I wouldn't call myself an atheist, personally. Some people would, but I suppose that depends on how you define God. I consider myself an agnostic.
I'm positive that the Abrahamic God (or any other established deities supposedly vested in human affairs) doesn't exist. However, the idea of the universe being created by an abstract intelligent prime mover is something I don't think could ever be fully proven or disproven. Even if such a being did exist, mind you, I doubt an entity with the power to craft galaxies would have much need for the satisfaction of worship.
There is an idea prevalent with quite a few people that, to be non-religious, you must also be anti-religious. Theists aren't the only ones guilty of this ludicrous belief. Quite a large number of atheists out there seem determined to patronize anyone (even agnostics!) whose beliefs fail to fall in line with their own. For added irony, these same people often criticize religion for promoting intolerance! I myself went through a particularly unpleasant bout of this back in high school.
Discovering atheism wasn't hard for me. As a child, I adored books of mythology. I was familiar with Greco-Roman myths, Egyptian myths, and Norse myths. When I read the Bible, it was no great stretch to realize I was reading Hebrew myths. The Bible even shares elements with many of the myths of other cultures. Samson and Hercules both killed a lion with their bare hands, for example.
However, the fact that I bring up mythology is important. I know that the Olympian pantheon does not exist. I know that Zeus, Poseidon, Hermes, and all these other gods are no more than inventions of man. And while some may criticize the Bible as a poor source of morality, I can verify that the tales of the Greek gods are much worse. And yet, in spite of all these facts, I loved these old stories, and I still do today. I've written a whole novel filled with Greco-Roman mythological symbolism, and my next novel will contain even more. Why, then, should I be forbidden to extend this same appreciation towards the stories of less forgotten gods?
Although I am not a Christian in any sense, I must carry at least some respect for it as an artist. A world without Christianity would be a world without the sculptures of Michelangelo, without the cantatas of Bach, without Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost, to say nothing of the literary merits of The Bible itself. I'm not sure if I would want to live in a world like that. And while it's true that many people use religion to justify all sorts of unpleasant behavior, that is simply human nature at work. I can promise that in a world without religion, the people in the Westboro Baptist Church would still be assholes. They'd just be assholes in a different way.
As "Per Astra Ad Aspera" nears its release (or at least I hope), my mind is already beginning to look towards my third novel. Although I'm not at liberty to go into too many details regarding it, it will contain religious themes. And as the idea was first formed during my aforementioned high school phase, its original conception was somewhat...biased. I've grown since then, and yet I still want to make this novel. Is it possible to do the idea justice? How do I discuss religion without seeming unfair about it? How do I attack it without being prejudiced? How do I praise it without crossing the line into belief myself? Religion's a tricky subject, there's no questioning that. But I think I managed to be pretty fair writing a blog post on religion, which leaves me a little more confident when it comes to tackling a whole novel on the subject.
But I'm not touching politics with a ten-foot pole.