There's just something about that word - "atheist." Oooh...just sends shivers down your spine, doesn't it? After all, atheists don't have any morals! Atheists look at this beautiful world that we live in, dung beetles and all, and don't see the hand of God in it! They don't pray! They don't believe in America! Oh, such a bad, bad, bad thing to be.
Of course, there are plenty of people out there who don't view atheists that way at all. Especially people like me, who you know, actually identify themselves as atheists. (The fact that I love sacrificing infants and rampant soddomy is a completely separate issue, I assure you.) There are also all sorts of faithful people who understand that atheism does not equal immorality. And don't forget the religiously neutral - the agnostics if you will.
Those are the people whom I'm addressing here. Obviously, I'm not talking to you Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Zoroastrians, but feel free to keep reading if you're one of them. Oh yes, I used to call myself an agnostic as well. I think that the reason why I did was because I had spent so much of my life believing in the Christian God (I think they call him Jesus) that it was hard to completely let go of it all and call myself an atheist. In fact, I used to argue with atheists (one in particular, who no doubt delights at the fact that I joined the dark side with her). I just couldn't understand those people. Clearly, there was something wrong with them. How could everything just come together so perfectly? How could the Earth orbit the sun at just the right distance? How could it all be one big accident? (What really annoys me about those arguments now is the fact that I used to make them!)
So, when it became much too difficult for me to believe that there was such a thing as the one, true religion (and it turns out that a lot of Americans are leaning that way) I called myself an agnostic Christian - even though I wasn't entirely sure if that actually meant anything. Basically, I believed in Jesus, but I wasn't too sure that He was the only correct way to view God. Eventually, this started to fall apart for me, and I just went with full-on agnostic.
The thing is, I like shades of grey. I think that being absolutely sure of anything is a sign of insanity. That's what kept me from going to atheism - despite the fact that if I was honest with myself, I really didn't believe that some Supreme Being was watching me. The running dialogue that I had in my head with God had started to go away as I realized that it was a touch too one-sided to be a dialogue at all. Trying to figure it all out, I asked myself the question:
If somebody were to put a gun to my head and ask me whether God exists or not, and "I don't know" wasn't an option, and getting the answer wrong would mean my head being turned into a canoe, I'd have to go with "no."
This doesn't mean that I'm absolutely certain that there is no God. I'd say I'm about 90% certain. That's pretty certain though. Or forget the dramatic scenario. If asked whether you believe or not, and your first response, even if only mental, is "no", then you're an atheist. You don't believe. Even if it's a "No, but I allow for the possibility." Do you see prayer as a monologue or a dialogue? If it's the former, you're an atheist.
And there's nothing wrong with that. So, get off the fence. As Stephen Colbert always says, "Pick a side; we're at war!"