I started having my doubts when I was sent to Catholic school at 8, my mother didn't like the Public schools in Brooklyn (for obvious reason then) and the Catholic school system had a record of excellence...so despite the fact that she was not a Catholic (though she was until shortly after my birth) she allowed me and my younger brother to go to Catholic school. This experience was the second accelerator to my realizing all religion was likely wrong. In the Catholic school I learned about the unique and strange (relatively) rituals but also noticed the many similarities. During "religion" class I learned about Jewish rituals and holiday's Yarmulke's and Dreidel's, unleavened bread and Menorah's, Hanukkah and Passover...the context was all described in terms of the Catholic belief system and contrasted with the Protestant beliefs I was hearing espoused at home nicely. I became agnostic to religion early and focused instead on art and science my twin passions, I had an intense love of biology and was significantly influenced by the function of DNA...the self replicating molecules. To me they were machines that ran due to conservation of energy principles and needed no other mover, the question of their origin still loomed but less and less I saw any place for the need of the guiding hand of some conscious creator and the death knell to the entire idea was sounded once I started learning about Darwin around 11. So it is clear that religious education is necessary and required for the truth to bubble up, it is the contradictions that was able to see between the systems I was exposed to that led me down the path of investigating their foundations and realizing each one was a creation of Man to serve some purpose.
Back at home I also was influenced by the weird religious inculcation suffered by my cousin Jean, who was being raised as a Jehovah's witness. His mother bought a house 3 homes over from us and my siblings and I were constantly back and forth...I read "Awake" tracts as if they were comic books because I admired the art (it actually helped inspire me to improve my drawing) but the contradictions between the protestant, catholic and Jewish faiths I was learning made it certain that either one or all of them were wrong. I too stayed silent with my scientific agnosticism until my mid 20's and formerly announced my adherence to belief only supported by data as I gained my bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering (not a coincidence!) Since then I've learned so much more about evolutionary history, the origin of religious thought, how the brain promotes such thought for survival purposes and every other aspect of the physical world. The grand view of the world as it is without the limits of a creator is so far beyond the ideas of religious texts I just laugh....but on 9/11 I stopped laughing.
I felt and saw first hand what the dangers of religion left to fester down the blind allies of it's own dogma could do to people I knew and that was the end of "live and let live" when it came to religion for me. We are at a point where we are perfecting technology in genetics that should it fall into the wrong hands, a passionate zealot to some imaginary faith...the end of all life could result over night. Now is the time for us to say enough to the moderate views that religion is okay as long as every one stays to their corner...the problem is no one actually does. The only inoculation for religion is knowledge, of how the world really works and it is the obligation of all those who hold that knowledge to share it with those who don't but more importantly to explain why their current state of belief and reliance on "faith" is dangerous. I have spent a good part of the last few years trying to accelerate this spread of knowledge between people across language barriers. A passage from the Bible fueling my efforts:
"And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from the, which they have imagined to do." Genesis 11:6
My solution is to flatten human communication by eliminating language as a barrier for social communication online. I hope to release this service by years end.
I've been fortunate and patient enough to have actually contributed to the enlightenment from deeply held religious views of some people...it is a minor mission in my life beyond my work as a software engineer and graphic designer. As we approach this time where any one can build a virus or bacteria from scratch in their basement it is important for all humanity to see all living things as precious beyond the rules put forward in bronze age dogma. To realize that the rice farmer in China has the same loves, wishes, dreams and desires as you and is entitled to the same basic happiness. That none of us are better than any other beyond the circumstances of life in which we are born. That even with life we share so much as to make it un-profound to say that we are brothers. Here on a lone island of life our planet as we know today we need to esteem life (all life) as more precious than any other resource before backward religious dogma leads zealots down a path of our destruction. I hope we succeed in time.