Not quite sure how I stumbled across this site, but I did, and so here I am.
It's quite refreshing to happen upon such an open and welcoming forum of non-theists where anybody can express themselves without being branded a heretic.
I'd like to describe the background of my personal theology a little, but first I'll tell you a little about myself.
My name is Pete, I am a 26 year old aircraft design engineer currently living in the high-church-density zone of Jackson, Mississippi, but I also have an address in Wichita which I was forced to leave due to the economic downturn. I am married and I have a 1 year old son named Thomas, or Tom for short. My wife Sam converted me into a cat person, so we also share our apartment with 5 furry felines.
I have been a life-long atheist, part of that is to do with growing up in the UK (I'm originally from England) which is rapidly becoming more and more secular as the traditionally predominant faith propagated by the Church of England (CofE for short) is waining in popularity.
I was lucky not to have any sort of religious pressure from my parents, we never went to church and we never said grace, it was just never very important in my family.
But, prior to high-school, many of the junior-middle schools tend to be very church focused, so during my early education I listened to my fair share of bible stories and was made to sign hymns and so on due to attending a 'CofE middle school'.
Then later, at high school there was a mandatory religious education syllabus, so regardless of your background, we were all given a rough overview of the main religions, their underlying cultures and origins, but what was unique about my high school though was that it was in the town of Woking.
Woking isn't a particularly notable town apart from two things; it was home to H.G. Wells, and subsequently in his novel 'The War of the Worlds', the martians were supposed to have landed there (no mention of it in any of the movies though!).
The second thing is that Woking was the site of the UKs first Muslim mosque, so subsequently I went to school with a lot of Muslim kids and actually learned a lot about Islam.
So, consequently I think I have a pretty broad and accepting & understanding view of most religions; my wife who was was raised a Christian even fancies herself as a Jew, though I think that may be more to do with holocaust sympathy and a liking for kosher food than anything else!
But regardless of how accepting and understanding I consider myself but I just can't seem to get away from the nagging feeling that anyone and everyone who believes in and/or worships any 'god' is incredibly naive and ignorant...!?
Initially when I was young my atheism was a vehement, unwaivering opinion, I had concluded that the so-called 'miracles' in the bible were all implausible and thus fairytales.
Also, in absence of any physical or visual proof of gods smiling face in the clouds I justified the hypothesis that he simply wasn't real, and that believers simply used the concept of god to answer many if not all of the usual unanswerable questions; where did we come from? why are we here? what is expected of us? where do we go when we die? ...and do we have a choice in specifically where we go, when we die?
Years later I became more mature in my thinking, and still puzzled over what draws people to religion and believing in god, and thus kept re-visiting the same tough-to-answer questions and the reasons I didn't believe.
I decided to explore the origins of religion in order to better justify my atheism, and tried to learn more about those I still didn't understand. I used the website 'www.religioustolerance.org', which is a very informative resource.
To explore the origins of the modern European and middle eastern religions, you have to look at ancient civilisations, if you take the Egyptians, for example, they worshiped 'Ra', or the sun god. This is fairly rational, as it has significant basis in science - the giant thermonuclear reaction in the sky that we know as 'the sun' continually blasts the planet with the multi-spectrum radiation we all know as 'sunshine', this enables photosynthesis in plants which can then grow and enter the food chain. The result is nearly all life energy on earth originates from our sun.
Recognizing the importance of the sun and thus plants/animals dependence on it is evident in early religion, as is the case with 'Ra', the sun god. However as I already stated, 'the sun' is essentially just a gargantuan thermonuclear hot ball of gas in the sky, it cannot and does not communicate, think, see or listen.
Compared to us feeble little homo sapiens, the sun is certainly of god-like proportions, but it does not satisfy the traditional definition of sentient, thinking, caring, loving omniscient god. But, nonetheless, the personification of the sun and some of the skies brightest stars which we now know as our solar system's planets, mean they have predominantly been given names of 'gods'.
The propagation of the Greek & Roman concepts of Zeus/Jupiter, Mars, Apollo etc. apparently led to myths accompanying the personified celestial bodies.
The Greek/Roman concept of Zeus/Jupiter is what seems to prevail; what is really just a swirling ball of gas sharing the gravitational pull of our Sun has been embellished enough in myth to become a bearded toga-wearing man in the clouds who can throw lightning bolts and decide the outcome of military campaigns all with nothing but supernatural shear awe.
The subsequent rise of Judo-Christianity consolidated the multiple gods of greek and roman myths into a single all-powerful monotheistic power of 'goodness', in Europe the anglo-saxon word used to encompass this concept was 'god', meaning 'good'.
Eventually, just as Christianity was a splinter from Judaism, Islam became a splinter from Christianity, which is why the these three major religions all share the same monotheistic concept of god.
Now at the point in history when Europeans set sail for the new world, Christianity was firmly established, the magic notion of 'god' held firm, but what do we find upon arrival in the new world - what did the Aztecs worship, but of course the sun!
The Aztecs did seem to feel it was necessary to offer human sacrifice to this 'sun god' for fear of the day when the sun would no longer rise, but the concept of worshiping the principal source of life energy on our planet has a more rational basis than worshiping an abstract character of myth, or more appropriately, fiction.
Solar deities appear elsewhere in world religion, including hinduism, buddhism, shinto, chinese myth and many african tribal religions, and all have their own individual myth and lore, but in the era of scientific enlightenment it can be shown for what is was, people just hypothesizing and storytelling to try to understand or explain incomprehensible concepts.
When we remind ourselves that the bible was written at a time when people believed the earth was flat, it should uncover the shaky grounds on which the first tenets of faith were written, but because 'god' transcended from being a simple deity to an idea and fictional consciousness it is immune to all challenges of provable existence and can be used to justify some very shaky scientific ideas with absolutely no scientific basis or evidence.
So, for me, I can still safely say that I don't believe in 'god', but I can understand what people were trying to do when they came up with the idea... god is not a toga wearing man in the clouds throwing lightning bolts, but instead is simply an embodiment of naivete and ignorance born of curiosity.
What the concept of 'god' should be, and what 'god' actually becomes when you strip away the myth and lore, is not an all-powerful supernatural man in the clouds with the power of creation, but instead is the answer to all man's questions; everything that has been and will be, all of the laws of chemistry, physics and all the material elements which comprise the universe in which we exist, but this is too grand a concept because it insinuates that we don't know how or when our world was created nor how long it will last, nobody can hear our 'prayers' and there are no after-life consequences of living a good or bad life.
We as a race and species will most likely will never know. For some people living with not knowing is unacceptable, and so 'god' endures.
Ultimately then, 'god' is just the world's most popular imaginary friend, and exists only in the minds of his believers.
It feels good to get that off my chest! Hope you enjoyed... thanks for reading.