Actually I’m an agnostic, not an atheist. I feel it is important to draw the distinction because atheism is, itself, a religious belief system; it holds emphatically that there is no god. This is as without foundation as any theistic belief system, since no human being has enough information about the universe to be able to make any concrete judgement, positive or negative, about the existence of any putative cosmic entity.
My own belief system is based on logical extrapolation of the behaviour of living organisms: viz, that there is a high probability of a universal consciousness (which we could call “god” for want of a better name.) My basis for this belief stems from observing that organic chemicals coalesce into cells, cells form organs, organs form organisms, organisms form species, species form biosystems (also known as a “Gaia” to living-planet adherents). Continuing this chain of reasoning, one could see that other planetary biosystems could ultimately interact to form galactic conglomerates, and ultimately one universal, cosmic entity. Our own innate desire to reach the stars (very likely shared by any other intelligent civilisation capabable of perceiving the universe) seems to me to be the driving force towards the coalescence of such an entity.
Thus, my belief system is almost the reverse of most theistic belief systems: that is, the universe appears to be currently in the process of creating, or evolving, a “god”.
There is no “faith” in my belief system. If it turns out to be proven incorrect by scientific method, then it gets dumped. This does not mean that I misplace onus of proof, since my belief system is an argument and a hypothesis based on observed facts, not an experimentally demonstrable scientific theory. It is founded solely on extrapolative reasoning, and it places no moral burden on me to follow it.
Morality, to me, is a simple social contract made only with other human beings. My morality is no more or less than this one simple rule: I give back what I get, and I expect back what I give.
I am always open to other belief systems, as long as there is sound logical resoning behind them. I will accept nothing on faith, or just because some book tells me something is so. To accept a belief system, I require:
1) A statement defining the belief system; 2) A reasoned argument establishing a logical case for the existence of the belief system; 3) Observational evidence of the real world that is effectively explained by the belief system; and 4) A demonstrated willingness by adherents of the belief system to revise such parts of it as can be shown to be untenable.
So I am not an atheist. But I’m not a religionist either. I make no claims about the origins of the universe. I only try to fit as much of its vastness into a single human brain as best I can.
An atheist doesn’t have to believe there is no god, but can merely not be convinced that there is a god. You sound like you might be that kind of atheist (even if you prefer the term agnostic).
Your “cosmic entity” idea is interesting, although I consider it highly unlikely in that I don’t believe your extrapolation follows necessarily.
I think your stated morality is consistent, but a little unfortunate. Only giving back what you get may make it harder to improve the world around you.
I also doubt that you accept nothing on faith. Most of us accept a certain amount of things on faith, and as an atheist I attempt to minimize the number of those things. For example, I take the existence of the universe on faith. However, I won’t pretend to speak for you on this subject.
I find your rules for the acceptance of a belief system interesting. Personally, I have two rules that I feel must apply to any acceptable system of thought — a belief system must not contradict itself, and it must not condemn others who use the same thought processes. Beyond that, it’s generally a matter of personal preference and degree of skepticism.