When a person embraces true atheism, they embrace the belief that there is no God, and therefore the belief that anyone who believes in the existence of any sort of God must be wrong. It is important to discuss the issue of defining God, because for all of the possible things that God could be that do not exist—for example: if God is defined as a seven-headed beast on the dark side of the moon who controls the Universe, then I would certainly agree that God does not exist—there are an infinite number of ways to define a God that does exist.
My own understanding of God begins simply with the fact that I live and breathe from one day to the next, and the life that I have was not something that I could give to myself. As a result of the fact that my parents were living, even though they had not created themselves, I was born. None of us has anything without the life that came to us, a gift from fate, chance, random accident, destiny, the Universe, or “God, the life-giver.” And just saying that “God gave me this life” does not necessarily imply that God is intelligent or all-powerful or the God of Abraham or the Father of Jesus or some Great Judge who will condemn me for doing anything that makes the Pope feel uncomfortable or any of that stuff. It means simply this: it is a function of the universe to provide life to all that lives, whether it is strictly through physics and chemistry or by the results of plans made by some Grand Architect who exists outside of the universe (space and time). I live and breathe and eat food and fuck and have an intellect and a capacity for reason, and all of these things came to me from somewhere else, and I have at my disposal the entire world around me with which I can make choices about what I will do with my life. I personally define God as the agent responsible for giving me all that I have, including this Universe to play in, so NO ONE can say that God does not exist, because my existence verifies the fact that something caused me to exist (that infinite string of events leading up to my birth and the existence of the universe in which it occurred). I believe that God is loving and caring because love, which can be defined as simply ‘life energy’ came to me and made me a living being, and care, e.g. air to breathe and food to eat, etc., also are here as a result of those same processes that are responsible for my presence in the first place. Again, I reiterate that this has nothing to do with whether or not God is conscious or aware of what he has done or whether or not this thing was planned or impromptu, but the world and this Universe exist and I in it, so I am supremely confident in saying that I have been loved (given life) and cared for (given the means to sustain life) by some agent or force, even if that is simply chance or fate, and I call that agent or force God, and regardless of what I call it, it still exists.
Finally, to take it a little bit further, all that love (life energy—not only given to me in the form of the fact that I am alive and continue to live, but also in the willingness to live that comes to me when I enjoy life, often the result of other people around me loving me, agents carrying out God’s will that I be loved) and all that care (all those things that keep me going from one day to the next) are things that I can choose to deny or reject. Food is constantly available to me and I can choose to not do the work to get it, and other people can make the choice to prevent me from getting it. In both cases, God’s care is present but I am not receiving it as a result of human choices. All humans are capable of being agents of God’s will (i.e. loving and caring) or of being hindrances to God’s will (esp. self-centeredness that stands in the way of our ability to love ourselves and/or others)…we have the choice to either aid the Universe in giving and nurturing life or to prevent life from blooming and destroy life. The rest of life in the Universe seems to be capable of acting only in life-supporting courses of action, and even where some life is destroyed and/or harmed, it only serves the purpose of continuing life in some other form (lion kills deer, eats dear, lives for another day). Humans have the capacity to choose a course of action that harms/destroys life without adding to life in some other form. I firmly believe that it is a function of all life to be loving and caring and act in ways that add to life and allow it to flourish, and even humans have that drive (conscience), but we are also capable of subverting that drive in self-interest, thinking that by taking and hoarding and preventing life from flourishing we can control it and make it ours and not ever lose it. This is insanity—we fret about whether or not we will get what we need to survive in a world where more than we could ever need is available, but our desires tell us that we need more and we must escape the cycle of death and rebirth and gain immortality by assuming control of a universe that abhors internal controls. We are incredibly foolish in our failure to realize that we will die just as all other forms of life do, and our death will provide life elsewhere in the universe, both through our organic bodies that will decompose and rejoin the cycle of life and through the repercussions of our loving actions that have the potential to encourage (human) life to flourish long after we’ve gone, if we’ve done things during our time that are such testaments to love and care and good will. Our foolishness prevents us from recognizing that our absurd fear of dying (more self-centeredness: we try to place conditions on God’s love for us—”if God really loved me, he wouldn’t let me die/suffer”) cause much more death and destruction than any natural chain of events ever has. Our souls, I believe, are the agents that make the choice between love and self-centeredness, thus to follow a spiritual path allows us to live in loving, caring ways, instead of the self-centered ways marked by fear and anxiety that were more responsible for any pain and suffering we endured than God would’ve ever laid at our feet. The difference between gratitude and entitlement become clear: those with gratitude are content to be able to live another day and take advantage of all that they have; those who feel a sense of entitlement experience anger and resentment about the fact that they must die someday and because they do not have all that they want. When I am grateful for what I have, I am able to use it responsibly, but when I feel that I am entitled to have my desires met, I become chained to my desires and I suffer greatly.
I believe that we all must make an effort to understand the universe if we are going to try to live well in it. The words “God” and “Higher Power” are simply very convenient ways to convey the idea that the universe provides us with love and care. Our failure to recognize this fact is often the source of pain, suffering, and sorrow. Not everyone has to find a “God” to believe in. But if we all would make a point of recognizing that the universe supplies us with all that we need until we pass on, we will be much more capable of accepting the love and care that the universe provides. We will be much better at using that love and care responsibly to nourish ourselves, spiritually and materially. We will be much more willing to pass the rest along and use our lives to add to the strength of the love and care in the universe, instead of detracting from it.