Soldering is a pretty essential skill to have if you intend to do projects like these, and it isn't so dangerous when you get the hang of it. Unless you mean the lead fumes you're likely to inhale, in which case you can get lead-free solder.
But yes, you probably will have to do some soldering, and possibly some scratching-off of PCB traces as well.
In terms of a path of learning to do these things, I recommend getting started with an Arduino. With an Arduino, it's fairly easy for a beginner to either load a program on the microcontroller to do the controlling or send data to or from a computer over USB (or Wifi, but that's extra hardware you have to buy). You can do these things without an Arduino, obviously, but it's very convenient for a beginner because it does a lot of the work for you (handling the microcontroller's needs, data communication to and from a computer, getting the program written to the microcontroller).
There are plenty of beginner and advanced Arduino tutorials floating around the internet, and they'll probably all be beneficial to you if you're just getting started.