Most people do not choose their religion, but are born into it. I am one of the lucky ones who had a choice. Therefore, I, for one, did actually spend time reading about religion and spiritual enlightenment and all sort of other things through meditation and other means and anything that could give some meaning to this life and our existence. At the end, I came to the conclusion that there is no god and religion is man made in order to control the masses and it is one of the best ways to make money, e.g., Vatican is one of the richest institutions in the world, so much money is made out of Hadj, the shrines are filled with money. Not even mafia collectively has made as much money as religion nor has killed as many as religion. Basically, all of south America was wiped out by religion. Missionaries in Africa did very well too; in Africa they used to say, we had the land and they had the bible and now we have the bible and they have the land. In Hawaii, the do-gooders ended up doing really well.
I believe, the philosophy of those who believe in god is that they were born for a purpose and this purpose cannot end with death. Therefore, the afterlife stage enters into the equation, since our creator would not simply let us vanish. Now here we have someone that we owe our existence to and there is a purpose in all of this, therefore, we must obey whatever he says in order to be on his good side and make a reservation for a good seat for afterlife. So, I think religion is based on fear of a gentle and kind god that better not get angry. The focal point of religion is therefore the belief in afterlife.
Atheists, do not have an obligation to fulfill god’s wishes – also since they are not believers, they take matters into their own hands, think and define themselves rather than depend on some authority to define them. Usually we find strong personalities amongst atheists. Also, the atheists that I know are more moral than any religious person I have known, of course this is an over-generalization, but the point I am trying to make is that you can be atheist and have the so called moral values. I am saying so called because I believe morality is subjective and depends on the circumstances of the situation.
There is this theory that since believers rely on the afterlife, they can probably endure suffering more than non-believers as they look forward to reward and a better life after they die. Therefore, psychologically, they may be better suited to accept failures and disappointments in life. However, most noticeably in the western society, even though they believe they are going to a better place after they die, they want to delay this event as much as possible. In particular, in the US, religious people cling to life more than others, which is puzzling to me. If I thought I was going to a better place, reason would dictate that I should hurry to get there. But reason and religion don’t necessarily go hand in hand, i.e., it is faith and should be accepted and not questioned. On the other hand, philosophers constantly look for reason and ask the whys.
I don’t know whether or not Socrates was an atheist, but he has the characteristic of one and I believe an atheist is more in line with the belief that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” This is due to taking responsibility for what action we take, we define ourselves and shape ourselves and in a way become our own creator. So, you can think of this as we are the god (our own god).
I think the best we can do is ask ourselves questions. Sometimes we can answer them and sometimes not. By questioning and examining ourselves we are seeking the truth and that is the best we can do and maybe that is our purpose!!!!
The reason why we have so much problem in the middle-east is due to the fact that Moses, Jesus and Mohammad were born there. Next time if someone claims to have spoken to god, I hope his message would be, god told me himself that there is no god!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!