For years subconsciously I blatantly understood the logical (and other) falicies that christianity presented, but i could never grip the concept that there was no afterlife. I was so afraid of death that I needed to believe that I would 'live forever through god", which is why I used my intelectual force to repeatedly justify my religion. It was all in all for the selfish reason of wanting myself to live beyond my earthly shackles.
I had the prayer realization as you did as well. I realized how unfair the christian system was because there were so much blanks, so much what ifs, so much unknowns inserted into the system that it became possible to defend anything. A prayer is ALWAYS answered, or else it simply "wasn't God's will". Of course I realized that "God's will" was unpatternistic and seemingly random. Why would God save certain people, answer certain prayers? Was God choosing favorites? Well, of course not, because when people die, as I mentioned earlier - it's "God's will". Of course, God's will didn't really apply to the abhorrent evils commited by people that society seemed to think evil.
Of course, you and i both know that Christians like to keep things really ambiguous as to not let you in the big secret or something. Like you said, Jesus is coming 'soon'. Christianity kept me at the edge of my seat constantly. When you up the mysteriousness, it ups the suspense, the staying power. The only way to understand or eventually learn or even partake of the ambiguousness is to stay a strong Christian. Becaus of course, when the timer goes off and jesus is here, only those who are strong Christians will go to heaven.
Of course, as a tool to keep you really Christian you are taunted with hell. And of course hell is, as Dante has influenced us and we have socially built up - Hell is just as ambiguous as anything else in the system. It's the evil of evils. The worst place you could ever want to go. Of course, we all have our own image of it, and that's the goal. You will have eternal life with Christianity, however the problem is black and white - Your eternal life will either manifest itself in the best of bests or the worst of worsts. Of course as I became more intelectual I started believing in a middle grounds, pergatory. but pergatory was believed in my head because it was closer to the atheist mindset that everyone is equal in death.
Eventually, and I admitted this alot in highschool, I really stopped caring about religion. In my journal from highschool going to college I talk about really wanting to meet a girl who didn;t really care about religion. By this time the only thing I could justify the church with anymore was Jesus. There was historical evidence (you can see i was getting farhter from the 'faith' system and more into what we know, or what we thought we know happened.) that jesus existed, died, and rose from the grave. Surely acts of crazy magic and coincedence like this couldn't possibly happen, unless this person were endowed with magical powers. Now, I don't fucking believe in magical powers, and since i never would want to believe the story false (because the ultimate evil of evils - hell is where I would go), I just figured these powers were granted to him by God.
I realized that Christianity was two parts, traditional and social. Of course traditionally, they kept the same believes in the basic things such as commandments, however the social was very different. In social christianity, I saw christianity adapting itself to social laws and customs. So much so in fact, that the God Christians worship now clearly was not the God they worshiped in the 1920s. I saw that God was more like a model for society. His oppinions leaned and swayed as long as it was alright with everybody. God has been for and against all types of drug use, homosexuality, saying bad words. As it became more crucial for society to produce all days of the week, God's opinion of working on the sabbath slipped out of modern day Christianity. I saw who was REALLY in control of beliefs and thought. And it wasn't this deity.
Another social situation i saw as a big problem, and confusing issue was groups of Christianity. There are hundreds of different kinds of Christians around. but which ones are correct? All of them claim that God chose them above others, and all of them influence there congregation to carry this mindset as well. Even if a sect of Christianity was completely based off of another one, the second one's self image superceded the first one. Why would God let us get confused like this? I wish "God" would've granted me the inteligence to thoroughly understand which branch of Christianity would promise me my gateway to heaven. As it's not as easy as the bible says I guess. But because of 'faith', every member of every sect of Christianity has been granted the inteligence of what sect will bring them closer to God. And oddly enough, it's always conveniently the one they are in at that moment in time.
When I finally hit atheism. It wasnt a change in my mind set. As i learned more about the world I picked apart the system in my head long before that. It was a comfortability. I let my thoughts I had repressed for years come full circle, and i was comofrtable with them. I was comofrtable that i was finally placing my hopes and dreams and emotions into something plausible, real, and meaningful to me instead of ideas that were ambiguous and not clearly, nor consistently described by anyone.