Yesterday, my fiancée brought home a book from the school library, where she works. The book was entitled “The Young Atheists Handbook: Lessons For Living A Good Life Without God” by Alom Shaha, which is being distributed throughout secondary schools in England as an attempt by the British Humanist Association to balance out the whole multi-faith strategy of education. Indeed, if we are to raise awareness of many faiths, why not teach about those with none?
Unfortunately, the distribution of this book has been met with mixed reactions, at best. There are people in the world who worry that an atheist society would be an immoral society. But would it? Let’s have a look.
Without going all John Lennon, let’s imagine what the world would look like without religion. Well, there would have been no holy wars, no witch trials, no subjugation of women for religious reasons, no male or female genital mutilation for religious reasons, no suicide bombs inspired by religion, no sacrifices of ancient peoples, and no holocaust; and this is a small list. If religion is the origin of morality, why are there so many acts of immorality in the name of religion?
The world without religion would have, as its basis, a fundamental bottom line that the universe, as well as being beautiful, is a mostly cold and empty place, with no chance of an afterlife. Sound bleak? Actually it isn’t. In such a lonely universe, it becomes absolutely paramount to love and cherish everyone, because we are all we have. There would be no point in fighting.
If no one believed in an afterlife, then the gift of consciousness would be understood to be a rare and precious thing. Anything that would interfere with the continuation of that consciousness to its natural end would be considered truly abhorrent. Murder and violence and, indeed, the killing of animals would truly be considered the worst of crimes. Instead, the quality of consciousness and life would be top on everyone’s list, for themselves and for others, which would tend to bring out the rest of the wholesome morals that are supposed to have begun with religion.
When you look at it, religion has brought much suffering to the world at large. Yet atheism, with its more humanist outlook, could bring us the morality we seek.