Is Atheism good for Human society?

Religion or a belief system in an omniscient God has played an important part in the growth of human society. Some might argue that it also has led us to numerous mindless wars and violent persecutions but it is hard not to acknowledge religion’s positive role in aligning the moral compass of human society to do good in general and to have led us on to the pathway to civilization as we know today.

Dostoevsky’s had a point when he questioned “Without God … It means everything is permitted now, one can do anything?’ is ‘Yes,’ in as much as ‘everything’ refers to acts of extreme immorality.

The question whether Atheism is good for human society is a topical one with the rise of New Atheism phenomenon and the advent of Four Horsemen. Let’s analyse where Atheism stands on the goodness parameters that has been the sole preserve of religion throughout human history i.e.

• Bringing peace and binding people together in groups
• Giving a meaning and purpose to life
• Defining the moral code of society
• Defining the social code of society

Let’s argue the case on the first parameter.

Has Atheism brought peace to human society?

Atheists dismiss religion as proto science terming it as shallow bundle of myths, but fact is that Atheists and in particular New Atheists of this century harbour their own myths, myths of human advancements, myths of science as surrogate God.

Does anyone really want a society that would like to live in a godless world? Not to construct some alternative God, like reimagining humanity as some collective agent that manifests itself through history or science or some other redemptive force.

Do you really want human society to turn into Nazi Germany or Communist Russia and China where Godless Atheism became handmaiden to the most awful crimes in human history; and almost always, those crimes were committed in defence of some grand project to improve human society? People of faith claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. But leave aside the faithful’s, the truth is that the atheist position is incapable of supporting any rational system of morality other than ruthless social Darwinism. That’s why it has caused more deaths, murders and bloodshed than any other belief system in the history of the world.

Let’s move on to the second parameter.

Has Atheism given human society meaning and purpose to life?

Atheists believe that being an atheist means coming to grips with reality. And the reality for most of them is twofold i.e. we all are going to die as individuals, and the whole of humanity, unless we find a way to colonise other planets, is going to go extinct. We just come to grips with the reality. Life is the result of natural selection, and death is the result of natural selection. We are evolved in such a way that death is almost inevitable. So you just deal with it. Many scientists today are predisposed towards Atheism as they believe that it is more grounded in science than religion. They believe that science can be the holy grail of human society and dethrone religion from its high moral pedestal.

But is it true? Do we really believe that science can supply moral values, and I’m not sure this is a fact we can really own up to as a civilization, because it requires a conversation about human values that we seem incapable of having. What often happens is that science simply validates the ruling values of the time, and in the 19th and 20th centuries, those were racist values. There were all kinds on “scientific” studies done to propagate the myths of superior white race.

Do we really want to leave science in the hands of Atheists who can very well lead human society back to those darker times. Atheists don’t believe in God, so they don’t believe in any transcendent, objective moral law. Nor do they believe that human beings are made in the image of God, and so they don’t believe humans possess infinite value and dignity. When you put these two beliefs together, you have a deadly recipe that makes killing “problematic” human beings quite easy and defensible. One has only to look at the growing numbers of abortions, suicides, homicides, and cases of state-sponsored euthanasia, and infanticide, to see the atheist-death connection. As a thoroughly secular and functionally atheistic culture, we are fast becoming accustomed to “killing” our problems rather than dealing with them in a compassionate, loving, and sacrificial way.

Ok let’s see where the moral argument takes us with Atheism.

Has Atheism provided human society with a viable moral code?

I don’t mean to imply that people can’t be moral without God, which is one of the stupidest claims I’ve ever heard. But the fact is that we live in a world where all things, good and bad, are undergoing tremendous change. Time tested familial ties are breaking, Husbands and wives are divorcing and separating at ever increasing rate. Parents lose their children and children their parents. Friends part company in haste, without knowing that it will be for the last time. This life, when surveyed with a broad glance, presents little more than a vast spectacle of loss. Most people in this world, however, imagine that there is a cure for this. They believe that religions and belief in God fulfil functions in human society, rather than being the result of God actually existing.

Religion help people to form close knit groups, in which they could find a place in society. Religious rituals created mental states in those taking part which were helpful to the group. Of course, overly rational people and other rabble will be kept out of this happy place, and those who suspended their disbelief while alive will be free to enjoy themselves for all eternity. But scientific evidence suggests that humans – and even our primate cousins – have innate moral predispositions, which are often expressed in religious philosophies. That is, religion is a reflection rather than the cause of these predisposition. Early societies were small enough that their members could rely on people’s reputations to decide whom to associate with. But once our ancestors turned to permanent settlements and group size increased, everyday interactions were increasingly taking place between strangers. How were people to know whom to trust?

Religion provided an answer by introducing beliefs about all-knowing, all-powerful gods who punish moral transgressions. As human societies grew larger, so did the occurrence of such beliefs. And in the absence of efficient secular institutions, the fear of God was crucial for establishing and maintaining social order. In those societies, a sincere belief in a punishing supernatural watcher was the best guarantee of moral behaviour, providing a public signal of compliance with social norms. The problem is that Atheism has provided society with no credible alternative to this moral conundrum. Secularists and atheists “use words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘rights’,” but if challenged. How do you know? Where do you get that from? Who decides?”. They struggle to provide a convincing answer. And society needs these answers to function smoothly.

