I would suggest not telling too many people of your Atheism just yet. Try to stay away from your churches influence for a while. Give yourself time to get used to not seeing the world through the eyes of a “god-fearing” believer. Soon enough you will start to notice things not so obvious before and say to yourself “that is how I used to understand it”. Like the way you noticed what was wrong with Wendy Wright’s arguments.
Critical thinking is about not accepting what you have always been told or accepted on faith. It is about studying the available information and thinking freely about it to reach your own conclusions.
Baby steps, George, baby steps - you didn't learn to walk overnight, and you won't learn to think analytically overnight either.
"But what about Bob?" - sorry, old movie reference - from back when Bill Murray had hair.
@George - I think you already are. Thinking critically is all about asking questions.
Various not-all-that-connected thoughts I had while reading this thread:
Deism doesn't seem to be very common these days. It used to be a lot harder to be an atheist, and I don't mean in the sense of having to live with intolerance, etc., but rather the fact that there simply wasn't a good naturalistic explanation for a lot of what we saw around us until Charles Darwin explained the diversity of life (and even he had no idea how it actually started, something the theory of evolution does not address, contrary to many people's belief), and modern cosmologists worked out the details of the "big bang" and the history of the universe. In point of fact the concept of a "naturalistic explanation" for something probably didn't really exist until Newton so it was much more difficult before him.
In fact we still don't really know how life began. I think there's a decent chance we'll have a specific and plausible theory before I kick the bucket but then again... We may never be sure. (There are reasons to think that whatever it was, it was a ridiculously unlikely event, which will make it harder to figure out.) But we have a philosophical confidence now that the answer won't be "goddidit"
I wouldn't sweat labels for now until your views stabilize; you have crossed from one mental realm into a much larger world and you are still exploring it to see what suits you best. (I am by no means one of those who professes that he "doesn't like labels" [that tends to come from politicians who don't like they fact that they have been accurately labeled as something not very popular right now] but they should be accurate and sometimes the correct label doesn't exist. Maybe you are a "georgist" at present. Also be careful not to reduce someone to his label, it's by definition a simplification or mental shorthand.)
Theories on what really happened in the first century in an obscure region of the eastern mediterranean are probably as numerous as the secular scholars who have studied the matter, if not more numerous. My personal leaning is that there was some individual, religious fanatic, apocalyptic preacher out of the Galilee area (and almost certainly not born in Bethlehem--that is a later invention!) who attracted a small group of followers; after he got executed, the tall tales began to proliferate. You can see this process if you read the gospels in the order they were written, Mark, Matthew, Luke and then John. Taller and taller tales are told in these gospels in turn and only John really makes claims of Jesus' divinity and co-divinity with Yahweh. Mark barely claims he's the messiah, and portrays Jesus as being coy about it. ("Son of god" which I believe is used as early Mark, is ambiguous, as the Hebrews used this to mean all sorts of figurative things; the entire nation of Israel and Moses got that appellation--but to Greeks hearing the phrase it meant someone like Hercules, literally the son of a god... so I think Jesus being thought the literal son of god is the result of a cross cultural misunderstanding!)
Hmm, I've about run out of steam here.
RE: "a cross cultural misunderstanding!)" - was that a pun?
I went through the Army as a Deist, because I knew if I said I was an atheist, I'd have even more fighting to do, and I knew that the idiots I was in with, had no clue as to what a Deist was. Actually, it was a conversation-starter - I'll always wonder if I converted anyone to Deism. Hey, it's a start!
RE: "Mark barely claims he's the messiah, and portrays Jesus as being coy about it." - actually, I see potentially two other mechanisms at work here, rather than coyness: 1) blasphemy was a death-penalty crime among the Jews (what wasn't?), and in fact, though the Jews had had their power to execute removed by the conquering Romans, that's the actual reason Yesua (if he ever existed) was executed, though to get the Romans to do their dirty work for them, the charge had to be up-graded to a Roman crime, sedition, claiming to be a ruler, comparing himself with Caesar.
2) It was pretend coyness, very cleverly using reverse psychology - in each of his alleged miracle-healings (presumably using Peter Popov's Miracle Tap Spring Water), he would tell his patient, "Go, and tell no one," knowing full well that that was the simplest way in the world to spread the word while preserving the appearance of humility.