Atheism, as I have seen it, isn’t about Darwinism and science and mocking faith, although there are atheists who enjoy pursuing all of these things. It was about recognizing, as religious people do, that our time on the earth is limited. The difference is that atheism realizes that your time on earth is limited, and when it’s over, it is probably really over. Religion gives people something to cling to, and encourages a disregard for this life in its most fervent and conservative believers. The next life is the one that really counts, so it doesn’t matter much if you’re a failure in this one. As long as you’re not a failure to god. If you live in poverty, if your man beats you, if you don’t pick up litter, none of it matters. In atheism, there is no do over. This is it.
Atheism is about making every moment count, and you do that by seeking out and cultivating connections to people, the earth, the universe. I personally think this is why many atheists are so interested in science, for science explains the things that connect us to the universe and to the hummingbird. When you know that this is the only time you have, and that you won’t be able to do it over, it makes you want to spend your energy on the things that really matter - the family, friendships, and pursuits that really enhance your life. If others deem that pursuit petty, it doesn’t matter. It is about doing what feels good, as long as it doesn’t harm another. And there is nothing wrong with it. The only difference in this between an atheist and a religious believer is that the religious believer is made to feel guilty, dirty, and ashamed for doing what feels good, while the atheist is allowed to experience the joy unfettered. You don’t don’t deny yourself because there is no other opportunity. There won’t be a day when you can indulge in sex with eager virgins, or drink all the wine you like, or wear pretty clothes except the days you have today.
Taken from the essay Beautiful Atheism.