What was the final "trigger" that convinced you to become an atheist?
There was no real trigger. All of my "doubts" just reached "critical mass". I also realized how many people can so easily engage in intellectual dishonesty and fantasy-thinking when they are driven by powerful feelings and prejudices.
Even outside of religion, like politics, there are so many people who will continue to rationalize to the nth degree, so that their little world view won't crumble. Economics, sexuality, drug policy, abortion..... but to be totally honest with you it was the Christian Bible-Fundamentalists who finished me off. Their whole mindset and rationale for everything is just so retarded; I was even fighting them when I WAS a Christian. Still believe in hope, charity and love, but I can do so without threats or being under the thumb of a psychotic Santa Claus.
Second, my final slide into atheism (although I'm still open-minded about the role of intelligence and consciousness in our Universe) left me with a bit of a feeling of "loss". Losing so many of my nice, childhood, wonderful feelings and fantasies about some "cosmic power" looking over me, or a God-being who cared about me, was a bit painful for a while. It was hard to face the fact that all we will ever have or know is this life; our friends, family, and so on.
How did your decision to become an atheist affect your life?
At this point I consider it to be a natural state of rational cognizance; even a state of philosophical maturity; and now I realize that I have more empathy for humanity than perhaps ever before.