I felt in this diary I would share my experiences with religion and the lack thereof. Sorry if it's a bit long, but I wanted to make sure I had enough details in there. Hope you enjoy, and can take something away from it.
The first churches I remember going to were middle-of-the-road Baptist. Southern Baptist Association baptist. I was saved somewhere from five to seven years of age and began to study the Bible. As I grew older my mother began taking me and my brothers to a Pentecostal Assemblies of God church, the kind where people "spoke in tongues" at every worship service, and many were "slain in the spirit." It was this church which would give me a rather strong dislike for spirituality. On three separate occasions in my late elementary school years, I went forward with others to be prayed over to recieve the "anointing of the Holy Spirit," which is when one is so overcome by the spirit of God they fall to the floor. I had a real hunger for spiritual experiences, and was eager for this one. I went to be prayed over expecting a strong spiritual force that I would be unable to resist that would bring me to the floor. Instead, each time the pastor layed his hands on me he was pushing so hard I put out a supporting foot to keep myself upright. If God wanted to lay me out, I reasoned, then there was no need for the person praying to apply force. If this was real, God wouldn't need any help, he's got that all powerful thing going for him. I remained a Christian, but these experiences left a sour taste in my mouth, and began to make me question the legitimacy of all spiritual experiences.
A few years later, in my Junior year of High School, my family had returned to Baptist churches. The various churches we attended had hosted several Christian apologeticists who had greatly interested me in their use of logic and evidence to defend and prove the Christian faith (Though in retrospect, while some were reputable, others used extremely questionable science). As a child I had always held science and logic in high regard, and had been reading as many Issac Asimov books as possible (even the non-fiction, he's a beautifully clear writer) since reaching high school. I figured that if Christianity were true, the facts should bear it out, so I ended up buying many of the apologeticist's books and read many of them all the way through. After extensive study I did not find undeniable proof. In fact, several books merely made conclusions after initially assuming that the Gospels were completely true, which wasn't what I was looking for. I wanted proof of the truth of the scripture itself, not a character study of Jesus. I found that while much of the evidence did not disprove Christianity, it didn't do much to prove it either. It was rather up in the air from what I could find. I have done more studying since, but this is how it seemed at the time.
It wasn't evidence that made me leave Christianity however. It was ethics. The idea of Hell, as it is presented in the more fundamental churches, just didn't work in my mind. I couldn't mesh the idea of a loving God, who cared for each and every person, with the concept of Hell. An eternity of unimaginable suffering, not because someone was a bad person, but because they either hadn't heard of Jesus, or didn't have that saving moment. I saw good people who weren't Christians, and horrible people who were, and I had to question the justice of it. Plus, if Jesus took all our sins on the cross, then we're all saved, by the nature of his sacrifice. What difference would believing it make? I can disbelieve in gravity all day long, but I still won't be able to fly. So my senior year I deconverted, spending a little time as a Theist, then a Deist, and ending up as an Atheist with an interest in Humanism.
I stayed an Atheist for quite some time. I was dealing with college, and dropping out of college, relationships, and picking up the pieces from relationships. I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about religion except how to dismantle it, and I didn't think about spirituality in general, because I associated it with dogmatic religion, oppression, and especially hallucination and self-delusion. I had dealt with a lot of guilt while I was a Christian (puberty will do that in a fundamental church), and I had very few good memories other than some of the social aspects. Then, last year, I lost my job, and had a lot of time to just sit around, and eventually I ran out of the video games that had filled all my spare time. I was single, out of things to occupy myself, and unemployed. Thus, I ended up with a lot of time for introspection. I wasn't really depressed, but I was very unmotivated. I had tried self-improvement for it's own sake, but I was lazy and I tend to put other people's needs over my own, so I myself wasn't very good motivation.
I found a book on the art of Hearth Magic while perusing at a bookstore, and something about it clicked for me. I bought it, read it through and found a connection to the concepts of making housework a spiritual act. I began to realize that it wasn't spirituality in general I disliked, and that had hurt me. It was a specific dogma within a specific religion. I then bought a few books on Wicca for a solitary worshipper and found a completely different concept than I had expected. The books I read presented a belief system that was rather freeform. The books encouraged research into the nature of the God and Goddess (The dual deity concept itself was something I didn't expect) through reading mythology and other books on Wicca to form a personal understanding of them. It discussed experimentation to find the expression of spirituality which would be most effective personally. I was encouraged to create my own rituals, but was also given a basic framework and examples, which I needed. And importantly, it gave me a reason to take care of myself, to improve myself, and inspiration to start more creative hobbies and ideas for projects. I don't know what I'll believe in another ten to twenty years, but Paganism helped lift me out of my malaise.
Atheism simply didn't work for me, that's one of the main points I wanted to make. I still have nothing but the utmost respect for science, and my current spirituality doesn't interfere with that. There's no dogma I have to believe that would oppose any scientific knowledge, merely a spirituality that brings me a feeling of kinship with nature itself, and an understanding of the forces I can't see, but feel all around me. It has brought me fufillment and motivation, where atheism gave me nothing except freedom from my oppressive religious background. It was a good transition phase, but I do not think I could have lived my whole life within it.
I have no doubt that naturalism works for some people. I do not doubt Christopher Hitchens when he says he in incapabale of belief, nor others when they say the same thing. However I would point out that for others of us, we are incapable of non-belief. I cannot be in nature and not feel something powerful and spiritual within it and me. I hope this can provide some bit of understanding, and perhaps a bit more acceptance among us. Blessed be.