It seems that in all of the discussions regarding religion and atheism the focus has been on the defense of God and why do otherwise rational people believe in a supreme being. When challenged the atheists simply state that they are intelligent people who believe in science and would believe in God once His existence was verified by science. But what is not explored is why do these atheists go to such lengths in attacking those who believe in God? Why are they so determined to stamp out God? If God is only a figment of man’s imagination then what possible harm can come to an atheist if others persist in this “God Delusion” as stated by Richard Dawkins? Is it possible that these atheists really fear God and are compelled to erase Him because they are afraid that they – like most of mankind – cannot meet the standard of conduct established by God?
The belief in a supreme being seems to have always been inherent in man because there is evidence that even Neanderthals had some recognition of life after death and of course the Ancient Egyptian’s entire society seems to have been centered on the afterlife. But while the majority of ancient men believed in a supreme power, not all did and in fact history shows us that the atheists have always been with us. We find in the writings of Greece that Epicurus stated his goal was to “get rid of the gods, the immortal soul, and man’s longing for immortality.” This would appear to be the precise goal of atheists today. But Lucretius opposes the gods because “ the burdens they impose in the form of duty and responsibility are too heavy”. But Epicurus goes further and states that the gods seek to enforce “their” rules on man which creates anxiety in men because they threaten to punish us both in this life and in the next. So the obvious conclusion is that these early atheists simply chose to deny the existence of divine power because of their fear of that power. If the gods didn’t exist then they would not have to worry about their conduct but were free to do as they pleased. When you examine the writings of the current crop of atheists this seems to be their motivation as well.
The philosopher Thomas Nagel perhaps best describes the atheist’s point of view when he confessed that he had a fear of religion itself. He stated that “I want atheism to be true. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God – I don’t want there to be a God – I don’t want the universe to be like that.” ‘But perhaps the real motivation for atheists is the exhilaration that they feel once they are free from the encumbrance of God. Karen Armstrong in her book “A History of God” sums up this feeling of freedom that atheists enjoy in her statement:
It is wonderful not to have to cower before a vengeful deity, who threatens us with eternal damnation if we do not abide by his rules.
But not all atheists see the denial of God as liberating and exhilarating; for example Karl Marx described religion as the “opiate of the people” meaning that religion was the drug they used to numb themselves from the misery they found in their lives. The French atheist Michael Onfray speaking in a similar vein said “God is a fiction invented by men so as not to confront the reality of their condition”. But some are just cynical about God and James Haught sees religion as a vehicle where the religious leaders reap personal benefit when he wrote “... churches and holy men reap earnings and exalted status from the supernaturalism they administer to their followers”.
It should be noted that all of these denials of God start with what appears to be two premises; the existence of God must be proven by science, and; God and religion are simply wishful thinking invented by men to avoid accepting the futility of their existence. This is an interesting point because these same atheists accept many scientific theories without proof, so they have a double standard when it comes to God, therefore, this argument of theirs can simply be ignored because the existence of God is as self-evident as many of their unproven theories. So the crux of their opposition seems to be God, the soul, and life after death is simply the wishful thinking of the gullible who are afraid of death. This is a very interesting point but if man’s wish fulfillment caused him to invent heaven then why would he invent Hell? If man invented God then why is God such a terrifying force with such strict standards? Even the gods of the ancients were terrifying and vengeful so if man invented them why didn’t he invent gods that were more friendly and less demanding?
This raises the question of what benefits do atheists gain from not just denying the existence of God but from their determination to stamp out any belief in a supreme being. Superficially it appears that the atheists are Darwinian converts who wish to convert the religious to Darwinism. The similarity to this motivation to missionaries attempting to convert ignorant natives seems to be lost on them – except for the ignorant natives’ part. The reality is that Darwinism is really just a primitive form of religion similar in nature to the primitive religions of ancient man. In effect Darwinism is the law of the jungle, the world of tooth and claw, a religion that assigns man no purpose other than the animal objective of reproduction and survival. Even the Darwinists admit that Darwinism can be summed up in the phrase “survival of the fittest”. So this new religion of Darwinism draws a very negative picture of mans existence and purpose, similar to other religions but without any promise of redemption, forgiveness, or a “do over”. The fact is that atheism is a dismal ideology and any benefit to be reaped from it appears to be the ability to act without fear of retribution.
This lack of fear of retribution may be the major, if not the only, benefit of atheism. In a world without God, man is free to do as he chooses and this is liberating and exhilarating to the atheist. They are free from the constraints of religion and in their eyes they are free to practice virtue, charity, and brotherhood. Of course any priest or pastor could tell these liberated atheists that these are the central themes of Christianity. So it appears that the only benefits to be gained from atheism are those offered by religion. Perhaps they need remedial Sunday School.