I had this substitute teacher, you see.
What grade it was, and his name, I don't remember. I don't even remember what class it was for. It was probably late middle school, or early high school. I sort of recall that he was vaguely hippie-ish, a young guy. The one thing I do recall quite clearly is what he said, because it changed my life.
This is what he said.
"If someone, ANYONE, tells you something, always ask yourself...is it true?"
A simple enough concept, but it honestly hadn't occured to me before. Sometimes I wish I had never heard those words. I wonder sometimes what it would be like to be happily deluded. Believing the things I want to believe, because the President said them, because the Bible said them, because somebody forwarded an email to me, because somebody posted a YouTube video that said so...to believe in anything without question. To have faith.
I don't have a preponderance of faith in much of anything. Substitute teacher guy opened my eyes a little too widely.
That said, although I'm not a fan of organized religion, I do believe in some kind of divine energy, as much as I can believe in anything. I look around me, I see it and feel it. Maybe it's a delusion, but I like it. It comforts me, even if I don't know for sure if it exists, and if it does, what form it takes. I guess I lean too far towards wanting to believe to call myself an agnostic. I'm more of an I-don't-know-ist, honestly.
Which brings us around, at last, to atheism.
I was having an alcohol-fueled (and thusly impaired) friendly discussion with a friend a while back about it, and it made me realize what I see to be a gaping hole in the argument in favor of atheism. "Many self-described atheists" says Wikipedia, "are skeptical of all supernatural beings and cite a lack of empirical evidence for the existence of deities." I don't remember exactly how my friend was putting it, but the gist of her side of the discussion was that there was indeed no way to prove that God does exist, so thus God does not exist.
This, to me, is not logically sound.
Although no one can offer definitive proof that God does exist, the converse is also true. You can not definitively prove the NON-existance of God, either. I mean, if I'm wrong either way, I'm certainly willing to learn, but without absolute empirical proof of the non-existance of a deity, I can't accept atheism as any more (or less) valid than Catholicism, Islam, Sun God Worship, or the belief that Elvis is still alive. No matter how you dress it up in science or the illusion of skeptical thought, atheism still comes down to a leap of faith. You have to just believe in your heart that there is no God, accepting evidence that is just as anecdotal as any religious testimony.
"Is it true?" Hell, I don't know. And I'm absolutely certain that I don't know. That much I can have faith in.