First of all, if you are reading this, thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts, and I hope you enjoy them.
I am an atheist, albeit a young and curious one, and this blog will centered on my non-belief in a country where faith and religion permeate almost every aspect of culture. Football players drop to their knees and thank God for giving his attention over to guiding their passes and tackles rather than spending a bit of time helping scientists in their fight against cancer. Friends and relatives of the Chilean miners thank God for saving the miners rather than thanking the people who worked tirelessly to extract them safely. Many people show kindness to fellow human beings only because they are given the incentive of heaven and the threat of hell- and these same people are the ones who say that atheists are not as moral as theists. Countless billboards profess the truth of the Bible and the undeniable existence of God, and urge us to accept him- yet a billboard professing a lack of belief in God and a secularized worldview is an "attack" on God.
Well, I do believe I have made my point. Belief in God is all around me (most likely around you as well), as well as 'faith'- my pet peeve. Then there is me, an atheist, doing my best to connect with the 12% or so of America that also lacks a belief in God. But what exactly is atheism? What does it mean to be an atheist? At least half the believers I have talked to have a profound misunderstanding of atheism, so let's define that right away.
An atheist is not the 'opposite' of a believer. He does not hold a belief in no god in the way that a theist believes in god. In the words of Matthew Dillahunty, host of The Atheist Experience (of which I'm a big fan), atheism is "a rejection of a belief". By definition, it is not really possible to do good or evil in the name of atheism, or to 'believe' in atheism, or to attribute any sort of behavior to atheism. This is because atheism is simply a term that indicates the lack of theism. We can no more say that atheism was at fault for Stalin's crimes than we can, if presented with a man who has drowned at sea, pick out a particular life vest and say that its not being attached to him is the reason he drowned. One could certainly argue that its presence may have helped the man, but it is certainly not the fault of any particular form of flotation device which happened not to be present that the man drowned. I was recently rather disappointed when a very intelligent Catholic, who is many years my superior and who I very much enjoy talking with, referred to atheism as a "bad idea" online. It is not the "bad" that I took issue with; although I don't agree, there wasn't anything terribly surprising about it. It is the fact that he referred to atheism as an "idea", at which point, upon reading his comment, my first thought was, "atheism is not an idea, good or bad. Theism is an idea, and atheism is a rejection of that idea." It was not worded quite as coherently in my head, but thoughts seldom are.
So, in a nutshell, an atheist such as myself does not believe in no god. You, I can safely say, do not have a specific belief in the nonexistence of leprechauns. To do so, one would need to travel all the known universe, seeking out leprechauns. Luckily, you do not need to embark on any sorts of dauntingly large quests for leprechauns, unicorns, etc. This is because we do not need to disprove something's existence to lack belief in it; we'd still have a long way to go if we did. The default position is skepticism- doubt rather than stubborn, blind belief. If your default position is not skepticism, I'd ask you to take a look at the progress made by scientists in the past few hundred years; skepticism has been working out pretty well so far.
This is why, whenever a believer asks me why I do not believe in God, I say, "Why should I?"