I have noticed that Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris both cite 9/11 as the fuel to the fire of their current passion for atheism. I also often cite this as one of the biggest seeds of my frustrations with religion.
I wondered if anyone else had a big turning point that either largely help you realize that there is not a god or gods, or made you more "militant".
Yeah I have to credit logic and philosophy. I was raised non-denominational christian, baptized and all that shit, even though I didn't really have a freaking clue what any of it meant, just that there was this threat of burning in hell for eternity if I didn't do it etc..But it never really meant that much to me, except for the fear part, I even remember not being able to sleep sometimes because I was imaging demons swarming all over the house in the night.
But then I read Descartes and that was the beginning of the end. The whole "radically doubting" everything, and really thinking about the question of epistemology: How do you know that you know what you know? Followed that path to logic, reason, empiricism and Science.
Finally though, it was really thinking about the model of reality from quantum to universe, and finally getting a clear grasp on the mechanics of Evolution, that led me to just full out realize that I was, in fact, an atheist.
For me it was growing up with a bit of a personal attachment to the atrocities in the nineties in the Former Yugoslavia. Former neighbors killing each other over their different gods, not even showing each other the civility of the Geneva convention in the process.
Also, some of the worst people I have ever stumbled across have been religious. It seems to be harmful to character and honesty.
I was born into a mormon family and I seriously thought we were "playing" god. You know, like jumping on the furniture because the floor is hot lava.
When one of my sunday school teachers told us that when we die we wait in line for endless hours to hear all of the sins we've ever committed, I thought, "ok I've got better things to do today" and that was it for me. I think I was 11 years old. I've honestly been to too busy and satisfied with my life to ever ponder my decision or regret it.
When I was 2, my dad die in a car accident. Everyone told me that he was "in heaven". I was very happy for him, but everyone else was very sad. I can't say that this was my moment, but I will say that I could not understand their reactions to such a great thing.
I know that they would all say (and have) that they were sad for themselves, not for him. Maybe, my love for him was more selfless then their's, but to this day there is a part of me that thinks they didn't believe what they were saying. I still think that, if I believed with all my heart in god, I would be happy for my loved ones that went to heaven. I like when good things happen to the ones I care about!
I guess I could have come to the conclusion that they thought he didn't deserve heaven, and were lying to me. I didn't think of that until just now.
I can't say that I am "militant", but I will say I have been questioning for a long time (I am now 40). I call myself Agnostic. I know only two things about the "afterlife".
1. I don't know.
2. No one else does either.
"evil flourishes when good people do nothing"
Well, I was pretty well indoctrinated, although I always struggled with authority and several other parts of xtianity, so it took a while. There were a few sparks, all happening within the same general timeframe (a few months) that had fairly equal influences and really forced me to look hard at what I believed: 1) Watching Cosmos. We didn't "do" science... it was dangerous, you know. So I'd never seen Carl Sagan or read any of his stuff (except seeing Contact). 2) Penn & Teller's Bullshit. 3) A very simple list of "characters" in myths (including Jesus) who shared the same history (immaculate conception, birth celebrated on Dec. 25, execution, resurrection, etc.). In short, realizing that much of what I'd been taught had been borrowed from other religions.
I'm not sure if I could be classified as militant about my atheism. I am pretty angry still, though and don't tolerate a lot. Being an atheist coupled with my already less typical political views puts me in an even smaller minority. I do get bent out of shape when people try to sneak religious stuff into everyday life or insist that this is a "Xtian country" etc.