I had considered, although never acted on it, entering the priesthood – and people recommended that I doso...at quite a young age, even. I suppose they saw much religious promise, if you will, in me.In my second year of undergraduate education at King's College -- a liberal arts Catholic university inPennsylvania – I started to seriously question my religious beliefs mainly as a result of a philosophycourse, “Ethics and the Good Life” that I had and a discussion about atheism on campus. Also importantwas a friend of mine, an English teacher I had in high school, who had – as far as I can remember – beenthe first person to seriously cause me to think about the truth-value of religious beliefs although I, at thetime, had seriously considered that he was acting as a minion of Satan or otherwise was possessed by thedevil.After writing a paper for my “Ethics and the Good Life” course in which the prompt concerned whether one needed to believe in God to find meaning in life – I defended a position that one did not need to believe in God to find meaning. From there, I found it important to go on a quest of sorts to determinewhether there were good reasons to believe in the Christian god. Long story short, as should be obvious,my answer was 'no' after all sorts of discussions with religious professors, ministers, priests, friends, andfellow students. I found these discussions, as an atheist, to be extremely productive and valuable as Icould better understand their positions and challenge my own beliefs.Entering my third year of college as an 'out atheist' wanting to start a student group – a chapter of theSecular Student Alliance – I received a tremendous unexpected amount of hate mail and general hatefrom students...simply because I wanted to start a student group for secular students. Following this, anda notification from college administration that my group was not allowed to exist, I received much morehate including threats and a great deal of nastiness – and this time from the community of NortheasternPennsylvania and two aunts of mine – following my challenging the constitutionality of a nativity sceneon a courthouse lawn. I was declared, by a radio show host, the third most hated person in LuzerneCounty – the county in which I live. #1 and #2, as you may wonder, were two judges indicted in the 'Kidsfor Cash' scandal – these were judges who received kickbacks from a private facility when they sentchildren in their juvenile courts to a private detention center.More recently, although this time not generating hate mail, at least yet, I submitted an advertisement to acounty bus company that had the word “Atheists” in large text – this was denied as it was declared an'attack on religion' and a controversial sign that would spark public debate of controversial issues – thusnot permissible on county buses. I haven't though, given up, but it will take some time to properly addressthis issue and have the sign placed on buses – it may even take a lawsuit and a court date. It's reallydifficult for people to be openly atheistic because they fear financial distress, job loss, being kicked out of a home, losing family members, and other repercussions.I'm an out atheist and believe that my activism – and the activism of many others – whether that consistsof writing, protesting when called for, opposing legislation and other governmental activity contrary tothe Establishment Clause, etc. is important. I even feel a sort of moral obligation to make my viewsknown, address governmental wrongs, educate others, and continue my efforts. Like many of the “newatheists,” I feel that religious beliefs are not only unjustified, false, and irrational, but also potentiallydangerous. We cannot doubt that our beliefs inform our actions and some of our actions have the abilityto harm others. Of course, though, not all religious beliefs or beliefs derived from religion are harmful or potentially so, but some are. Additionally, not all people act on their beliefs – there is a wide gap, for example, from the person who believes that atheists are morally deficient (as Psalm 14 declares) to thosewho will openly discriminate against or show contempt toward atheists.