I was born an atheist, in the strictest sense of the word. My family tried their best to raise me a Hindu, and I grew up listening to tales about the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and about how the world was created when the gods churned an ocean of milk. But for some reason, the sagas that were so enthralling to my peers were just stories to me, and I gave them about as much importance as Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Maybe I was born without some mental apparatus needed for blind faith, and maybe others are born without some apparatus needed for rational thought, but by the time I was 12, I had had enough of the endless temple rituals and visits to holy places, and I made that clear publicly.
My family did not raise an issue with it at the time, maybe because they saw it as a child’s tantrum, or some kind of adolescent phase, and did not equate it to any lack of faith on my part. My siblings and cousins seem to be agnostic, my grandfather was a non-believer, and my father oscillates between deism and humanism, while the rest of my family is not particularly religious, so they never give me any trouble. I have never had a falling out with anyone over my disbelief, although I do have to deal with the occasional nut job. Some of my best friends are religious, and they don’t really care what I believe. My position as an atheist may get a few raised brows now and then, but I have never faced discrimination or social ostracism because of it.
I had always made my distaste for religion public, but I think everyone assumes that I am some kind of deist, and that my problem is with the way god is worshipped, not with the idea of god itself. I think the only reason it took me so long to see the light is because if you cut out all the mysticism and scriptural bullshit, some things like ayurvedic medicine, yoga, Kama sutra and Vedic mathematics seem to actually make our lives easier and more enjoyable. So for a while, I saw the utility value in things which, while not religious, were part of the associated culture. But eventually, I realized that the irrational side of things outweighed any benefits.
I did not see myself as an atheist at the time, maybe because I was too young to truly understand the term and its implications, and I never gave the matter any serious thought. I was only aware of an undercurrent of absurdity whenever I had to witness or take part in anything religious. I had always been aware of the sheer absurdity of most religious dogma and ritual, and also the paradox of multiple religions selling opposing paths to salvation.
I was a late entrant into organized atheism. My ideas were not concretized until I was 18, when I happened to see a video of Richard Dawkins speaking at TED about atheism. Once I realized that there was an entire movement dedicated to opposing religion and its absurdities, I never shied away from publicly expressing my lack of belief, and engaging those who hold it. All in all, my coming out experience was singularly prosaic.