I have a question about atheism and semantics, although I'm not sure I can phrase it properly, as it also includes the concept of "belief" separate from "doctrine."
Here goes: atheists claim that they do not believe in "God" while they do believe in ethics, morality, a concept of right and wrong. It seems to me that anyone who says they believe in right and wrong also implicitly believes that there is something more important than one's own personal ego gratification (in other words, everyone "should" curtail their own gratification to the extent that such gratification harms other people).
To me, that seems semantically equivalent to a belief in God, except that the concept of "God" also includes an association in most people's minds with a particular doctrine. It sounds to me that atheists are merely rejecting all the doctrinal beliefs that accompany organized religion, while at the very root or core of the situation, do accept that they need to defer their own gratification to something greater or more important than themselves.
How can a person say on one hand that they believe that something is more important than the self and also say at the same time that nothing exists that is more important than the self? [my assumption being that "something more important than the self" = "god" and the rest of the debate is only about terminology and doctrine).
Thanks for any clarifying insights you can provide.