I received a lovely compliment today. My Christian BFF told me that she tells family members her BFF is an atheist AND one of the kindest people she knows. I like being described as kind; I think kindness is very underrated and should be practiced more often. She also said that other members of her family who have met me and then learned I'm a non-believer, stated, "Wow, she is such a sweet person."
It saddens me that, in general, atheists are thought of as unkind, angry, and immoral. But you know what, I readily admit that there are angry, unkind, and immoral atheists. There are also unkind, angry, and immoral Catholics, Baptists, Christians, Muslims, Wiccas, blacks, whites, males, and females. No one group has the market on bad behavior. Furthermore, some atheist are not really angry people, just angry about certain things. This is a good comprehensive list and I agree with most of it: http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/10/atheists-and-an.html
So anyhow, I'm fairly certain I saw a post comparing atheists to Hitler today and that hurt me. Here I am, just a 30-something mom trying to get through my days like everyone else. I work, clean house, feed my kids, feel a wide range of emotions, put my pants on one leg at a time, and poop and pee, but it doesn't seem to be enough. The only difference between me and others is I don't believe in Zeus, Ra, Hera, Allah, Thor, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Odin, the Christian God, or any of the other thousands of god worshipped by mankind throughout history. I also don't believe in wood nymphs, purple unicorns swimming in the ocean, or Santa Clause. Not one single unprovable being do I believe in. It is not personal and I'm an equal opportunity non-believer. If I don't see evidence of it, my brain doesn't allow it, which is to say that this is not a choice I made. In the past, I had faith and I believed. Then I had doubts. I tried to ignore the doubts, then I begged, pleaded, and attempted to pray for them to go away. After awhile, I figured I better start reading and researching so that I could find peace within my own brain. With the reading, the doubts evolved, questions were answered unsatisfactorily, and I stopped believing. It was never a choice. More like my brain, with its powers of reasoning, came to a conclusion. If anyone that doesn't understand this point can force themselves to believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster as the only true god, please let me know and I'll begin forcing myself to believe in a god as well.
As to what I do believe, I consider myself to fall under the label of Humanist. For clarification, not all atheists consider themselves humanists but most humanists are atheists. Wikipedia defines: "Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism.)"
Like most things, there is debate if that is the best definition. I like it and use it as a mission statement. To me, it means I use empathy to decide how I should behave and the way I want to interact with the world. It has served me well and I often feel that I am having a positive effect in my small slice of the world.
I have no desire to change anyone's beliefs. However, I have some desire to change the way many see atheists, as though we are horrible people just chomping at the bit to commit genocide, rape, and theft. Which brings me to the idea that if a belief in a god is the only thing preventing someone from committing atrocious acts of hurting others, wow, we better hope that person never loses their faith. Maybe, just maybe, I don't need a belief in a god, any god, to be a good person. Maybe, just maybe, if there is a hell and I'm going to it, that will be between me and whatever god decides to send me there. If I'm wrong and all my research and logical thinking condemns me, in all seriousness, so be it. I will not apologize for my brain, with its awesome powers of reasoning and decision making, coming to a conclusion.
I sincerely wish all of us peace and happiness.