In response to the Feb. 11 letter concerning the difficulty of upholding Christian faith, I would like to question why people tend to jump to the conclusion that making choices such as not drinking or doing drugs, not cheating on tests, or not lying to one's parents necessitates having a strong religious faith.
In my youth, I also abstained from these activities and received peer criticism for doing so, all the while considering myself an atheist who did not have a strict religion-based upbringing.
My choices were not made out of fear of the eternal consequences should I do otherwise, but from the personal volition to do what was proper. These values were fostered at home from early childhood on, without the aid of religious faith.
I also feel obligated to clarify some misunderstandings many individuals have about atheists. The writer stated that atheists just take the easy way out and live a self-indulgent life. Atheism is not a loophole for selfish behavior. Because I do not have a belief in any god does not mean that I feel I'm free to do whatever I want.
As a rational person, I recognize that I am part of a society that will be affected by my actions, and I am therefore responsible for acting ethically. Atheists live much the same as everyone else, being just as law-abiding and often having great respect for humanity.
Of course, there will be some professed atheists who will be examples contradicting what I have said thus far, which brings me to a second point: Atheism is not a religion any more than theism is a religion. Atheists as a whole are a very diverse group of individuals, and should not be stereotyped. Before one takes a stand against discrimination, one should first try not to discriminate against others.