In the ten years since I found out my friend was gay, I've slowly lost my belief altogether. Part of the reason the belief appealed to me so much as a child was that it was comforting. It was a way to deal with the death of my mother, and it was source of self-esteem—I basked in the thought of how much God must love me. But as I get older, I want less and less to believe that peace can be found in the hereafter, and that I am special in the eyes of God. Instead, my personal creed that there is no hereafter means that we have to try and alleviate suffering now, that life is meant to be enjoyed by ALL and we can not stand idly by in the face of oppression. We can not wait for some merciful or kind God to bring us happiness and joy after we die--we must create our own happiness here, and help build a world where people do not kill each other and our institutions do not keep people afraid.
We have tried for over a thousand years, as a species, teaching people that killing people and holding others below yourself, and being indifferent to the suffering of others was wrong because God said so. I think we can firmly conclude that that strategy was a dismal failure. Instead, the zeal created by religious conviction has led people to hurt others in the name of God.
Many people have a moral center that resides in their religious upbringing. This leads other (stupid) people to claim that atheists must have no morals. I always find this funny, because my moral code, my sense of justice, fairness, and love, is what led me to repudiate religion, and my belief in God, in the first place.
I don't want a moral code that is based on what God or Jesus thinks or wants or demands. I want a human moral code that is based on love and fairness--on not leaving anyone behind, nor accepting that some people are just going to suffer in poverty or illness or pain. And I think God is a distraction from all that--a distraction from the responsibility we all hold toward one another to make this life a life of joy.
"This world," "this life." Yes!