I also plan on writing a post about atheism vs. agnosticism as I want to hear from those who have chosen one above the other and why.
Given my druthers, I’d call myself a “freethinker,” because it’s nice and broad and I like the historical continuity of it. But it’s not specific enough for most folks, which means that I just get followup questions.
At this point, I honestly identify myself with atheism as a social movement more than as part of my personal identity. The fact that I don’t believe in a deity is not a big part of my life. Unlike some other folks, I never had an emotional crisis tied to my deconversion. In my case it was just a gradual letting go. The fact that I no longer attend church is about as meaningful to me as the fact that I no longer listen to the same bands as I did in college.
Leaving the church had little impact, but I do keenly feel the fact that I’m now part of a minority. I’m a big fan of America’s liberal tradition, which I like to trace back to James Madison’s attempts to create a government that would protect the individual rights of the minority from the powers of the majority. Madison didn’t get his way at first, and the country has been gradually completing his mission for a couple of centuries now. I think that has always been the mission of the Freethought movement, and it’s a goal I’d like to think I’m helping to work toward.
I call myself an atheist and I accept the connotations of it: I don’t believe in the personal deities usually described as Gods by the majority of religious practitioners. We could now go on to split hairs and parse definitions, but I see no point. Perhaps there is a personal deity that is hiding, or perhaps there is something stranger and more alien that is powerful enough to be called a deity, but in either case it doesn’t fit the majority’s definition of a God.
I am aware that there are other understandings of God and faith, but they’ve just never worked for me, and I don’t think they’re part of our discussion with Viola. (That said, I should probably go back and read Dynamics of Faith again. I haven’t read it since college.)
Anyway, that’s my two cents. There’s more to Viola’s comment, but he’s planning to write more on his reasons for following Christ, so I’ll respond as they arrive.