It never occurred to me to be anything but atheist. I don't mean that I have been completely oblivious to the fact that others around me believe that there is a supernatural being. I simply mean that personally it never crossed my mind that their beliefs might actually be true. Growing up, I was, as Dawkins would put it, 'a child of' one man who refuses to discuss his beliefs due to a staunchly Catholic upbringing and the whole onslaught of schools governed by, well, nuns, and 'a child of' one woman who must be agnostic, because of an outward rejection of religion in every day life, but a strong desire to occasionally attend church "for the music and the morals" and an abject disapproval of her daughter's strong declaration of atheism. Now, I suppose on this front I was lacking the childhood indoctrination (which, might I add, backfired on my father anyway) which is mostly responsible for the propagation of religion and its beliefs. However, those days of my childhood weren't entirely lacking in contact with organized prayer, Sunday worship, and steeples. My closest friend at the youngest age I recall was Lutheran, and during the course of that friendship, I attended that church a couple times. The friend after that was Mormon. Sure, sleep over her house Saturday night, go to church Sunday morning. And, of course, my devoutly Catholic aunt and grandmother brought me to a service or two of theirs. Back to the 'what never occurred to me' thread, I never associated any of these visits with a god of some sort actually existing. Sure I knew that to some degree the whole ritual had to do with a god, but what I remember most about the Lutheran church was the brick, the Catholic church the giant golden Jesus wall ornament and people lining up to consume his "body" in the form of a wafer, and the Mormon church, the fact that some Mormons get to wear special Mormon underwear (alright, alright...temple garment). It all was so ritualistic to me, even then. Now I would compare religious ceremony to cooking a microwave dinner, as in, 'Open package. Peel back plastic covering. Heat on high for 4 minutes. Let stand for 2 minutes.' The whole church construct was a formality, and back then (and still now, of course) I didn't associate any of it with the existence of a god. It's a microwave dinner -- either you learned how to make it by reading some instructions, or your mom taught you. I never meant to be an atheist, any more than I ever meant to have brown eyes and a birth mark on my left thigh. I just grew up knowing there is nothing "greater" out there, and when I got to the age at which I was able to associate that knowledge with the name "atheism," it was a natural assignment. Furthermore, it was around then when I began to understand fundamental concepts of science, and could back my non-believing up with the knowledge that "God" isn't responsible for making everyone stick to the ground. Science was a means, a means to prove what I had already known from the start. I could officially give religion the ol' heave-ho, and I can answer the door when those Jehovah Witnesses come acallin'. Besides attendance at churches of a few different denominations when I was younger, I think I've made a pretty good effort to know at least the fundamental history of at least Catholicism, because it can't be denied that religion plays a major part in history, both that has already happened and is still being written. And after all, literature simply wouldn't be literature without the interplay of each authors' beliefs on their writings. I rather think that I've done a good job at acquiring knowledge of Bible symbolism through different means, and with the exception of maybe a couple slip-ups ("Uhhh...Mr. Dodge...what exactly are the Apostles?") I think I've got at least the most basic stories committed to memory. However, they will always be shallow tales to me. Harder even than believing there is some supernatural deity, is believing that it would involve itself so thoroughly in the laws of man. No, there is no 'great being' telling you it is bad to have sex before marriage. That's the church. I believe those exist. After all, sometimes they let you wear special underwear.