I was raised in a Catholic home by a conservative father, who made me suffer through mass every weekend. I would often fall asleep during it. I never learned most of the hymns that were sung every week, nor when to sing them, stand up, sit down, or kneel. All I learned was that communion meant it was almost time to leave church. Some nights I would fall asleep deep within my bedroom closet, burying myself within my piles of clothes, hoping my parents would go to church without me the next morning, having given up finding me.
In high school I had a moment of feeling liberated, when I decided the devil was a fairy tale, and there was no reason to fear it. Without that fear, the foundation of my faith in God collapsed, and I began arguing with the Christian kids at school about how illogical and idiotic their beliefs were. There were plenty of them, as I live in Oklahoma: the reddest state in the Bible belt. And argued how it makes no sense to base your understanding of reality on the fear that changing your understanding will cause reality to retaliate against you. I explained how if the fantastic stories in the old book, the bible were true, then such things would still be happening today, and that the miraculous events surrounding the gospel prophets were no more likely to be true then the tall tales of Paul Bunyan, Pacos Bill, Merlin the Wizard, and Hercules.
I took my debate online, unsatisfied with the idiotic non-arguments at my school, I wanted to argue with adults. I found many of those adults using the same juvenile arguments my classmates had been using. From time to time, they would get more sophistocated, like with their self-assempling clock analogy, but nothing that couldn't be delt with.
At a certain point I began to wonder how religion remains so widespread. What supports it? I always assumed it was fear or neediness that made people cling to it. But I had trouble believing that I myself was that much more intelligent than so many people. These people were rational. They were seeing things in the same world I live in which continued to reinforce their beliefs, and I wanted to know what that was.
I began trying to justify the continuous existence and popularity of the major religions the same way I was justifying the continued existence of individual species: natural selection. Those religions were some how stronger than the others. They out-competed the others in the ecosystem of philosophy. I began to wonder if it was all because they were forceful and imperialistic, and that's why they continued to dominate, and I began finding that that was not the case. Some of them were strong because the adherents bred a lot.
I then began to find that the major religions seemed to have very conservative family-organizing principals. Marriage was sacred, and respect for parents and ancestors was important.
The realization that natural selection was engineering religious principals and traditions just as much as it was engineering life, led me to a new revelation: I was giving natural selection the same qualities that the religions had assigned to their gods.
I began wondering how I could tell the difference between a system which possesses intelligence, and one which does not, and I decided to use the human brain as a basis. What I eventually decided was that the brain works on two simple principals: 1. It's an open system which reorganizes itself in reaction to outside stimuli, and 2. the apparent reaction of an intelligent system becomes increasingly predictable every time it is exposed to the same stimuli. Those simple principals, as far as I could tell was what made the brain able to remember events, recognize patterns, and adopt habits, and appear creative.
I then decided that if there was indeed an all-encompassing intelligence, then it should be recognizable by whether or not it exhibits these qualities. I found them in every single solitary system I looked at.
No matter how I took a large system, and divided it up into smaller open systems, every single one of them seemed to operate under the same principals which seemed to make the human brain capable of intelligence.
It wasn't an aha moment, but I began to then compare the religious model with the atheist model. The Atheist model seems to treat intelligence as though it only exists within a brain. As though there are only small, localized systems which some how generate intelligence and consciousness as rare and quirky effects of the sort of perfect storm of circumstances. The spiritualist model simply says that consciousness and intelligence are just a couple of operating principal that are intricately woven into every part of existence. In other words, intelligence and consciousness are preexisting resources the brain uses, rather than effects the brain generates.
To me the spiritualist model began to make more sense. I accept that intelligence and consciousness exist between the ears of at least some human beings. It seems much more logical to me to think that these phenomena are universal, rather than localized.
I started noticing that most of the arguments between Atheists and Theists were over semantics, or specific religions, or specific models for god, but really Atheists were not arguing against Theism. They were arguing against Bible Theism, or Muslim Theism, or take your pick. But the question over whether or not there actually is some form of an all-encompassing intelligence constantly engineering the universe, intelligently and consciously... Atheists have no argument against that... the most they ever say is that they personally disagree, albeit using much more words to make it seem as though they have reason to believe that.
I used to say absence of evidence is evidence for absence, but that's only true if the amount of evidence is known, and the fact is not all evidence is scientific, and therefore not all evidence is knowable.
Further research led me to the realization that there are innumerable examples of evidence of an afterlife, ghosts, angels, reincarnation, an all-loving creator, near death experiences, and so on and so on... it's just not scientific. It's testimonial. The parts of the brain associated with them are just as likely to block our every day awareness of them as they are to cause them. It's all up to interpretation, really.
I do not believe the biblical account. My philosophy has become more Taoist and hermetic than Christian. I say that not because I read the Tao Te Ching or the Hermetica, and these texts convinced me they must be true. I say that because I came to my own conclusions, watching the world around me, and found that whoever arranged those philosophies seemed to have made the same observations that I have. This time my spiritual and theistic philosophy is not founded in fear. It's founded in reason, observation, introspection, and simple trust that people I know who have themselves had paranormal experiences believe those stories, and the fact that the experiences they describe are just as valid as the observations of any trained scientist, and that while their interpretation may be slightly off, they are not idiots... there are simply no other ways they can find to explain what happened to them that cover all of the facts.
That's my story so far.