At the age of 0, I was circumsized. No-one asked me if that was what I wanted, and if they had, I wouldn't have answered, because I wasn't speaking yet. At the age of 13, I was barmizvahed. My excuse is that at the age of 12, you don't really have a lot of choice in such things, it seemed to make my mother happy. I sang well, we had a party, and I got a rather fine briefcase. But I was never a keen synagogue-goer; it was long, boring, in a language I didn't speak, tedious and pointless. At the age of 14, I realised that I was an agnostic, or at least, that's what I thought. More recently, I've realised that I was actually an atheist, and have been since age 14. Now I self-define as atheist, but gastronomically Jewish. The last time I saw the inside of a synagogue was daughter.2's wedding.
There are many benefits to being an atheist. I don't worry about going to hell (and heaven sounds pretty deadly too). Indeed, I don't worry much about what will happen after I leave the party; things were just fine before I was born, and will be just as fine after I leave. It is, of course, disappointing that I will have to leave one day, but modern medical science will make it pretty painless, I hope. I don't have the incredibly difficult task of deciding which of several thousand religions, sects and cults is true (none of them). I have no idea how religionists choose which religion to follow, it seems to me to be a nearly impossible task. Although I suspect that parental influence is the main thing.
But there are bigger benefits. I don't pray. So much time is wasted in praying, and nothing fails as consistently as prayer.
As the storm raged, the captain realized his ship was sinking fast. He called out, “Anyone here know how to pray?”
A pastor stepped forward. “Captain, I know how to pray.”
“Good,” said the captain, “you pray while the rest of us put on our life jackets – we’re one short.”
Daughter.2 was going out with a Christian boy for a while. That's fine by me; obviously no boy is going to be good enough for my daughters, but they get to choose. What did make me annoyed, was when she told me that his parents were praying that she become Christian, which is an evil thing to do for so many reasons. I threatened to pray that their son become Jewish unless they stopped praying against my daughter - it was a standoff. My god against theirs, which is complicated because maybe they're the same god, except theirs is triune. Then she stopped going out with him, and she's still an atheist, so their prayers didn't work. I cancelled my threatened prayer, and so I don't know if it would have worked (probably not, except that it would have certainly annoyed the parents which was the main objective) - maybe he temporarily became Jewish, and then back again. Or maybe not.
One big benefit, is I don't get to waste one day per week in a place of worship. That gives me 17% more time in my life, which is nice. Another big benefit is bacon. By the way, in some kosher restaurants you can get fakon, which tastes a bit like bacon, and makes me wonder how they justify it, isn't it sinning in the heart?
It was really easy for me to be an atheist; no-one gives me the "sharp intake of breath" when I tell them. I usually say "I'm an atheist, thank god" and you can watch as the penny drops, which, by the way, is an allusion to penny-on-the-slot machines, and I remember when "spending a penny" really did cost a penny. But it's not so easy for some people.
I was out caching one day and met another cacher, and we decided to team up for the day. As we walked along, he told me that he'd been in Rome for three years, and I asked him why. He'd been studying to be a priest, and he became a priest, but then he lost his faith (I would say, he lost his gullibility), and he told me how difficult that was for him. He lost his job, because the priesthood don't employ atheists, and that meant that he lost his home. he lost many of his friends. Now he was working as a driving instructor, and he was a bright lad, and I can't help thinking that if he hadn't gone to Rome for three years, but studied something useful, he'd now have a much better job.
Two people I have great admiration for, are Matt Dillahunty and Dan Barker. Both of these were committed Christians; Matt studied for the ministry and seems to know the entire bible by heart; Dan was a preacher for 19 years and writes excellent songs. it must have been one hell of a struggle for them to get to atheism.
And I've heard stories about "disfellowshipping" in Jehovah's Witnesses and the escape from Scientology, and that the Islam penalty for apostasy is death. I knew a girl who converted from Judaism to Christianity, and her father mourned her as dead, and didn't speak to her for several years (grandchildren changed his mind).
So I'm very lucky to have come to atheism so easily and without penalty. Thank Fortuna, I'm an atheist.