What is atheism all about (for me)? Why is it worth believing in?
Its a belief that is held by individuals. The belief comes from personal research, observation and introspection. There is no rule book on atheism, although many books have been written about it. There is no community of belief, although there are many different atheist groups and organisations.
Atheism can strictly be defined as the opposite to theism. This can be interpreted as a lack of belief in god(s), or a belief that god(s) don't exist. Perhaps this is a subtle distinction, but leads to positive (or "strong") and negative (or "weak") atheism. These types of atheist can identify themselves as either not believing in god(s) ( - negative or "weak"), or by believing that no god(s) can exist (- positive or strong). Not surprisingly, there are many more weak atheists than strong ones, as even having some doubt as to the existance of god would make one a weak atheist.
For me, atheism has strengthened my attitude to life and supported me through tough and troubling times. The rational, deductive way of thinking means that decisions can be made on the best evidence available, from a wide variety of independent sources. I don't feel scared of, doubtful, or oppressed by religion like I did as a child. Many decades later, my belief system has only been re-enforced by the scientific discoveries made since the 1970s. If its possible - I have felt ever more atheist as the years roll by.
My conversion to atheism was a path arrived at in my mid-teenage years, following a christian upbringing, then after dabbling with buddhism and mysicism. My search for the truth is as objective and on-going as I can make it. I do trawl through religious sites, read the bible, kuran and other religious texts as part of my education.
What strikes me about religious types, is how they think their religion is the correct one and other religious people of different faiths are to be damned like us infidels. This even extends to religious "scholars", who rather than use scientific method to understand the origins and reasonings for their relgious texts, instead promote their chosen religion and find more subjective interpretations in it's texts.
Atheism allows tremendous flexibility and freedom of thought, allowing me to make responsible and justified decisions. I see myself as not being constrained by anything except the objective search for "truth". But what is the truth? The scientific method shows us models of how we can interpret the working of the world at any time - Theories are used as the current scientific facts of the day. Scientific theories are robust, since they have gone through the rigours of the scientific method: independent peer scrutiny, review, observation, repeatable experimentation and disclosure. Even then, the theories are adapted and honed as our own understanding of the universe changes.
Take gravity, for example. Newton's law is a good approximation of localised phsical characteristics of its effects, but Einstein totally revolutionised thinking on gravity, in proving a relationship with time and space. There is much interesting work being done on our understanding of gravity which will undoubtedly lead to renewed and refined models of our beliefs that evolve our current understanding. We know of these changing models as "laws", facts, theories or rules.
The blinkered approach of theistic thinking would have me disregarding the wealth of evidence - gathered without any malice towards any religions - that contradicts those teachings. The sciences are not constructed to demean and demote religion. The sciences thrive because they have more direct impact and bearing on our lives than religion does. The "unfortunate" by-product of scientific research is alternative, more logical and justifiable evidence of out origins and surroundings that shows religious doctrine to be flawed.
Religious dogma is hard to change, since its based on religious texts. To re-interpret them, as for example "Intelligent Design" does with christian creationism, is to divide and weaken the faith - as the crushing weight of evidence forces the faithful to accept the scientific truth.
Another confusing thing for me is how to interpret or re-interpret the words written in the bible. There are fierce arguments between Christians over how literal the bible was or wasn't. To say the bible can not be interpreted is to deny the evidence surrounding all of us. To interpret the bible opens it up to so many different interpretations - all the way from hell fire, via the Jehovas Witnesses, to the evangelicals and beyond.
So why don't I have a belief in a personal god? Well, the notion of god is inextricably tied up with monotheistic faiths. To believe in some spiritual on-looker is too far fetched for me. There has never been any evidence for me to believe that there is someone there. Psychological study indicates that humans can have deluded and fixated beliefs by processes (reward/habit and pattern/coincidence responses) that are clearly understood. I agree that religion can bring comfort to those wishing to believe their lives are being watched over. Personally, I'd think it far too self-indulgent and ego-centric to think such banal stuff.
My morals and standards are arrived as through the society and time in which I live. Morals were apparent in societies far before any organised religion stole them. For example, people can not live together if they kill and steal from each other. These moral constructs are bourne from the need to live communally - thousands of years before the Old Testament was written.
In fact, making god accountable for all your actions is the ultimate abandonment of any responsibility one has over their lives. It is people - not gods or fate - that do things. To abandon your fate to god is to give up on your own accountability for your actions and abilities.
Any reasonable investigation into the super-natural, spirituality, astrology and prediction would show no credible evince to support them. Often, these "cons" exist despite the evidence against. For example, the very mechanics of astrology do not correspond with the actual astronomical positions of the planets.
When the world was under religious rule, it was a far harsher place. The rise of technical innovation in the last 100 years has saved more lives than any religion has ever done in 2000 years. This technical revolution was not caused by religion. The same framework that supports the science bearing us so much fruit would find absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support the existence of any god.
So why should I believe something so implausible?