Lastly let’s adjudge Atheism on the social parameter.

Has Atheism provided human society with a coherent social code?

The argument that Atheists make is that the root cause of strife & conflict in this world is people adhering to different religious ideologies and ever ready to kill just to prove their faith is better than the other’s. Their logic is that if people can leave the crutches of religion than we can have a coherent human society. But extensive study done by Bainbridge (2005) found out that Atheists were less socially encumbered and compared to religious believers, atheists were less enthusiastic about attending a large family reunion or a family history field trip, and were only weakly positive about preparing a festive meal and getting together with friends. On measures of friendship obligations, atheists also rated at the low end of the scale.

Based on this study it seems that Atheism instead of bringing coherence to human society might actually lead to the breakup of familial & fraternal ties and instigate us towards individualism and away from the core foundation of collectivism on which human civilization has been built upon. There is one more thing that scares me and that is that the “new atheism” movement is overwhelmingly white and male, and even plagued by a “brazen sexism” and vehement intolerance that makes women and others prefer to distance themselves from the term. Atheists are in-fact creating a new class division in the society and they are no better than religionists eager to cast derision and mockery on people who believe differently than they do.

After analysing Atheism on the above four goodness parameters, it can be concluded that Atheism has nothing better or rather has worse to offer to human society than religion.

Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Isaac Newton all believed in God. Nobel-prize winner Wilhelm Rontgen, the discoverer of X-rays; Antoine Lavoisier, the father of modern chemistry; William Keen, the pioneer of brain surgery; rocket scientist Wernher von Braun; and Ernest Walton, the first person to artificially split the atom—all believed in God.

And speaking of pioneers of science, who do you think coined the term “scientist” in the first place? William Whewell, an Anglican priest and theologian! He also came up with words “physicist,” “cathode”, “anode” and many other commonly used scientific terms. Essentially, the very language used by scientists today comes from the brain of a believer. Even the Big Bang Theory itself – which atheists mistakenly think bolsters their arguments against God – was proposed by Fr. George Lemaitre, a Belgian astronomer and Roman Catholic priest! And the father of genetics—which provides the basis for the whole theory of evolution—was Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian monk!

Based on individual shortcomings, both religious and atheist societies are going to be sub optimal. One might be better or worse than other in some parameters but unfortunately both are less able to maximize individual well-being, outside of high-status in-group members. The search for an optimal human society is going to continue and for now looks like Voltaire’s was right when he wrote

If God did not exist, then we would have to invent him

Tarun Rattan


John Gray interview with Sean Illing at
John Gray interview with Sean Illing at
Catherine L. Caldwell-Harris (2012): Understanding atheism/non-belief as an expected individual-differences variable, Religion, Brain & Behavior, 2:1, 4-23
Marcie Bianco
John Gray interview with Sean Illing at
Anthony DeStefano

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2 Responses to Is Atheism good for Human society?

  1. jim- says:

    Atheism is certainly good for society. When all religions finally quit competing and believe in Jesus all in the same way, you will always have an enemy to prompt for rally cries.
    “Hatred is the most accessible and comprehensive of all the unifying agents … Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a god, but never without a belief in a devil.”—Eric Hoffer, 

  2. As usual, the author here appears to be a Christian who has never read anything by atheists and is ignorant about people like Robert Ingersoll, etc who werein the 19th century and spoke against religion. There is no “new atheism” there is the same old atheism we’ve always had. More people are now speaking up against religion because we aren’t as under threat as we used to be. We also have access to far more information and people don’t blindly believe like they used to.

    “Does anyone really want a society that would like to live in a godless world?” Yep, I do. I don’t want a world where people kill each other over whose imaginary friend is better, where people make up their gods in their images, depending on their personal hatreds and desires. The sheer hypocrisy of theists is pathetic.

    “• Bringing peace and binding people together in groups
    • Giving a meaning and purpose to life
    • Defining the moral code of society
    • Defining the social code of society”

    It hasn’t brought peace, it hasn’t brought meaning it hasn’t defined morality and it hasn’t defined the social code. This can be pointed out by showing that Christians can’t agree on what morals they want to pretend their god gave. And none of these can show that the claims that gods exist are true. Religion can just be a manipulative activity, no gods needed.

    “Religion help people to form close knit groups, in which they could find a place in society.” And hate everyone who is different. IT’s no more than tribalism.

    “Aristotle, Francis Bacon, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Isaac Newton all believed in God.” Not your god, and it’s always sad that Christians try to lie about this. Aristotle did not believe in your god. We have no idea what kind of God Leonardo believed in and we know that Newton was an anti-trinitarian Christian, rejecting the divinity of Jesus. All you have is a poor attempt at an appeal to authority fallacy.

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