I jumped on the Formspring.me bandwagon and set myself up an account where people can ask me questions anonymously. It’s in the left sidebar, as well. I’ll be syndicating some interesting ones here as well as on my Twitter / Facebook accounts.
The first serious question I got was a pretty broad one, so it got a bit of a big answer. I’ll put it below the fold.
That’s a bit of a difficult question, in that it slightly misunderstands what “atheism” is, exactly. You can ask what I personally believe in, but generally “atheism” isn’t a belief system so much as a lack of belief in any specific deity or deities.
Interestingly, for instance, Buddhism is a belief system that is atheistic in nature — it holds that one can achieve “oneness” with the universe (called “nirvana”), and believes Buddha is the first man to have achieved this state. It does not however hold that Buddha is any sort of deity.
It’s also possible to be an atheist “by default”. Say you were never brought up in a specific faith — you’d never “believe” in any deities specifically, and would understand the world in a naturalistic manner, without having ever given any thought to the concept of deities. In fact, the idea of a magical, all-powerful personal entity might be so foreign as to be inconceivable to you. In these cases, you can rightly be called an atheist, though it’s not from any outright indoctrination into any belief system, nor is it the result of having explored any of them, naturalism included. These people may come to polytheism or monotheism on their own, inventing their own pantheon of deities, though they might also stumble across the scientific method of observation, hypothesis, testing and re-testing on their own. In either case, without someone impressing these beliefs upon them at an early age, their beliefs are developed in a vacuum and could result in basically anything humans might possibly imagine.
In my specific case, I have a strong belief in the scientific method. I have come to hold this belief in the face of evidence that every time the scientific method is applied correctly, it helps to sharpen our understanding of the universe. Through countless examples of it doing so, I have come to “have faith” in this method (in the non-religious sense — e.g. I trust that the method works), and therefore I also trust that, when the scientists applying it are doing so properly, the results they get are a far better and more accurate picture of the objective truth of this universe’s nature than any wild guess that humans have come up with in the past.
I hope this answers your question. If not, feel free to narrow the focus of the question a bit and I’ll be happy to make another attempt at answering.
This is kind of fun! And if people ask me tough questions, I might not have such a hard time coming up with things to write about. Writer’s block is easier to overcome when someone’s asking you the questions first.