This has been brewing for a while, and I'm ready to rant now.
To begin, let's get some things straight. By some definitions, atheism might well be faith. It becomes faith when it is "I don't believe in god, I deny that there is or can be a god, and no evidence or argument could ever convince me otherwise."
That, my friends, is faith, or dogma, or whatever you want to call it.
But the atheism I'm talking about is probably "weak atheism," doubting that god exists but not denying the possibility. Some may call it agnosticism, but it's not neutral. Atheist agnosticism may be the name for it, but this is all hair-splitting. The point is, I am talking about free thought and a doubt in god's existence.
So I will now point out a few differences between faith and atheism:
1) Willingness to question one's own beliefs. I, for one, regularly reconsider my beliefs, I strive to ferret out my biases and eliminate them. I consider often the possibility of a god. From what I gather, many other atheists are like me in this regard.
Faith, on the other hand, is unquestioning belief.
2) Objectivity. Religion usually prescribes a specific worldview, and rejects all other points of view. The religious are somehow different, chosen, the best people (but for reasons that are anyone's guess). There is no such stipulation included in free thought, although some atheists may be guilty of dismissal of all viewpoints but their own.
3) No need for cognitive dissonance, doublethink, or convoluted rationalization. Atheists have no need to reject certain evidence or proofs or concepts based on religious dogma. Whatever appears to be true is probably the closest to the truth. Mistakes can be made, but when a freethinker encounters unexpected conclusions that challenge his or her world-view, there is no need to hide from or explain away these phenomena.
Religion, on the other hand, is rife with doublethink, where people are willing to believe something that is clearly false by never letting themselves think about it too thoroughly. Where this fails, there is always apologetics: the meandering and often fallacious rationalization of the harder to swallow of religious doctrines.
So, as you can see, atheism is far from similar to faith. It does not require belief without evidence, or belief contrary to apparent evidence.
This is, in fact, what finally drove me from my religious beliefs: I could no longer stand to constantly limit my thinking in order to avoid recognition of the more doubtful aspects of said beliefs.
Perhaps there is a god, and maybe he wants me to do certain things. I will believe such when it seems true, not at the behest of others.