My entire life I belonged to a church; even as an infant the indoctrination had begun. For the first 22 years of my life, I missed scarcely over 2 dozen church services. I attended youth functions, summer camps, and other various church activities. I grew up in a small town surrounded by family and friends who were all believers to varying degree's. In school I had heard evolution mentioned once, maybe twice and even then it was only a mention without explanation. Through the years I had a few doubts here and there, but somebody always had an "answer" to my questions, so they were quickly extinguished.
The older I got, the more radical I became. I believed in and practiced healing the sick, speaking in tongues, extreme casting e evangelizing, and even out evil spirits. By my senior year of high school I knew that I wanted to learn to work with the youth, and maybe even get a job with Focus on the Family. I went into college, and quickly became a member of an extremely active religious group on campus. I was lucky to find a free night where there wasn't anything going on to further myself in my faith and spread the word of god. We would walk around campus with religious shirts, bibles in hand, and talk to those who would listen, and give religious pamphlets to those who wouldn't. At one point we had constructed a massive wooden cross and every thursday night we would stand at the exit of the most popular campus bar and witness to those leaving after last call. (We came pretty close to getting really hurt a few times too.) I was extremely conservative, was holding on to my virginity till marriage, was going to have one life long wife with several kids, wouldn't swear, didn't use any drugs or alcohol, and avoided things that seemed "worldly". I spent my free time reading up on ways to defend my faith against the "evil" unbelievers and sadly, I must admit I even bought into some of the Kent Hovind and Ray Comfort bullshit.
I was going to be a believer for life. Nothing could kill my faith...... nothing except higher education. For the first year and a half to two years, I was becoming stronger and stronger in my faith. I had a few professors who had expressed their disbelief in religion, but then I took a basic biology course and a basic philosophy course. I had to learn about real evolution and learn about other belief systems or else fail and the things I discovered turned my faith upside down. I began to privately question all I had believed to be true my entire life. I didn't know what to do, the questions were killing me inside. I ended up becoming severely depressed over the entire ordeal because I couldn't figure out how to justify what I was learning with what I had always thought to be true. I sought the help and advice of religious leaders, friends, and reading material. These things still didn't seem to make sense, so I decided I needed to honestly question all I believe and see what others believe, what science shows, and then make a decision.
My searching went on for a couple of years and I had come to the conclusion I was unsure (agnostic is you will), yet still I kept the facade of the strong believer up to avoid confrontation with family and friends. Finally about a year and a half ago I started at my current job where I met one of the most genuine and smartest people I had seen in years. I was shocked to find eventually that he was an atheist. He and I had many discussions over the first six or so months. He then advised me to read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins and he also told me of various other resources that he recommended. By the end of that book, I knew that I could no longer believe in a mythical superstition. The most freeing moment of my life occurred in mid January of 2009. I became an atheist and finally my life was my own again. It was the most freeing feeling I had ever felt.
Since that time a day has not gone by where I haven't spent time searching the internet and library for more knowledge and more resources on evolution, atheism, and the refutation of religion and the supernatural. I have also slowly been "coming out" to family and friends, but it is a really hard thing to do. I am alone in a see of religion where I live. I hope that I will one day be able to truly be open to everyone about my atheism. Then I will be fully free and finally at peace.