There has been an ungodly amount of hatred, suspicion, fear, and murder in the names of various religions over the centuries. I feel that a race so technologically advanced as to be able to destroy itself several times over should truly civilize itself and realize that one's religion, or the lack thereof, is entirely a personal decision and should not provoke a strong reaction from anyone else.
People who believe in God, a god or goddess, or whatever types of deity you choose to name and/or capitalize generally do so out of a need. Some people need to feel that they were created consciously for a purpose, and that they are being watched over and nurtured by something greater than they are. This "something" is their god. I realized at the age of thirteen that I did not have this need, that I had been blindly following my parents' beliefs and the teachings of my church; when I stopped to examine them, they seemed hollow, empty.
I don't feel there is some cosmic "purpose," either to my life or to the existence of the human race. Quantum physics demonstrates that randomness (of a sort) is present in the universe, and I accept my existence and the race's as a happy coincidence brought about by the chance combination of amino acids. If you cannot accept this, if your mind reels at the thought of not being significant enough to be watched over, nurtured, loved... well, I'm sorry.
Most religions claim to be the one "true" religion, and promise hell and damnation to those who do not embrace the light. I personally am outraged by the thought of a benevolent, loving god who would shun billions of good, innocent people just because they made the mistake of adhering to the Roman Catholic faith of their parents when, all along, Islam, or Judaism, was the "true" religion. If there were a god, and he wanted us to worship him in only a particular way, I'd like to think that he'd make a point of showing us once and for all. Instead, we've got hundreds of different religions, each claiming to be the one, and many of them quite willing to go against the very tenets of their own beliefs to "save" and convert others. The Catholic's faith is every bit as strong as the Muslim's, yet each considers the other a heretic, and they both damn the Hindu who has led a devout life. Anyone interested in truth and reason must see that this is illogical. It would seem that "God" is more interested in blind worship than in good deeds (at least according to some theologians), making Him a vain god indeed.
Religious writings are referred to as "proof" and "historical documentation." Certainly, I accept the probability that Jesus of Nazareth existed, the fact that Mohammed walked the earth, and that Siddhartha Gautama was born and died; but where, other than in the Bible, is it stated that Jesus was the Son of God? What ancient historian claims to have seen Moses walking down Mount Sinai with two fresh tablets from God, or Lazarus raised from the dead? It is just as reasonable to believe in the Greek gods and goddesses named in the Iliad and the Odyssey! It is now generally accepted that a huge war was actually fought outside Troy; therefore, the rest of the story must be true, too, and the gods must have been real. Their deeds were described in books; they were worshipped by multitudes; some claimed to have spoken with them and received signs or visions. The Greeks had their parables and miracles. Their moral superiority lay in the fact that, after capturing a land and its people, they didn't decimate and convert "heathen" populations, but allowed them to keep their own faith, as did the early Romans. Had this not been the case, there might not be a Jewish faith today, or consequently any of the Christian ones, either.
It is claimed as a "fact" that Jesus gave his life for us. How do we know that he really claimed to be the Son of God? Moreover, if he did, how do we know that he believed it? If he did think he was the Son of God, then he was, in his own mind at least, trying to save the rest of us; if not, then he died to cement a new religion. Others have formed religions by claiming divine inspiration; witness Jim Jones, Sun Myung Moon, David Korresh, etc. Why do we believe one and not the others? Because it has been around longer?
Some theists love to argue that, without religion, there is no morality. This is outrageous. "Sins" need only be categorized as actions harming any members of the human race, which coincidentally encapsulates many of the Commandments. How many church-going Christians beat their wives, or steal from their companies? Belief or the lack thereof has nothing to do with morality; there is good and bad everywhere. As to abortion, birth control, and homosexuality, all I can say is that any church that had people tortured and killed for not converting, that stood by and silently watched as countless others were tortured and killed, that silenced anyone trying to expose views that contradicted church doctrine, has no moral right to pass judgment on what humans do with their own bodies.
I become disheartened when I see Christians and others who claim to love their fellow man spread apathy or even hate. It is said that Jesus died so that we might be saved; I doubt that there is a Christian alive today who would be willing to make the same sacrifice. While I do not believe in any god, I do embrace most of Jesus' philosophical and social teachings, more so than most Christians. Most people are only interested in themselves. They feel sorry for those less fortunate but will not put themselves out to help. In my eyes, a moral atheist is better than an immoral Christian or Sikh or Zoroastrian. While I am an atheist, I recognize that the future of mankind is more important than the fate of any one man, woman, or child, even myself. It is time to stop looking to God to save the race and do it ourselves. If He exists, I'm sure He'll approve, if He really does care about us.
I personally don't believe in a life after this one. As a result, it is important to me to make the most of this life. The Catholic Church assured the medievals that a life of eternal happiness awaited them after death, and so their years in poverty and misery here on Earth were tolerated. If the Church is wrong, then those countless masses suffered for naught.
However, I am also different from most theists, and even many atheists, in that I accept the possibility that I am wrong. While I feel it highly unlikely, I admit that the Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, or even the ancient Egyptians could be correct in their belief in one or more deities and an afterlife. My mind could even be swayed, with some proof. How many believers have such open minds? Of course, if I am wrong, I could spend an unpleasant eternity, but any god who so opposes free will and free thought that he will damn a good person for not worshipping him blindly and unquestioningly is probably not running a particularly pleasant paradise. Besides, as Sam Clemens once said, "When I think of the number of disagreeable people that I know who have gone to a better place, I am sure that hell won't be so bad at all."
The existence of God will probably never be conclusively proven or disproven. As I've stated, I feel one's belief in any such being or beings to be a personal matter. Theists are usually saddled with the burden of proof and complain that this is not fair. For my part, I must say that, as atheism is not a belief system, it is not something I need to defend. I am not actively attempting to disprove the existence of God and therefore don't need to show evidence, either physical or logical. While I do have a strong dislike of the Roman Catholic Church for crimes (sins?) it has committed against humanity, I don't ask that people just lose faith. My quarrel is with the religions and churches, with the attempts to force one's views upon others. Yes, "Thou shalt not kill" is a rule that should be followed by all, but no, I should not have to believe that killing is wrong because Allah says it is wrong. It should be very obviously wrong.
No, THIS world can get along just fine without any deities. We don't need God in school, in government, in daily social routines. I'm not against a personal belief in a deity, spirit, nature, or inanimate object; that is a decision I feel each person must make for him- or herself. If you believe you have an immortal soul that needs to be saved from damnation in the next life, I won't argue with you. (Unless you insist.) Subscribe to the religion of your choice in that matter. But DON'T tell me that I am evil, or sinful, or lost, or damned, just because I don't need a god to tell me what's right and what's wrong. Much evil has befallen the human race because someone thought it was God's (or a god's) will. Would a benevolent being really want to see innocents suffer and die? The gravest sin of all is harming your brother or sister. By spreading my views and opening some eyes, I hope to help humanity survive and thrive. My love for you and the rest of the race is more powerful, and will have more results on this planet, than your love for any god whose believers consider it necessary to convert others by any means necessary, to kill, rape, and destroy in His name.
"Learn to love, or at least