Hello, I'm xyzzy but you can call me whatever you were going to call me anyway.
I've been here a while and, somehow, never got around to making this introduction; I'm trying to make up for that now. For those that don't get the cryptic moniker - admin who kept not approving me because he thought I was a bot, I'm looking at you right now - I'll include an explanation to that too.
According to theology, this god thing created everything. Only he managed to do it in such a way as to appear as if he never existed, and his universe runs exactly as if it would do without a god. That's puzzled me for a long time, so here's a potted version of how I got to that position from a starting position of "god exists, because we say he does".
I will also say that if blunt and direct criticism of religion offends you, then you might either want to look away or understand that my offense is directed at religions and not necessarily the people. Willfully ignorant people, feel free to stay though as many of you appear to have a persecution complex and might enjoy a free meal.
The first thing is that I was brought up in an orthodox Jewish family complete with fascinating gender roles and much denying of reality. Sorry, Christians, you are not the only ones who get to make shit up. Don't forget, some of your made-up shit has a genesis elsewhere. So my mother fretted around the house keeping kosher, my father seemed to forever be blessing something, and both encouraged me to "find a nice Jewish girl". As an aside, telling my parents that I was gay (not even close) gave them a perspective of how "bad" things could be and, in my case, made then back off. It also gave me a perspective of how utterly ridiculous some people's prejudices actually were. But, I digress, and that's even without a certain troll's red herrings to derail the conversation.
I don't recall ever taking religion any more seriously than any other children's story. I'd been told that the stork brought babies, the Tooth Fairy did the money-under-the-pillow thing and, somehow, even Father Christmas made an appearance - but that was later on, I'm pretty sure he only appeared as a result of pressure from a sibling, though. So, god was never more real than any of the above.
Growing up this god chap was everywhere. Well, that's what I was told but I soon noticed he needed a ridiculous amount of help. I was told that I had to eat up my veggies because there were children starving in Africa but no one could sensibly explain to me why god didn't just send them manna from heaven, just like in the old days; I also wasn't told how eating my veggies helped those kids either, but I learned that sending money did. Unfortunately, that just brought the question of why god just didn't send them wads of cash. Excuses breed excuses; don't people get that?
We were somewhat on the poor side, there were a hundred and fifty of us living in t' shoebox in t' middle o' road, so much was made of how those starving kids in Africa would love whatever-it-was that my mother was trying to guilt me about. But, as above, I couldn't get my head around the inactivity of the all-powerful god thing that my parents kept telling me was important. Like, really important. So really important that we must pray to him so that he will fix all the things that seemed to have happened because he wasn't doing all the things that he was supposed to have been doing anyway. But he would do if we prayed to him, which we were, but he seemed to be ignoring us, but wasn't, and so on,
Still, probably the biggest mistake my parents made - and it was a huge mistake - was that they taught me to read and I loved it. Somehow I got into adventure books particularly stories about the Vikings and the like. From there my habit progressed until I was hooked on the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. I noticed similarities and I was particularly confused as to how those gods, who seemed much more interesting than "ours", were fictional but "ours" wasn't. As far as I was concerned, none seemed any more real than any others. In fact, I don't think I actually ever understood that people really believed that stuff in the way that I later learned that they did. Honestly, I just thought they were transparent devices to make children behave, based on stories from a time now passed. I simply didn't take them seriously.
As I got older (7 ish?) things got much worse. I would ask if the earth was six thousand years old or millions of years old and so on (I was a kid, I just knew it was a large number) and was told that "it's both". Even as a child with an active imagination this made no sense. Noah's Ark was also a vessel for argumentation. F'ing Kangaroos, how do they work? Dinosaurs? Well, they were both millions and only thousands of years old at the same time too. Did god have a Tardis? Heated discussions ensued with my parents going nuclear with the "it's true because we/bible say it is" option followed by "it's our house, our rules" which I understood but did nothing other than set belief as a forced issue. Hearing that god could do anything just made things worse because, then, he didn't need our help yet he did. Did not compute, and on a massive scale.
My parents only wanted me to associate with Jewish kids but they wouldn't tell me what was wrong with those goys - only that they didn't believe in god. However, when it suited them, they told me that everyone believed in god, and so should I. Telling me I should believe in something that, apparently did all sorts of stuff in the past, but needed my help today to raise money to feed starving children, just reinforced the notion that "god" was fictional and they hadn't realised that I no longer believed in fairy tales. Somehow I still hadn't twigged that adults believed that shit as much as they did. Maybe my cognitive dissonance receptors were poorly calibrated. Who knows? Apart from this god thing, of course.
