Most believers are so because they were indoctrinated when young so it’s hard to re-examine their beliefs. Others have an emotional need for some certainty to believe in. I don’t need that, but it took decades for me to get rid of the childhood indoctrination. Just when I was deciding it was silly, out came stories of near-death experiences and seeing Hell or Heaven. But I recognized that the excuses for God were just rationalizations — taking credit when things by chance went well and making excuses when by chance they didn’t. Another was a scientific attitude wanting evidence: I realized that a lot of eye-witness testimony about flying saucers, ghosts, prophetic dreams, and aliens was just false or self-deluding. And then there was just realizing that there has never been any solid evidence for any supernatural event. One thing that helped was FINALLY hearing someone on the good old CBC state clearly that there is no independent proof of Jesus’ existence outside the bible. The emotional impetus was the harm that religions do, their hoarded riches, their political interference, their historic crimes such as witchcraft persecution and the Inquisition, and their present-day opposition to women’s rights and bodily freedom.
Religion isn’t the only cause that people will die for. They’ll spend their lives for a cause that they passionately believe in. A lot of the “atheists are awful” trope is because certain causes, such as Communism, attracted that kind of devotion and became de facto religions. (The State of the World Atlas, in their religion maps, actually listed the various types of communism as being the dominant religions in their countries.) But I digress.
Then learning about the Albigensian Heresy and the people wiped out by the church for daring to question its hierarchy, the conviction of being right that lets people do horrible things to each other, and finally the blatant hypocrisy of the Catholic church in protecting child-molesters and enabling them to continue in their crimes. Religion is also a force for inhumanity. A religion that denies and stymies people’s impulses to human kindness, because the other person has the wrong religion, the wrong sex, the wrong sexual orientation, or the wrong practices is evil.
It was the community and discussions online and online resources about atheism and religion that gave me the courage and conviction to move from wishy-washy accommodationist to outright atheist.
Finally, I’ve realized what an evil tool religion is for controlling and subjugating people. First there’s the Gypsy Curse Scam, that only the Church can remove the curse on you (if you pay up forever and let them run your life). Then there’s the horror that they extend their mind-control beyond death itself. It is often said that a free man can be killed, but not enslaved, and thus need not bow to tyranny. When people have had enough, even if enslaved in body, they will and can choose to die. But a person who believes that rebellion will lead to eternal torment after death is denied that final moment of self-respect. Religion really does poison everything.