I'm in my 60s, I live in Los Alamos NM. I worked on the Dept of Energy Nuclear Weapons Project for 22 years doing engineering and math stuff. These days I'm a software developer.
At about 18 I found myself in Jerusalem and got deeply involved in orthodox Judaism. I spent 10 years studying Talmud in a Yeshiva ( a theological seminary ). I got married there and had three kids. Near the end of this period I was reluctantly ordained to the rabbinate but by this time I knew it wasn't working for me. I needed the qualification to get a job. We moved to the US, I taught in a private Hebrew Day School for a couple of years, hating it all the time. I wanted out. I find it hard to convey how restricted and isolated that life was. In retrospect, this chapter of my life seems like a psychotic episode. Finally I got myself into a master's engineering program, got a degree and found a real job and moved to Los Alamos.
It was the usual story, as soon as I showed my cards, I lost all my friends and community.
The transition from fundamentalist or religious fanatic was a slow process taking about 15 years to move across the spectrum and end up as an atheist.
I had all the usual dissatisfactions, people didn't abide by the principles they espoused, the rules seemed very elastic and could be bent to any purpose. I felt very limited, shut out from things that I wanted to do, go to college, talk to all sorts of people , smoke weed .... but the primary issue for me was that I never formed an emotional connection with God. It never worked for me, though God knows I tried
. Someone else in this section has expressed a very similar experience. Without that to to sustain me, I had no motive to ignore all the other problems. I think that , with variations, mine is a common story.
College was a life changing experience, not only did it give me the means to slip my leash but I met all sorts of intelligent good people, people that I really liked and admired who were not jewish or even religious in any sense. This really cracked open my shell and I began to look around. More importantly, I started to ask questions that I previously had not allowed myself to even consider.
I got another major smack upside the head when I encountered the Skeptical Inquirer. Reading the Inquirer, I learned how to think lucidly about ideas like the supernatural and most importantly, how to think skepticaly. I suddenly saw clearly how much bullshit I had taken on board with out the slightest scrutiny or question. Phrases like "Of course", "Makes sense", "Obviously" became red flags in my mind.
I am a big believer in taking human beings as they are and working with that rather than trying to impose some kind of idealized image on humanity. We are just animals with an inflated sense of self importance. We should accept our nature in its entirety. It is neither good nor bad, it was forged in the harsh fire of evolution and it cannot be fundamentally reshaped.
I used to be an implacable enemy of religion blaming it for much of the worlds ills, but now I think, we would do those things anyway and invent some kind of unfounded dogma to justify our actions. It's not in our nature to be objective, skeptical, rational. These things take hard work and the best of us do it poorly. Hoping for a day time when humanity wakes up and decides to think lucidly is almost as unrealistic as expecting the Second Coming. It's hard enough to persuade people just to get out and do a bit of regular exercise. Social constructs work best when they rely on those things we do naturally, things we want to do rather than things we feel we ought to do, like capitalism which is motivated by greed.
I do however accuse religion, primarily Chrisitanity, Judaism and Islam, for distorting and perverting our ideas of who we are and saddling us with standards we can never meet and goals we can never reach, for teaching us that we are born deformed, unfinished, sent before our time into this breathing world scarce half made up... that the ideal man is some kind of emasculated creature without anger, lust, greed or aggression, an anatomically correct Ken or Barbie doll .
"Zvuv" is Hebrew for "fly". "Baalzvuv" is "Lord of the Flies" - Baalzebub