I just sent an e-mail requesting to join the atheist blogroll. This is because I'm about as devout an atheist as you can get. The whole topic of religion has always fascinated me, and I believe that some people who are religious are actually good people. I am a good person....but I just am not religious, and never have been.
The Blogroll lists the Atheist Jew blog. That's not me, exactly, but sort of. I wasn't raised in a Jewish home. My father was Jewish (his family came here in the early 20th century from Germany), and my mother was a Holocaust refugee, who fled Austria for New York in 1938. She was half-Catholic, on her mother's side, so technically, I am not Jewish. The Atheist Jew blog defines Judaism: "A Jew is any person whose mother was a Jew, or any person who has gone through the formal process of conversion to Judaism." I would add that a "Jew" could be any person who would have been so defined by the Nazi race laws. There are those Jews that do not consider themselves Jewish, but would have suffered persecution nonetheless. That anti-Semitic persecution is very real to me, because I've experienced a minor version of it, and I am aware that my mother's family experienced the most intense version.
So, I have no problem with people that identify with a certain religion because, like them, I am not a practicing Jew but see value in identification with that religious group. In this way, to me, religion is mainly a social institution. All religions strike me thus. Even Fundamentalist Christianity seems like a fairly logical life choice if you live in a place like the Deep South, where there is better socialization for religious Christian people. Indeed, a lot of the dialogue and culture focuses on religion. So, if that were my whole frame of reference, I may have felt the same way.
That is the conundrum of religion. Religion provides the most banal, mundane social institutions for humanity. That is the dark secret of religion, which religious people rarely freely admit.
Growing up, I never regretted being an atheist, but I regretted not understanding the religion of those around me. I learned several languages by high school, and had traveled around Europe. I felt as though religious people were just like foreigners, whose culture was yet to be understood by me. This understanding was especially important to me because the great majority of those around me were religious Christians, at least to some extent. My friends and other peers were mostly nominally Christian. The idea that people like me were motivated by religion baffled me. I also felt excluded from social institutions, and wanted to understand how to manipulate them.
As a young child (like when I wrote the blogs below), I was musical. Church was a great outlet for my musicality. I actually sang in a Catholic choir at St. Catherine of Siena church. Church music has always deeply affected me, and it was exhilarating to sing in a choir. I frequently played cello in church musical performances like Messiah and Noah's Flood.