the gullible. From there, it isn't a far stretch to come to the conclusion that its ALL made up make believe. I don't want to come across like I'm picking on Mormons, because just about every Mormon I've ever met has been a delightful person. The less I type about Scientologists though, the better.
With all that, it wasn't until I was in my late 30's that I felt comfortable saying that I see no evidence for the existence of supernatural beings, and no need for such beings to exist.