My background is that I grew up in a fairly typical Western home; we went to church occasionally, and went to pretty standard white-bread churches inhabited by older people and a few younger families who thought they should have their kids in Sunday School.
I had been given a beautiful little KJV bible as a child, which had a print of a lovely classical painting on the back (David watching ships in the harbour at ?Tyre – I've tried unsuccessfully to find it). I thought it was a very intriguing picture, and I quite liked the prose when I did flick through it.
I got into evangelical Christianity (EC) during high school. I had some personal stuff going on, which I won't go into, and a friend who was born-again at a Baptist church when we were about 16. I was interested, based on what he said, and pretty much had the big conversion story there on my first night.
From that point on, and right through undergrad and postgrad, I was right into it: Believer's baptism, witnessing, preaching and teaching, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues, deliverance, prophesying and being prophesied over (a story for another time 😉 ). I was also a cell group leader for the biology cell group at the Uni I went to. I was never a YEC, and quite comfortable with theistic evolution.
I was 110% engaged and committed as a Christian.
I have no regrets (well, not many… we all make mistakes) about the time I spent as an EC. As I mentioned, Christianity, and Christ, filled a huge emotional hole for me, it provided a big social network too. I also never would have met my beautiful wife if I hadn't been down that path.
So the denouement… As I say, my faith filled a big gap in my life, and in the years after Uni I think that other things (career, life, personal growth and maturity) started to provide some of the benefits that it provided, diminishing its role.
With a little more emotional distance I spent more time thinking through the problems with faith. I won't create a long list here, but it was pretty standard stuff (the capricious God of the OT, the problem of evil, salvation for those who haven't heard the gospel…).
I wouldn't say that I 'doubted'. IMHO, faith (as per Hebrews 11:1) is a suspension of disbelief, and the suspenders started to fail when I applied a greater amount of intellect, and a lesser amount of emotion or desire-to-believe-no-matter-what to the questions of faith.
I bimbled along like that for a good ten years or so. I would have described myself as an agnostic by the time I picked up and read a copy of The God Delusion (I was familiar with Dawkins from his biology work, and intrigued by the title).
I've still only read it once, but it crystallised a lot of things that I'd been chewing over for a long time.
And here I am, very appreciative for the help from the Prof., and for the opportunity to grow and learn that's provided by this forum.
Thanks Richard, you're a great human being.