I've long been fascinated by religion. The research is clear that religion can have a major impact on happiness and community--one of the reasons that Ben Casnocha and I have always talked about the need for a secular church that can fill that role for secular humanists.
Yet in some ways, belief and atheism aren't that far apart. One of the key benefits of religion is the power of faith to help come to terms with tragic events. Believers often draw comfort from the fact that a loving divinity is guiding events with a larger plan in mind.
Is that so different than a secular acceptance of reality? You don't have to believe in the divine to realize that you can't change the past, and that you have to accept that bad things happen to you and the people you love.
It may be comforting to believe in a loving and all-powerful being that will even up the cosmic balance sheet in the afterlife, but it is also comforting to simply accept what has happened as fact, and stop trying to deny it.
In my own life, I find great comfort in figuring out how to maximize my chances of achieving my objectives, but then letting go of the outcome. Is that faith? Or acceptance?