Thanks to everyone for the welcomes and comments.
Bonsai, there is never anything wrong with an atheist challenging a religious person on their convictions. If the person is really set in their views and have done their homework, they will be open to it. At least they should be.
I didn't stay atheist for too much longer after that. But I am nothing like the religious Witnesses or Fundies of American Evangelicalism either. I knew that if I ever felt there was even a slight reason to even consider going down the path in adopting a religious path it would have to be adopted along lines foreign to the Watchtower experience.
My views are that if there is a God, then that God doesn't pass out merit or rewards because people mentally acknowledge God's existence. That sounds more like Mormonism, that if you just have the right amount of faith then you are right with God.
The God I think exists didn't create us to "just believe" anymore than God created the stars and planets to believe. I cannot be as perfect as the stars of the cosmos that faithfully follow their paths in such perfection that one can predetermine where they will be at a set time in the future and not be disappointed in how perfect they obey their course.
These inanimate objects in the heavens are more faithful that I am or can ever be, and if there is a Creator, then they are epitomes of perfection while I am not. They are perfect and faithful and do this without having the capacity to believe a thing. If there is a God, then God did not design them to believe or demand their belief as a requisite of their comparatively eternal existence.
I think religion is not a requisite for all humans. Not everyone is supposed to be a believer. Not all people have the capacity or need it to be exactly what they are here to be, whatever that is. If there is a God, then God planned atheists, made them, gave them the gift of their reason and logic, and the courage to take their stand.
Many religious people are unreasonable, selfish, hateful, and a lot that I have met while a Witness and even afterward are downright evil! These people need others to call them out. Did atheists stone the Jewish prophets? Did atheists condemn Joan of Arc to be burned at the stake, and then murder her that way for, of all things, merely talking to God? No. Religious people kill their own heroes.
Belief in God is not necessarily worth much. If there is a God then what good is merely belief in that God's existence? Again the stars are more faithful to God than people who claim they believe in God. Didn't even James write in his epistle: "You claim to believe in God, do you? All well and good, but so do the demons. They tremble with fear for it, too."--James 2:19, my direct rendition from the Greek.
It is not enough for good people among the religious to stand up for what is right. They often get trampled for it. And the believers often do nothing good until it is too late. Were not the first to liberate the Jews from the concentration camps the so-called "godless communists" of the Soviet army? Is God found in the worshiping believers who stood by and did nothing as millions were murdered via genocide, or is there God of real substance in the liberators who bend their knee to no deity by any name? I will take God in the form of an atheist who is good, kind, loving and just--and logical--over a believer who is dishonest, unjust, hateful and belligerent any day.
I became a professional liturgist for a church for a short time after leaving the Witnesses since my education included some academic theology and I really came to appreciate Liturgical prep. Most Christian churches employ a liturgical calendar and can't run without this very complex position being filled. It requires a lot of discipline and study.
But this church I went to work for was filled with bad people. Little did I realize, the church members resented the pastor for hiring an outsider (though liturgists are generally always outside specialists since it is somewhat of science in its own right, and most average church goers don't know anything about it). When the pastor went on a sabbatical, the church members had me fired. I sent some emails to the pastor to explain what had happened but never heard back. A position in commercial copywriting opened up, and I took it.
A year later I heard back from the pastor. My being let go was an action against church polity and even illegal, so when the pastor returned she immediately began a search for me to try to set things right. The leadership of the denomination got involved, and were very eager to do something about it.
While that sounds like things turned around, and some good was done, what I learned from the process revealed details that were awful. The emails I sent to the pastor never got to her. Church board members devised a plan to hack into the pastor's computer and intercept anything that might come from me via email. They not only erased my emails but had plans ready in the event I sent mail to her or anyone else in the religion's fellowship. They made up false stories about me and agreed to tell them to the pastor upon her return, and they even threatened and persecuted members who discovered what they had done and wanted to report them.
All this was uncovered and explained to me. I was disgusted. The pastor voluntarily left and the denomination allowed the church to go without a pastor and dissolve due to the board's actions.
Of course not everyone was bad. The people who tried to report the issues weren't, neither the pastor. But a lot of other people--a lot of them--were not any better for all their faith and belief.
Why would a theist openly tell a board populated by many atheists of how evil church people can be? Doesn't it hurt my case of being religious? Well that's just it. My beliefs don't define me. My actions do.
I don't believe in "belief." I don't believe in creeds. I don't believe that faith in things is all you need or that a divinity hands out merit and reward for mental acknowledgment or mental acceptance of this doctrine and that teaching. I think faithfulness like the stars is better than faith in the head or heart. I think it is best to do good than merely believe in good. All the belief in God won't feed another who is hungry, and that everybody deserves to be treated honorably, with respect, and cared for not on the basis of their creed but on because of the fact that they are fellow humans.
Sure, call me out this. I think you should. I want to be better than I am. I am certain I am mistaken here and there, maybe in some very large places I can't see. I need that. I want it. I might go into a little denial at first, but I put quite a few things in place to prevent me from staying there since I left the Witnesses behind.
We need voices of logic and intelligence in the world. I don't care if they are the voices of atheist or not. I just want them to be honest and true. I will love them for being just what they are. And since I know there is a God, I don't think God will deny me these voices I so greatly need, even if they come from atheists.