I’m a skeptic. This doesn’t mean anything much more than that I strive to hold only beliefs that are supported with evidence (following established rules of logic, critical thinking, and the scientific method), and I don’t put much stock in “blind faith”. The less secure the evidence, the less firmly held should the belief be.
The skeptic philosophy leads me to lack belief in God or gods, which also makes me an atheist. But atheism doesn’t particularly impress me. If you tell me you’re an atheist, it doesn’t tell me anything about you that I particularly care to know.
I’ve met a number of other atheists, and agnostics, and they run the gamut in personality, character, and basically any belief other than “is there a God?”. I’ve met compassionate, caring atheists. I’ve met asshole atheists. I’ve met atheists and agnostics that believe in the healing power of magnets, or that asthma is a medical hoax, or who latch onto every new conspiracy theory that crosses the ether.
Atheism just means you and I agree on one thing—and it’s not even a particularly important thing. I don’t care whether you believe in God—at least until you decide that I must too, or use it to justify how you treat other people, or to dictate what they ought to do. If you tell me that you believe in God, or that you don’t, or that you don’t have a positive belief either way, I still don’t know if you’re smart or dumb, kind or cruel, generous or selfish, or even if you’re capable of critical thinking, or accepting of every idea that comes down your way.
I do prize skepticism when I encounter it, a great deal more than simply “atheism”, because it at least tells me that you support critical thinking and reason, and that you’re not willing to simply accept what people tell you. This is why I was very happy to find that a nearby meetup group for freethinkers called themselves the Central Valley Alliance of Atheists and Skeptics; because I find it very helpful to find a group of folks that identify themselves as skeptics, not just atheists. Especially there are plenty of things that benefit from applied skepticism, besides the question of a god’s existence.
But it still doesn’t tell me what values you hold beyond logic and reason. More than a skeptic, I’m a humanist. I believe in being “good without God”, and I think it’s important to treat our fellow creatures with respect, love, and compassion. I don’t believe that prayer is enough—though for those that practice it, it can be beneficial so long as it spurs creative thought and action, rather than serving as a feel-good surrogate to actual aid.
I wasn’t always a humanist, a skeptic, or an atheist. I was schooled at home, growing up in an Evangelical Christian pastor’s family. We lived and breathed the Bible, and my schooling featured science textbooks that taught young-earth creationism, and hammered home how ridiculous evolutionary theory is, by propping up a twisted caricature of it for tearing down, straw-man style.
I didn’t leave these ideas behind until I was 28. For more on that, see this page on my journey to atheism.