Steps to religious disbelief 1. Question your own religion. This often occurs at the same time someone starts to question Santa, the Easter Bunny, unicorns, leprechauns, goblins, etc. This step has to happen, but if someone is more intellectually curious about others yet set in their beliefs, it could initially take place after the next step, and of course it happens in different phases. You don't break out of an ingrained worldview overnight. 2. Learn about all of the other religions. This can be from a high school class, a college class, on your own in a library or the internet, etc. Most of the time a person has to actively pursue this, though; most high schools and colleges don't require a course on world religions. (Maybe this is why so many people claim to believe in religion.) This expands a person's outlook and is probably the major step. It's easy to just go with the flow and believe your thoughts are right, but once you get exposed to other ideas and worldviews, your mind starts to critically analyze them. 3. Realize other religions might be right. After step 2, a person should realize that all religions play the same cultural function and have similar origins (virgin birth x 1000) and therefore his/her own isn't automatically truth. I think you can do this without disbelieving your own religion completely (like I said, it's a multi-step process), but that should logically follow after some thought. 4. Realize all religions are unlikely. Logically, if all are equally likely, and all others are wrong (which they have to be as almost all religions are exclusive of others), yours, and all the others, are equally as likely to be wrong. Being a scientifically-minded person, it's hard to say that any are impossible, but the complete lack of evidence or physical evidence that one religion is right is too overwhelming to overcome. 5. Realize religion is probably harmful. For one, it causes a disbelief in science. It therefore slows scientific progress, which is the ultimate way of improving people's standard of living, from persecuting scientists during the Inquisition to slowing the cure of AIDS in Africa and more recently HPV. For two, it creates in and out groups; rather than having humans see each other as one (as science, especially biology and astronomy, tends to do), religion separates people and opposes them to each other. While group opposition is fine for a short-term soccer game on a Sunday afternoon, when it's ingrained into your personality and causes negative feelings towards billions of other humans, it is horrible. The main questions to ask to determine the usefulness of religion are (1) Do non-believers do good that religious people do? and (2) Do religious people do bad that non-religious people do? While churches have done good throughout history, mainly through helping the poor, there are many other non-religious organizations and individuals that have done the same. There are many soup kitchens run without church support, and if all religion was gone, a lot of the slack would be taken up civically and individually. Religion merely provides the initial stimulus to bring out the natural kindness of people which could be created in many other ways. On the second question, religion takes a lot of flak that it doesn't deserve. From the Crusades to terrorists, if one reads intellectual books on why people did them, it was really never for religious reasons (for example, terrorism is more of gang / military mindset; they want to impress the small group). But religion is one of many parts of why people do wrong, and everything adds up. Any intellectually curious person who actually thinks through his or her beliefs, and perhaps pursues those thoughts with reading, should come to same conclusions if they are honest with themselves. The single best question to ask is, "How do you know which religion is the correct one?" To have any intellectual credibility, you can't use evidence only internal to that religion (after all, if you can prove Christianity using the Bible, I can prove Hinduism using the Bhagavad Gita), just like you can't say that because 1 + 1 = 2 the entire theory of mathematics is correct. What about scientists who become religious after years of non-belief? I'd assume it's primarily an emotional response (after all, one of the many roles of almost all religions is to make you feel like your life is important and that you're part of something bigger). The only intellectual argument I can think of is that after going through all these steps is using a broader Pascal's Wager to decide which religion has the best benefits and worst consequences and believe in that. The only reason I think most people believe in a certain religion is that they just haven't sat down and thought it through. I don't know anyone who has that still really believes in it. They might go to church and participate in other religious activities, but they admit that they don't really believe it. Your thoughts?