When I was around 13 (the age most kids go through middle school or go on to highschool/early adolescents) I went through the thing most kids that age start doubting the religion they were born into. You go online to look up your concerns, watch youtube videos of other atheists (Dawkins, Amazing Atheist, etc.). The things they say just...."make sense" to someone going through something like that. They explain how ridiculous the idea that Noah's ark was a thing or the idea that angels fly around, you know, like regular atheist arguments (religion is violent, oppressive, etc.). At that point I felt like I understood everything and the world including my parents and family were absolute complete IDIOTS for believing this stuff. I was basically Neil DeGrasse Tyson and they were 3rd graders explaining atoms in front of the class. HOW IDIOTIC OF THEM! Why couldn't they see how STUPID it was to pray to a god that you don't even know exists, don't they know those of old times were praying to gods we think are ridiculous now?
I was on top of the world, Stephen Hawking, and they were complete idiots. Turns out (as I found out later), I was basically every other adolescent who went through that type of religious upbringing who goes through that "enlightenment" helped by the internet and youtube.
Fast forward maybe 6 years from then, I still had the same thoughts. I would go through the religious obligations my parents went through just to satisfy them, I was basically just going through the motions to please them. I just assumed they were trapped in this bubble of ignorance, and I was so above it all but couldn't say anything because of how conservative they were.
I can't remember pinpointing the exact moment, but I slowly went through this type of thought around that time where I started making observations. I wanted to figure out why it was religious people seemed to be avoiding the mistakes I was making. What about a lot of the religions I studied gave its followers the guidelines and security to live by that contained the "physics" of our behaviors and happiness, that I was slowly coming to the same conclusions as? I wanted to figure out what exactly religion was. Maybe it isn't really just this fun book someone wrote just to fuck with everyone and ruin society and life for everyone around them by plunging them into ignorance.
You could say I slowly "enlightened" myself further. I was taking an objective point of view to what these religious metaphors could be for. Why on earth would someone say to do this? Why would someone prescribe prayer? Why would Muslims fast? Why should Christians go to church? What is the point that prescribing these things through the religion would achieve? I was ignoring the spiritual aspect of all of this "magical god" stuff, and I was trying to look past it all to the deeper meaning, the deeper reason why it would even exist in a religion.
I basically worked through all this myself, I didn't consult the internet on this to see if others thought the same way, i literally only used the internet to find out what the perspective on religious behaviors were from the religion itself. To make a long story short, I came up with this idea that there's no way there could be 1.6 Billion Muslims who actually throw scientific method out of the window and blindly just believe in Noah's ark. I came to the personal conclusion that someone much more enlightened and incredibly intelligent came up with these ideas "Prophets" if you will (Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad, etc.), and that they simplified the language of their findings to these metaphors and the language we find within the religion.
I decided I would do something bold. I would ask my dad. My father is extremely intelligent and so far I have always consulted him for advise and wisdom, and so far he's always been someone I can trust for wisdom. He was a devout Muslim, and so that didn't really fit in with everything else I knew about him. I asked him. I told him what I thought about metaphors without really going into my ideas that god doesn't actually exist, that I was looking at it secularly, and it seemed like he understood completely.
To my surprise, he met me half way, without going too much into detail, he simply told me, "Religion is for the intelligent to understand and digest the deeper meaning of, and for the less intelligent to just blindly follow. Both in most cases end up at the same place in theory if they follow the guidelines set by the religion. Intelligent people understand the metaphors and trust the Prophet's enlightenments to understand better than you these types of matters, digesting and applying, whereas the less intelligent can just blindly follow the metaphors and still derive the same messages."
That was really the point when I personally found the schism of people who are religious, but don't describe themselves as literalists (which i later found out there was a term for, remember, i was thinking all this through myself). I found that atheists with arguments about Noah's ark, angels and devils, etc. were actually on the same level with people who take the text literally, and that that kind of thought is still taking a literalist perspective, unable to understand the further meaning for these seemingly ridiculous metaphors and guidelines which taken at face value look like they should be taken literally.
I basically developed this thought on my own and with friends who felt the same things, only to later find out about Reza Aslan. I felt like Reza Aslan described my 6 years of thought development perfectly in a matter of minutes, and I realized the thought I came to was actually already existent. It was called the "structuralist" approach. I had actually reinvented the wheel. I had personally developed the structuralist approach on my own and with the help of a few friends bouncing ideas off of each other.
I now describe myself as Muslim, I bring the structuralist approach to my religion, and believe that all religions have innate truths to them, described with a set of symbols and metaphors that describe what would be ridiculously difficult to describe otherwise. God, Karma, what every you wanted to call it, is almost like the "physics" of human interaction and thought, and these religions were like a physics formula sheet. Allowing you to be able to not have to re-invent the wheel, and go right to building a rocket ship without having to develop your own physics formulas by having to start off by figuring out gravity again.
And well, that's where I am now.