Just read the Salon interview with Richard Dawkins, whose book, The God Delusion, is ranked #6 in Amazon sales. I'm an atheist, like Dawkins, and always have been.
The most interesting part of the interview, for me, was the discussion of the grand "why" questions.
Dawkins says: ...Now, the mere fact that you can frame an English sentence beginning with the word "why" does not mean that English sentence should receive an answer. I could say, why are unicorns hollow? That appears to mean something, but it doesn't deserve an answer.
The Salon interviewer, Steve Paulson, rebuts: But it seems to me the big "why" questions are, why are we here? And what is our purpose in life?
Dawkins: It's not a question that deserves an answer.
Paulson: Well, I think most people would say those questions are central to the way we think about our lives. Those are the big existential questions, but they are also questions that go beyond science.
Dawkins: ...Those of us who don't believe in a god will say that is as illegitimate as the question, why are unicorns hollow? It just shouldn't be put. It's not a proper question to put. It doesn't deserve an answer.
Paulson: I don't understand that. Doesn't every person wonder about that? Isn't that a core question, what are we doing in this world? Doesn't everyone struggle with that?
Dawkins: There are core questions like, how did the universe begin? Where do the laws of physics come from? Where does life come from? Why, after billions of years, did life originate on this planet and then start evolving? Those are all perfectly legitimate questions to which science can give answers, if not now, then we hope in the future. There may be some very, very deep questions, perhaps even where do the laws of physics come from, that science will never answer. That is perfectly possible. I am hopeful, along with some physicists, that science will one day answer that question. But even if it doesn't -- even if there are some supremely deep questions to which science can never answer -- what on earth makes you think that religion can answer those questions?
You know what? Dawkins' interviewer thinks questions about humankind's grand purpose are a universal. They're not. I've never found reason to dwell on such things. I certainly don't "struggle" with these questions—I've scarcely even mused absentmindedly about them. I'll grant you that plenty of people do ponder the meaning of life, but then, plenty of people express a belief in a higher power. (To each her own.) I just might buy Dawkins' book.
Edited to add a link to Pharyngula, including a clip of Dawkins' appearance on Stephen Colbert's show.