I believe two varieties of atheists exist, which I call “small-A” and “big-A.” Small-A atheists comprise more or less ALL atheists; small-A atheism is simply the fact of not believing in any gods or practicing any theistic religion (at least, not with the understanding that any of it is real in any sense but cultural).
All big-A Atheists are small-A atheists, but only some small-A atheists are big-A Atheists. To be a big-A Atheist is to embrace the counter-culture surrounding atheism, to recognize it as a part of who you are, and to be as outspoken about it as is comfortable for each. The big, red A that so many of us display in our various corners of the social network, on our cars or cubicle walls (for those living in states where such wouldn’t get you lynched) – that’s one good example of what represents big-A Atheism. It is not only a lack of belief, but a form of expression for the sparse few of us dotted like lighthouses around seas of theists, cranks, crackpots and the terminally incurious.
Weaving the significance of this into my own life, there is one reason and one reason alone that I’m a small-A atheist: there has never been, nor is there likely to ever be, evidence to support the existence of any single one of the gods proposed in all the world, by all of mankind, through all of history. I do not believe in any gods because I have absolutely no reason to believe in them.
The reasons I am a big-A Atheist, however, are almost inexhaustible:
For every personal achievement someone credits entirely to his invisible stepdad . . .
For every Christian in my country who mourns the persecution of his humble people because I won’t let him force my child to pray in a public school . . .
For every state governed by sanctimonious white men in suits who hate consequence-free sex (except for themselves and other white males) . . .
For the woman who has to have “slut!” and “murderer!” screamed into her face when she’s only going into the clinic for a check-up . . .
For the woman who isn’t even lucky enough to HAVE such a clinic because her state defunded them all in a fit of anti-abortion hysteria . . .
For every female who has ever been lashed or stoned for the “crimes” of falling in love or being raped . . .
For every child who has ever died because his parents’ beliefs forbade appropriate treatment . . .
For every church or temple without a single female leader . . .
For every gay child whose parents “love” the Old Testament God more than him . . .
For every building toppled, plane crashed, structure bombed, and person killed to enforce a religious ideal . . .
For every man who can cheer a state execution yet call himself “pro-life” with a straight face . . .
For every person who is comfortable worshiping a deity who has proven to be less moral than his own arch-enemy . . .
For every minute of life human beings waste agonizing over what will happen after their deaths, and SO very much more . . .
I’m an Atheist.