Rinse and repeat and the arguments got more heated and the excuses less convincing. On one occasion I had a project from the after-school religious education classes, where I was supposed to write an essay about creation. So, I did what any to-be-geek would do - I consulted the family encyclopedia. That was another life-changing event.
Nowhere could I find the order of creation (what happened on what day) but my parents helpfully redirected me to the bible. However, I made a mistake and started from Genesis chapter 2. Hence I was puzzled why the order STILL didn't agree with what I thought I'd been told. It was then that I realised that we had three accounts (two in the bible, one in the encyclopedia) plus all those "made-up" stories from other religions. I expressed the kids equivalent of WTF and got told that the two bible versions were both true, the one in the encyclopedia was also "true but in a different way", and the ones from other religions were just their myths. More cognitive dissonance ensued but was resolved by throwing away the obvious biblical fables. Sorry, bible-thumpers but "let there be light" from some geezer who now can't be half-arsed enough to help those starving children in Africa. Really? Seriously? Are you off your f'ing meds?
There was a time when I tested prayer. I'd puzzled about how we were supposed to pray to end wars and famine but nothing happened. So I kept a diary of what I prayed for along with the results. I prayed for all kinds of big things as well as stupid stuff and, one day, it happened. My prayers were answered and I got what I prayed for. I was stunned, really stunned. Was god real after all? Then I realised what thousands of believers seem to miss. Yes, I got what I asked for, but it was - and say it with me children - a coincidence as most of the time things seemed to happen exactly as they always did and mostly nothing happened.
Life carried on this way. I didn't understand that I'd stumbled across fallacies as such but "science can't explain x, therefore god did it" was clearly a load of bollocks. "Everyone else believes" was nonsense and, anyway, I saw absolutely no difference in the life of believers vs non-believers. "They believe in a false god, but ours is real" - well, that was just insane.
Somehow I was supposed to accept that there had been dozens of false religions in the past, several false religions existed in the present, that everyone who wasn't Jewish was wrong, we were right and our god really did perform miracles such as parting the Red Sea in the past and today he [blank] and [double blank], well, he just did even if my parents memory did go blank at the time.
My parents tried escalating the appeals to authority and I was told to take up my questions with the RE teachers. They handed me off to the assistant Rabbi who, when he couldn't even fob off a child, passed me on to the Rabbi. All along the way I'd get some silly non-answer, be asked "do you understand now?" to which I'd reply - "no" and up the chain I'd go. Somewhere along the way I'd hear "you'll understand this when you grow up" which I translated as "be quiet, stop asking questions, and eat your veggies. Don't you know there are starving children in Africa?".
In hindsight. God went first, Santa second (that Santa could get down a bricked-up chimney did him in) but the tooth fairy prevailed for some time. She, after all, delivered the goods.
There's more, a lot more, but this could turn into a book. The short of it was that religion seemed a divisive concept and it even caused my parents to mistreat me because I didn't believe. However, I didn't believe because it wasn't believable, not because I was trying to be difficult. Again, that seemed counter to a just, understanding, and loving god.
By all means ask for more if you want, but remember what happened to Oliver Twist. No really, I'm just not sure that much more changes the basics of my never having taken religion seriously. There's much that happened as life progressed, but all that did was add the non-evidential nature of religion.
Before moving on, I'll just say that it was much later in life that I understood that I was an atheist. The reason is that I didn't even consider that there was such a term, nor did I give it much thought. It still seems odd to me that there even needs to be such a distinction. This may have a lot to do with why I can't grasp how it feels to actually believe in a god, particularly one such as the god of the bible.
Now for those that are still here. xyzzy: What does it mean, where does it come from, and is it contagious?
There's a link in my profile to a Wiki article but the essence is as follows. In the seminal computer game Adventure there are some magic words, plugh, and xyzzy possibly being the most well-known. These all work, or don't work, depending on where you are and there's often an element of chance. With xyzzy when it doesn't have the desired effect of transporting you from one part of the cave to the other the response is "Nothing happens". That completely sums up how I feel about prayer. Magic words that occasionally seem to work. But they only work if they were going to work anyway and most of the time nothing happens.
But, there's more!
In classic Adventure there was a maze of "twisty little passages, all alike". Different editions added to this and used subtly different descriptions "little maze of twisty passages" vs "little twisty maze of passages", for example. For me, this description epitomises religion to a T - that believers are lost in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.