On why believing is not an option for me...
There is an invisible creature that follows me everywhere I go. It reads my mind and knows my deepest secrets. The creature loves me, but it is jealous and will punish me if I don’t love it back. Since it reads my mind, the creature can even punish me for my thoughts. I must never have doubts about its complete power over me or I will be made to suffer horribly. I would do anything for the creature, even die or kill, because to do otherwise is to be doomed. The creature rewards me when I’m good. Sometimes it grants me wishes. If I am very good, when I die I will get to spend forever on my knees worshipping at the creatures feet. If you don’t believe in the creature as I do, you are a fool and you are damned for all eternity.
“If you have doubts, it means the Devil is at work. You must push those doubts out of your minds through prayer.” The Reverend Sun Myung Moon
“Can you prove that there is no god?”
The burden of proof is on he/she who makes the assertion. If I say I have a hundred dollar bill in my pocket and you don’t believe me, it is up to me to show you the bill. It is not your responsibility to prove I'm lying. No one can prove that there are no pixies, leprechauns, or other inventions of the human imagination and no one should have to. "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence," Carl Segan.
“Are you angry at god? Are you rebelling?”
Are you rebelling against Odin? Are you angry at Zeus? Do you not believe in Santa because you are angry with him?
“How can you see a sunset and not believe in god?”
The sunset is evidence that sunsets exist. It is not evidence for the existence of gods, devils, angels, or any other invisible creatures. How can you see a sunset and not believe in Apollo? After all, he is responsible for pulling the sun across the sky. Is it difficult for you to not believe in Apollo? Because, that is exactly how difficult it is for me to not believe in your god/goddess. The scientific explanation for sunsets seems more likely to me than the magical explanation. The absence of superstition in no way reduces the wonder and appreciation one feels when experiencing a beautiful sunset.
“If you experienced what I have experienced, you would believe.”
I grew up a Christian and religion was at the center of my life for many years. I experienced religious ecstasy, speaking in tongues, healing. I was born again and had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I got goose bumps and had prayers answered, just like Sufis, Muslims, Christians, Moonies, and the followers of Jim Jones. Religious ecstasy is only evidence that humans experience a wide range of cognitive and emotional states. Emotions are not evidence. I have experienced what you have. Have you ever experienced life without superstition? Have you had the courage to objectively evaluate the validity of your beliefs? Would the evidence you used to support your beliefs be different than the evidence used by any and every other religious cult (ancient stories/books, lots of other people who believe, personal spiritual experiences, the gut feeling that you are right)? Have you ever experienced the power and the uncertainty of being 100% responsible for your life?
“What if you are wrong? Isn't it better to be safe than sorry?”
Staying on the safe side would mean trying to appease all 4000 odd gods and goddesses that humans have loved and worshipped across history. Pleasing one deity usually means angering the others. Chances are, I only believe in one less god than you do. Put 4000 gods/goddesses in a hat and randomly pull one out (By chance, you were born into, and probably reflect, the religious tendencies of your family/culture). The odds that you picked the right god are 3999 to 1. In other words, I have 4000 gods and goddesses angry at me, but you have 3999.
What if you are wrong? Reality demonstrates its true nature every minute of every day. You don’t need an atheist to inform you that snakes can’t talk, death is permanent, and gravity and the other physical laws of nature remain in effect regardless. Living one life as a true human adult is an incredible opportunity. Thinking, emoting, moving, changing, being are the real miracles.
The richness of the human experience is bathed in wonder. Superstition is not required to enjoy the awe and amazement of sensory experiences. Being responsible for your own life is a heavy burden, but it defines what it means to be an adult. Developing the emotional maturity to deal with the realities of death, unanswered questions, and all of the other uncertainties of human life without resorting to magic and superstition requires courage and unyielding integrity. One must be committed to all truths regardless of how scary or difficult.
I have no issue with private, superstitious beliefs. If you believe that walking under ladders is bad luck, I think that is pretty harmless. But, when walking under ladders is made a crime, superstition becomes malevolent. When folks who avoid walking under ladders are given a tax break, then superstition causes unfairness. When monuments and texts dedicated to the avoidance of walking under ladders are displayed and sponsored by government, then superstition becomes exclusionary. When bad luck from walking under ladders is taught in public schools, then superstition becomes a force for ignorance.