Sacred text vs. sacred narrative
Much of the misunderstanding and apprehension that religious people have of atheists (people without belief in gods) is the assumption that non-believers necessarily reject morality, spirituality and meaning in life. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I was recently visited by two Mormon missionaries and had a nice long chat with them, about these topics and others. (While Mormon metaphysics is almost as weird as Scientology, much of what they said came across as being far more positive than what other Christian denominations teach.)
For these two missionaries, and most believers I have met, morality necessarily comes from god, spirituality is divine, and god gives meaning to one's existence. Questioning the validity of these assumptions is greeted with a frown, a gasp, or worse.
These assumptions have always had a false ring to me. Certainly, morality is a fundamental human dimension, anyone can experience certain things in a deeply spiritual way, and has meaningful things in, and meaning to, their lives. These are psychological facts – a holy book is not needed to see this. In fact, the presence of these three features in all religions strongly suggests the very human origin of the impulse to religion.
Which is why atheists must be particularly careful in their own lives. Religion is a convenient, conventional wrapper for morality, spirituality and meaning, with all sorts of nonsense bits tacked on depending on the particular historical period and cultural background. Getting rid of the nonsense may be difficult for some, impossible for others. But having done it, the non-believer still has to address for him or her self the questions that religion pattly answers with "God".
Biologist E.O. Wilson writes in Consilience:
"The spirits our ancestors knew intimately fled first the rocks and trees, then the distant mountains. Now they are in the stars, where their final extinction is possible. But we cannot live without them. People need a sacred narrative."
nothing more to see. please move along.