Since Ruchira has already proclaimed her (Ir)Religious Manifesto, I thought that I might talk briefly about mine.Some of the time, I fit somewhere on the continuum between Atheism and Agnosticism. It's like the flavor of the month. If I feel in a mood to be 'mysterian', I claim Agnostic leanings. If I feel mystery gives me migraines, I lean towards the Atheist viewpoint. After all, there can be no omnipotent God if migraine pains exist -only omnipotent migraines.
I came by the atheism fairly gently. I noticed there was no being to fulfill my fervent prayers for some trifle as a kid, and without giving it much thought, slid into a don't know, don't care mode regarding the existence of a god(s). I learned and adhered to the form and ritual required by the religion I was brought up with, but there was no inherent belief in the magical properties of ritual or belief. It become something to be used if in the mood for it, and ignored if it didn't suit.
Tasked with bringing up kids and wanting them to know of their culture and heritage, I tried assiduously to study as well as expose them to whatever I could about my birth-religion. But there was no core of wanting- to-believe to sustain it. It was nothing more than a hollow shell. The kids have sensed this long since, and seem to have adapted to the exposure, much the same way as I did.
There is no militancy, no urge to convert all to the same viewpoint. Chiefly, because it matters little whether one is a Christian or Hindu or Jew or Wiccan or Buddhist or whatever. It's enough to lead a moral life of sorts, following largely the Golden Rule, without being bound by any religion in particular. There is similarly no militant urge to convert others to the atheist standpoint, no anti-theism like Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett et al. If religion brings you happiness and doesn't get in my way, go for it. If it doesn't, feel free to ditch it or even diss it, like 'Ditchens'.
I would have coopted the term 'Practical Atheist' to describe the above approach, but found it had already been given negative connotations by theists, as referring to someone who professes religiosity, without true belief in the deity of choice.
"This is a category used by some religious theists to describe all those theists who technically believe in a god, but who behave immorally. The assumption is that moral behavior follows automatically from genuine theism, thus immoral behavior is a consequence of not genuinely believing. Theists who behave immorally must really be atheists, regardless of what they believe. The term 'practical atheist' is thus a smear against atheists generally."
Maybe it's time to reclaim the term proudly:
"I am a Practical Atheist. I adhere to the external form of my birth-religion, primarily to please my elders- After all what is a small fib to let them live with peace of mind. Internally, I don't particularly worry about my 'eternal soul' or salvation of any kind. All that matters is this life, and how I live it."Maybe there is something to being a female that has to do with this practical approach to practicing atheism. It's a secret version and let's itself be known to the children around the age that they start to question the existence of the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. There is no Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus (only a long-dead historical personage of that name)----just someone who is very alive and real and loves you very much. The nitty-gritty of diaper changing and mopping up messes day after day lead you to the conclusion that there is no magic, only hard work that has to be done to get the kids and house clean and the dishes done. From no magic, it is but a short step to 'no supernatural solutions' to 'no miracles' to 'no benevolent and omnipotent deity'.
Surprisingly many of the women among my acquaintances seem to adhere to this practical atheism. The true believers among them are probably numbered in the handful, while the majority glide by gracefully following the form of whatever religion they profess, untouched or untrammeled by any deep beliefs.
Only coincidences exist. Take joy in the good ones, and don't let the bad ones get you down. After all, tomorrow is another day, as another practical atheist said in 'Gone With the Wind'.
Here's an interesting musing on the 'Gentler Face of Atheism', free of the accusations of misogyny levelled at atheism by Kathryn Lofton.
"We all know the names (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens) of those angry white men who tend to antagonize the world’s believers. But the most persuasive voices for the ‘new New Atheism’ tend to be women."
Also, from the same article, comedienne Julia Sweeney's take on how she became an atheist.