I believe the world needs more atheists, especially in positions of leadership. This is not because I am an atheist, I am a Methodist. The world needs more atheist because of the values atheists can teach us, and also because of the negative aspects of faith most of us choose to ignore.
During the Vietnam War an elderly woman told me, “We have to teach our young people to believe in God or else they won’t be willing to go to war for us.” She wasn’t trying to be funny or cynical, but it is the most cynical theological philosophy I have ever heard, born out of an honest motive for self-preservation. There is something to learn from it though. If our leaders believed that death was the absolute, complete end of a unique individual rather than the gateway to heaven, maybe they would think carefully before sending young people to die. If you believe in heaven, then those sacrificed today will be alive in heaven tomorrow. For an atheist, with “no heaven above us”, war and death must the absolute last resort since sacrificing this life is sacrificing the one and only life. Spend this life carefully!
Most religions have some fatalism in them about accepting the world as it is. Both Christians and Muslims see events in the world as God’s or Allah’s will. Too often I have heard the phrase, “It’s all part of God’s plan.” used to excuse injustices and inequalities. An atheist has no excuse for accepting the suffering of others and in fact has an obligation to help others in this life because they believe it is the only life. Mankind did not rise up off of all fours and build the modern world by accepting things as they were, but rather by using our own two hands to change the world.
As a biologist, I have a front row seat in the war some religions have waged on evolution. Why is that important? Teaching people to disbelieve in evolution is teaching them you can “wish away” facts and data, carrying on as if they do not exist. Pretending evolution is not a fact makes you scientifically illiterate, but it is probably not dangerous to your health. But once you deny the facts of evolution, you can deny the facts of any science, or any other facts you find inconvenient. That is a very dangerous lesson to learn! During my lifetime I have been told overpopulation is fake because God would not let that happen. That there will never be a fuel shortage because God would not let it happen. That global warming is a myth because: A) God would not let it happen and, B) because only God can effect the world, not man. An atheist has no choice but to accept reality, face the facts squarely and do something about it. An atheist sees no god to pass the buck to.
I always thought I would live to see a black president, but I bet I will ever live to see an atheist as president. That is too bad because an atheist president could look us in the eyes and say, “The human race is on it’s own, and it is up to us to save ourselves!” I believe in Mankind.
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