So, on to the point. I've been an Atheist from a VERY young age, me and 80% of the kids from our village went to an Atheist primary school, because it was the only one in the village.
That's funny. I know religious schools of various description (which means you study the standard curriculum and whatever religion-specific background and holy books and you may have things like starting the day with a prayer) and I know of secular schools where you get none of the religion-specific stuff (and you get a mix of backgrounds). Perhaps you meant secular?
Is this a common stage for Atheists studying 'how it all works'
or am I just smoking too much too often?
Can't say, but I would think it has nothing to do with anything.
I'm still an Atheist, but the more I study now into the depths of 'how it all works' (as such) the more I become conflicted! The sheer mathematical beauty of it all constantly steers me away from 'random events' to 'engineered perfection'.
It really is quite wondrous to see how some of the mathematics works out, how simple and elegant fundamental physical laws can be when expressed in term of mathematical functions (the relativistic version of Maxwell's equations is one of my personal favourites, especially when compared to the incredible mess of their 3-D Newtonian formulation). But to see "engineered perfection", I think, is to overinterpret what you see. For one thing, if you get down to the details of it, physical laws are not actually as neat and tidy as they appear. For another, if someone engineered the laws of the universe, then by induction the question becomes where the engineer comes from and what laws govern him/her/it (I know, not if you're religious, but this is from trying to answer whether someone created the universe from data; yes, it's a valid scientific question).
By the way - when it comes to that question, whether someone designed and created the universe, the intellectually most honest position is agnosticism: we simply have no data one way or the other. You can perhaps rule out creators with certain properties (or specific concrete examples), but not the general concept. Einstein for instance was an agnostic when it comes to the concept of a creator-god, but firmly rejected the idea of a personal god.
It's always funny to see Physics majors try to apply mathematical beauty to Biology and fail utterly once they realize how utterly messy it is .
Anyone who knows a jot about biology and still thinks it's all meticulously and specifically designed by an intelligent being is an idiot. Of course, the easiest way to make an eco-system is to create multiple instances of a generic creature, each slightly different, and Monte-Carlo the whole thing by just letting it run for a while and search its own equilibria. Which is basically what we have anyway.
Regardless though: the universe could have a creator without that creator having personally and specifically have had a hand in how life works; that could just be a side-effect.