PZ Myers has put out a call for short essays on why you are an atheist. I have just submitted mine and I thought I would also post it here.
I am an atheist because I read.
I was raised in Rome Italy by a vaguely Catholic mother in a pretty Catholic country. However, since I was not forced to go to church outside of Christmas and Easter, I didn't take my first communion until I was 11 (and even then I studied my catechism with an extremely liberal nun) and my upbringing was never based on the rules and guilt-trips that are typical of the Catholic faith I did not immediately question the existence of God or the church itself. I just was not exposed to anything that was so explicitly divorced from reality from the perspective of a child. The first thing that I realized was that prayer was just not working out for me. This lead me to thinking, am I doing it right? What does being a Catholic even mean? What am I attesting to when I label myself at one? At the age of 12 I picked up the Bible and actually started to read it.
I am an atheist because I've experimented.
By age 13 I was studying ancient Roman history as is to be expected given the city in which I grew up. It struck me that the content of the Bible was no less fantastical than the wonderful stories I was learning about the gods that the Romans believed in. I came to the conclusion that all religions must be equally true. As my upbringing very much encouraged the belief in the superstitious and magic, as my mother is still a strong believer in everything from faith healings to fairies, I had now become a polytheist, I laid flower offerings at Minerva's temple in the Roman forum, I practiced Wicca and dabbled in pretty much any forgotten religion I could get my hands on.
I am an atheist because I reasoned.
Although I remained a pagan until the age of 17 when I first went to college, it had become more of a ritual than a true belief. I enjoyed keeping holidays like All Hallow's Eve, I used my prayers as a source of comfort being in a strange new country where I had to adjust. I didn't submit my faith to the sort of scrutiny I eventually knew it deserved. It was simply something to fall back on, something to keep me company, but never something I openly shared or overly contemplated. I began to transition out of feelings of faith as I made new friends, as I realized that if I was ashamed to share with others my beliefs, it must mean that they are completely ridiculous. I had now become an agnostic.
I am an atheist because I was honest with myself.
I did not identify myself as an atheist until I was 20. By then I was in my third year in college and had fully understood the scientific method. I had shied away from the term "atheist" because I was under the misguided notion that being an atheist meant being absolutely certain that there was no God. To me, this seemed as obtuse and arrogant as being absolutely 100% certain that there is a God. However once I began to fully appreciate the scientific method I realized that this was not the case. There is nothing in this life that we can really be absolutely 100% certain about, but I began to see my lack of belief like a null hypothesis.
I am an atheist because there has been no reason for me to believe in any God. I have not been presented with nor come across a single miraculous or inexplicable event that contradicts my assumption that no God exists. However, this does not mean that such an event could never happen. The day I experience something that would give credence to a God I am perfectly happy to refute my null hypothesis, but until that day comes, it holds strong.
Please share your thoughts