This essay is obsolete. I have reformulated most of this thought as part of 'Antagnosticism'. I'll be describing that more soon enough, although you may have to wait until I finish the book. This document remains as a bit of history in the development of what shall surely become the world's next great non-religion.
This was my experience. Don't assume it relates to yours, but try to understand. I am going to use the pronoun you in place of I occasionally here, and don't make the mistake of thinking that I am actually talking about you. I can't speak one word to your experience.
Nothing teaches you faith in god like the lack of faith from the ones you love. And nothing teaches you love like the lack of love from those you have faith in. I do not miss the irony that it took the most awful feelings in my life for me to re-formulate god. I am well aware what this says about faith. You must understand how powerfully atheistic I was for this to make any sense. Who cares where faith comes from, most have it, some don't, so what? It is impossible to connect on a meaningful level with other living creatures when your ego is the supreme being. Atheists cannot understand this. I could not.
The power of my atheism came partly from my intellectual battery of all churches and organized worship, partly because of the youthful age at which it began. When I was eight I told god I needed to see a miracle, that the absence of a miracle would seal my lack of faith forever and that if he didn't come through for me right then he would have an enemy evermore. Weird? Funny? Ironic? Give me a small break, I was only eight, and my situation had some dreadful aspects I could do nothing about. Still does. Will so long as I live. And I still had some very Catholic ideas. That god could be petitioned by prayer, that miracles should happen, that god must care what became of my immortal soul. I can tell you from a position of faith now what was wrong with that. Firstly, as you are part of god and god is a part of you, any petitions should first be to the self, one must change everything within one's power before external intervention can help. Secondly, god has very little interest in petitions, too many subjective, conflicting needs. Thirdly, miracles happen when they are unexpected, usually when they are uncalled for, and even often when they are inconvenient and can not accomplish the prayer's desired effect. And finally, the soul is immortal, but it isn't mine. I've borrowed it from god and must return it. If I experience hell it will be while manifested as a living creature, not while my essence is with god.
This kind of talk would have made me puke. Such weakness, such abdication. I knew with utter conviction that god did not exist. I loved to argue about it and I just thought that believers were stupid and lacked the wits to arrive at my state of enlightenment. Too some degree I still do, it's funny. I think that most atheists are the best and brightest of us. Very smart people have trouble coming to grips with something that is empirically unprovable. It may in fact be due to the diminution of my intellectual capacities due to drugs and asphyxia that my mind has become weakened enough to see god. Not that I was ever that bright, but I could reason my way to a universe without god. Very easily, actually. And I had a strange, deep resentment for those who couldn't. I needed to argue with them, needed to dismiss them to myself. This is why I tell my atheistic friends that their atheism is still theism. I was as rabid an anti-chrisian as the most uptight born again christian is a rabid christian. And I certainly still understand that sentiment, organized religions are, by and large, Very Bad Things. But that's not a valid cause to refute god.
This is actually just a matter of semantics, as much of my thought is. I have redefined god so that I can believe in something for comfort. God is whatever you need it to be. God is the universe, god is life, god is you. Refute hate. Refute bigotry. Refute discrimination.
Or go home?