I have some religious friends. These are people I like with whom I occasionally have philosophical discussions that usually end in agreeing to disagree.
One of my friends likes to casually refer to me as an Atheist. I understand that when religious people come up with a 5 point test of what makes an Atheist I may qualify on all five of them, however, I do not define myself in terms of other people's perspectives.
Atheist sounds like "Anti-something". I believe there probably isn't a God, especially that meets any of mankind's popular definitions. If we are not alone in the vast universe, there may be powerful beings we would find godlike out there, only because they are more advanced...or maybe we would realize that the difference was simply growth, know how and experience.
I think there probably isn't a God (and I capitalize it just so christians know who I am saying probably doesn't exist). I cannot prove a negative. I can't demonstrate to you that there is no God just by showing you silent moments or unanswered prayer. In the same way faith is required to believe in God because the proof is not there.
I am certainly not anti-"something I don't even believe in".
It's like the when I filled out the e-Harmony forms. Yes, they let me in somehow! On their form they have ethnicity choices. The closest one for me, as a caucasian, was "White (Non-hispanic)". Well pardon me, but I am not used to defining myself by how "hispanic" I am or am not. No insult to hispanics of course. It's just not a notion I am associated with. Calling me "non-hispanic" puts way too much focus on hispanics. I don't even wish to make a statement about anyone else's ethnicity or how it differs from mine when simply describing myself to someone.
It's like considering how "Un-Australian" I am. I am not defined by what I am not. That's illogical and really awkward to me actually.
Likewise I will never wish to be labelled by what I do not believe in.
Imagine this unlikely introduction: "Ladies and gentlemen, the non-car thief, Mr. So and So"... With me saying, "I have never even thought about car theft much less do I want the phrase in my title!"
Or "Mr. So and So, the Non-Santa Clause believer"...what do I say to that, "um...yah..I gave that up when I was a kid, my non-santa clause belief status is really not even a part of who I am anymore."
In the same way I am not an Ex-believer or an Atheist. I am simply me. I am a rational thinker, a skeptic, a doubter and someone who loves knowledge, science and evidence.
I am finally a grown up human being who wants to see his place in the Universe as it really can be known with the best knowledge available. I don't want fantasy stories or religious dogmas anymore. I find no comfort in the quaint and violent scripture myths.
I think 1000 years from now some whacky sect will believe in "Captain Picard" as their God and will even have "real" pictures of the man (unlike the Christian faith). They will not admit to their basic misunderstanding that this was a character in a performance. While there may have been a moral to the story, it was always a story. I see the Bible in the same way. They were myths meant to inspire, socially control and politically manipulate people or challenge rulers.
I thought the other day of the meaning of "Rational Belief" to which I lay claim. Rational is a word about a ratio. A ratio of claims to supporting evidence. If claims exceed a 1:1 ratio with evidence, you'll find me skeptical. I did not say I would automatically reject all such notions with confident authority, that's what an Atheist tries to do, also without evidence. I am far more curious and am willing to try ideas and listen to reason. The experiments, evaluation of data and conclusions are all part of the scientific method. Being skeptically curious leads to new experiments and new knowledge.
I am not against the ideas of justice and reconciliation taught by some belief systems, nor am I anti-God. I am just me and I think religion has done incredible amounts of damage to the world.
I just saw "Religulous", the Bill Maher documentary about religion. It was a great film that really reflected how I feel about how problematic belief can be.
He said one great thing near the end:
Religion tries to make a virtue out of not thinking. -Bill Maher
I agree with that and will continue to use my mind, grow my understanding and increase my knowledge while refusing to end all thought and consideration by quickly resorting to a label.