Atheism for me is freedom. The freedom to question, to think critically, to form conclusions based on evidence, to not be subject to dogmatic belief. Given that I have an incredibly strong, deep-seated curiosity about more or less everything, religious belief is simply not sustainable for me, given its utter lack of meaningful, verifiable answers.
In short - being an atheist doesn't make me feel anything, really; it's my feeling of wanting to know more that makes me an atheist.
It is interesting to me how my surroundings and the environment in which I grew up shaped what I today consider to be my view of things. I was baptized and did all the ceremonies or what you call them because it was part of tradition. However, in my part of the world, religion is not so "reflective", that is, it is something you do because you were taught you should. This has a positive aspect of there not being too many fundamentalists or religiously orthodox, but also a negative aspect of a large number of "believers" being hypocrites. I noticed this very early on in my life. My family never forced me to accept or deny religion, but I was always encouraged in asking questions about things which interested me. When I was 8 or 9, two Jehovah`s witnesses came to my house and gave me a child`s bible. I read through all of it in a matter of days and told them to come back because I wanted to ask them some questions. When they came back about a week later I asked them a bunch of questions and they politely answered every single one until I asked this: "How could have Holy Mary remained a virgin AFTER she had given birth to Jesus?" After which they said they needed to go and never came back. A similar thing happened years later when I went to talk with the head priest of my parish (not sure of the terminology here) and on several other occasions. The reason why I left any kind of religious belief behind me is not because of some kind of disillusionment, epiphany or any other type of melodramatic event. I simply did not wish for things to limit me and forbid me from asking questions when I am already, as a human being, limited in what I can do in this world.
I find it my only purpose in life to constantly better myself as a person and as a scholar in such a way as to have the highest possible benefits from it for, firstly, myself, and then also for other people as well. I wish to develop my interests, identity and knowledge of things to the point where no person can distort the reality which I constantly try to grasp. To look for reasons and purposes of things within the scope of rational thinking and science is hard and long, but fruitful in the end. To find instant meaning and explanation is easy and instant, but deluded. So being an atheist for me means taking on the responsibility of living the best possible life while taking care not to diminish the quality of the lives of others, to never stop at a conclusion because it suits our ego and to strip away all things which prevent us from persevering in any of these
Looking at the Universe through the filter of religion makes it really hard to see and understand the magnificence of the world we live in. Having your world constrained by the limitations placed on it by faith and religion makes it so trivial compared with the grandeur we see around us with science and knowledge. I feel sorry for those who cannot see past their religion....
Unburdening myself of the superstition of religion took a great weight off. I not only could see the world through newfound scientific eyes, but I no longer had to look over my shoulder for the guy in the sky to judge whatever I was doing or thinking.
To me, faith is a bad word.
I feel more comfortable with myself now that I am completely open about my atheism. While I have never actually believed in "god" or been a member of a church, I used to try to "fit in" with the religious crowd. Why? Well, even though my head was screaming at me that those people were insane to believe such things, I was curious about how happy they appeared...With themselves and life in general.
Now I know that the supposed happiness was in most cases a farce, though some of it might have been that they were confident about themselves, no matter how deluded they may have been.
I think I've found a tolerable level of satisfaction within my own life through giving up thinking that I needed to change my beliefs, or pigeon hole myself into any specific mode of thought. Nowadays, I'm happy with who I am, and confident in my own NON belief.
I find my atheism to be more freeing. Rather than worrying about dogmatic baggage or constantly invoking, praying to, or trying to appease god/gods, I just live my life.
While I was trying to fit into religion, I was struggling with a lot of displaced anger from my past. No amount of praying or pastoral counseling helped. I don't attribute my anger to religion, but I realize it didn't help me. Since I've rejected religion, I've developed a more realist attitude that somehow helped me let all that go.
Perhaps things got better because I'm no longer rehashing all my problems for a pity party prayer group. :D
I know someone well-known has said something similar to what I'm about to say (albeit in a more eloquent manner), but I cannot remember his name...
Atheism does not make me feel differently about life; the knowledge brought about through science shapes my feelings about life and the universe. Just imagining how I am made from the very stuff of the universe, how billions of years ago the electrons, neutrons, and protons in my body were part of an immense star (or even multiple stars), fills me with a sense of awe. This idea fills me with a sense of camaraderie not only with my fellow homo sapiens, but also with the animals, the plants, the insects, the microbes, the rocks, the water, the oxygen, etc. I feel like part of the universe, not a separate entity for which the universe was created.
I really like that. It's a great mindset.