Once again starting from one of jaylake's posts (yeah, yeah - a lot of these lately; his words are helping me put corners of my thoughts down more clearly). I'll start with a link to his post on Cancer & atheism: http://jaylake.livejournal.com/2004518.html.
I too went to church as a child/teen/young adult. Confirmation classes were interesting and gave me more questions than answers, which probably hastened my development as an atheist. I have a pretty good knowledge of the bible (no, I can't quote chapter and verse) and other Judeo-Christian texts. I've read portions of the Koran & the Torah; Roman, Greek, Norse, Celtic, Germanic, Native American, Egyptian, and South American Mythologies (why are they myths but the Bible, Torah & Koran are religious texts?); bits of Hindu and Buddhist scripture; and others I'm sure I've missed here. Comparative Religion and a semester of Peace & Conflict Studies were required at my first college, and thanks to a good professor (Dr. Wagner) they were mostly enjoyable classes.
His classes probably also finished off any lingering belief I had in God(s) and organized religion - between the varied takes on who/what God(s) are, the different approaches to worship, and the endless atrocities humans have committed in the name of God I could no longer even "hedge my bets" (something my Dad said years ago about his churchgoing).
After those two I needed more humanities classes, so I took his History of the Holocaust class... the last nail in the coffin was the number of "good" Christians who silently watched millions of people be murdered.
I know there are lots of good people who do believe; but for myself I cannot put aside the lack of evidence that God(s) exists. I cannot believe in an omnipotent, omnipresent being who manipulates our fate. And as I think I've said before if such a God does exist he/she is a cruel, heartless monster allowing so much brutality to occur in hir name.
From my POV Humanity created religion as a way to cope with things they did not understand; some of the mythology still holds for me as a fable, a story to help people understand the importance of doing good and right vs wrong, a framework for thinking about the unknown. But we control our own destiny, our own lives, and it is up to us to make the world we live in the best place it can be. We don't get another chance, there is no afterlife, and prayer has been proven useless as a treatment for illness (both as a primary treatment and in conjunction with properly practiced medicine).
The ongoing conversation in Jay's journal comments is incredibly thought provoking and intelligent, especially given this is the internet. Thank you all for giving me something to chew on.
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dennett06/dennett06_index.html, which talks about medicine and science vs religion is brilliant in many ways (although I don't feel the need to forgive those who pray for me in good faith and as long as that faith isn't trying to convert me or control me or limit another person's rights).
And one of the comments Jay makes really hit a nerve I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb here and say in general it's not so frightening to reorder an atheist's world. Atheism not being the default setting in our culture or our character, by definition we're people who've rejected solace and comfort in favor of a more difficult answer. That's why so many atheists are skeptics, and vice versa. I say without prejudice that one of the most basic functions of religion is comfort. Atheists, at least many if not most of them, have deliberately chosen a more difficult path by definition more open to inquiry and revision.
Both of my parents have brought this up; church/religion as a form of comfort to them, to ease their pain at a loved-one's death and/or fears of their own mortality. I understand what they mean, there are times when I would love to believe in their vision of God. Because I don't, I find going to church very difficult (weddings, funerals, sometimes holidays); out of respect for my family and their religion I'll stand silently while the Minister/Priest/Congregation prays, but I can't in good faith repeat the words and prayers; it would be a lie. If by some miracle God exists I'd rather ask forgiveness for not believing than pretend to have faith when I don't.
Another thought from http://jaylake.livejournal.com/2009435.html On my walk this morning, I had an insight about faith and people. This may fall into the category "oh, look, the sky is blue", but to my atheistic eye, everything that believers invest in God comes from ourselves. Love, grace, forgiveness, salvation, comfort, morality, structure, purpose; the whole package. That blzblack chooses to invest these characteristics in God is his privilege. I invest them, and my accompanying faith, in myself and the people around me — family, intimates, friends, and total strangers alike. So perhaps we are not so different, except in our assumptions of the wellspring of these blessings.
A clean, elegant way of saying it, but it echoes my thoughts already posted here: http://alumiere.livejournal.com/365402.html
For me, Faith/faith is a personal issue, and you will not offend me by choosing a different path.
However, if your faith tries to suppress knowledge (evolution), treats women or gays or non-believers as less than fully human and equally deserving of happiness, requires people to convert to be given assistance (ie: the Salvation Army), gets government funding to provide charity assistance and then discriminates based on race or sex or gender (ie: Catholic Charities and their threat to pull all services in DC because the DC City Council voted to legalize same sex marriage), or preaches hate and prays for the death of someone they don't agree with then I do have a problem with your Faith. You may not agree with these parts of your religion, but people are being killed for their beliefs in the name of your God, and that is wrong.
So my question for you is does your religion teach that your faith takes precedence over anyone else's rights and freedoms? If so, and you disagree with that, then perhaps you should work on fixing that before you condemn me for being an atheist.
Oh, and for lots of discussion on the ideas of Faith/faith and atheism go read the comments in Jay's post http://jaylake.livejournal.com/2004518.html