I was raised without any particular religion. My mother was raised Catholic and my father was raised Jewish and they both stopped practicing before I was born; obviously I was raised with Judeo-Christian morals, but I was never required by anybody to believe anything other than what I chose. My parents answered my questions about traditions and their own beliefs and then let me think whatever I liked.
The only thing I regret about it was the lack of a community that other people had; otherwise, I am extremely grateful.
I don't quite know how to broach this topic, except to say that in the wake of the idiocy of the Qu'ran Burning News Special, a lot of my friends and acquaintances have professed beliefs along these lines: "I support the right of anyone to have religious beliefs even though I think all religions are dumb and I am therefore an athiest." Which is cool. I'm down with atheism. I dig Sartre.
But what really made me sad is that one of the comments I saw on a fb thread about the whole matter said something along the lines of, "I really want to believe in God, and sometimes I do, but then I'm forced to be logical."
So I wanted to say to this person and everyone else like her, because it seems like no one else ever has,
YOU CAN BELIEVE WHATEVER YOU WANT.
No, really. Just because you understand the limitations and logical fallacies of structured religion, and just because you choose not to participate, doesn't mean that the "logical" choice is atheism. You don't have to believe in God the way other people tell you to. Religion doesn't have a monopoly on God, or on virtue. Just because a lot of religious people say they do doesn't make it true, which you should know very well already. But just because some of the things they say aren't true doesn't make everything they say untrue, either.
I really consider myself a lucky person for growing up in a non-religious household. No one told me I had to believe anything, ever. I never heard anyone I respected and loved tell me that their beliefs were correct and mine were wrong. When I was three one of my little five-year-old friends told me I was going to hell because I hadn't accepted Jesus, but my parents jumped all over that and told me it wasn't necessarily true, and they didn't think it was, but that some people believed it was. Then when I was ten they let me go to Christian camp with her anyway, so that I could decide for myself what I wanted to believe.
I remember I asked one of the church leaders who made God. She pulled off her ring and said, "Do you see an end or a beginning to this ring? God is like this ring. He had no beginning and has no end."
I said, "Yes, but who made the ring?"
I put this example in here to prove that I was a logical person even at ten.
But I believe in God. I believe He isn't anything a finite mind can understand. So I've stopped trying, but I believe. I don't go to a church, or a temple, or a mosque, and I'm not an atheist. I don't let anybody else tell me what to think about what I believe.
That is something that I feel to be valuable about the title "atheist." People who name themselves to be atheists are typically people who have begun to question what other people tell them. But I think most atheists don't question enough. The alternative to "Not Your God" isn't necessarily "No God," just like the alternative to "Republican" isn't necessarily "Democrat." There's lots of stuff in between, and outside! Atheism is usually, as far as I'm concerned, another religion: it's a religion in which people doubt only the beliefs which are socially acceptable to doubt*. And all I want to say to you is: doubt everything, and then choose. If you still think there is no God, that's more than fine. But don't think there isn't a God just because you don't like other people's Gods. You can like your own, if you want to.
*This is a prime time for a bitchin' example of logical reasoning: Some people who are bad at logic believe in God. Not everyone who believes in God is bad at logic.
Alternatively, some atheists are logical. Not everyone who is logical is an atheist.