I found myself vigorously nodding along to Susan Jacoby's recent Op-Ed in the NY Times, The Blessings of Atheism.
In it she contemplates how, "the most powerful force holding us [atheists] back is our own reluctance to speak, particularly at moments of high national drama and emotion, with the combination of reason and passion needed to erase the image of the atheist as a bloodless intellectual robot." For example, in the aftermath of the Newton massacre or Hurricane Sandy.
I think her following point is especially important:
It is primarily in the face of suffering, whether the tragedy is individual or collective, that I am forcefully reminded of what atheism has to offer. When I try to help a loved one losing his mind to Alzheimer’s, when I see homeless people shivering in the wake of a deadly storm, when the news media bring me almost obscenely close to the raw grief of bereft parents, I do not have to ask, as all people of faith must, why an all-powerful, all-good God allows such things to happen....It is a positive blessing, not a negation of belief, to be free of what is known as the theodicy problem...The atheist is free to concentrate on the fate of this world — whether that means visiting a friend in a hospital or advocating for tougher gun control laws — without trying to square things with an unseen overlord in the next.
(The bold emphasis is mine.)
Read the whole piece here. And if you haven't ever read something by Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or Susan Jacoby, give it a go. Their unabashed atheism will seem absolutely shocking compared to the usual Judeo-Christian tone we so often take on here in America.