The Benefits of Atheism


“Imagine that the brain is a computer and that religion is a virus. Atheism is the wiping of that virus.” – Nick Harding[1]

What does atheism offer?”, “What good is it?”, “What benefit can be gained from not believing in God?
Well that depends on how much you value intellectual honesty? How valuable is reason? And I say this without a hint of hubris or intellectual snobbery, although it is often taken to be the very height of just that by theists. But I mean this with the utmost sincerity born out of a genuine caring for people and concern for the future of my children and humanity as a species. For me, intellectual honesty and reason are incredibly important. I’d argue that progress as a person, a society, and as a species is contingent upon it. So when it comes to beliefs that shape our very lives, that provide the foundation from which we conduct ourselves and how we see the world, then nothing could be more important. Now before we delve deeper, let’s be clear, atheism is not a worldview, ideology, or philosophy[2]. Atheism doesn’t provide a foundation of it’s own. But it provides firm ground free of the debris of theism and clears out the religious weeds before they can crack through the foundation of rationality. Allowing instead for solid foundations to be laid. Well grounded foundations such as naturalism and secular humanism, for example. So then what good is it? Well provided that one accepts how rationality, knowledge, and human flourishing are of the utmost importance to the continuing development and progress towards the betterment of humanity as a whole, then one must also give consideration to how these are able to be derailed by bad reasoning, dogmatic ideologies, and faith-based beliefs[3], then the benefit of atheism becomes clearer. To make an important distinction, I’m not arguing that atheism is more rational than theism, I’m only arguing that the foundation theism in general, and religion in particular, lays down cannot support the weight of science and philosophy and any worldview built on it must follow a strict preconceived blueprint. We see this in the cases of credible scientists who are religious, they build on a naturalistic foundation. It’s as if God here is added in as part of their worldview. Not the foundation. They reason like atheists in the lab. Atheism in the context of this discussion is that acknowledgement. The crux of my argument is simply this… atheism clears the way for reason to properly operate.
There is a clarity in thinking that comes with having a foundation unfettered with underlying supernatural assumptions. Assumptions like a supernatural deity created the whole of reality and is pulling the strings. And that this deity has an ultimate plan and is watching everything with divine judgment. This foundational clarity allows for the methods of sound reasoning to build. We must be diligent in our efforts to be clear in our thinking and to be objective and honest in our analyses. It’s crucial to build our knowledge on a solid foundation. Even if it means arriving at conclusions that force us to abandon our most cherished beliefs. And the problems that are brought on board when one adopts a god belief chokes reason off at the root. These problems are found in the methods a believer must adopt of defending that belief at all costs. It’s in the fideistic attitude that reason is inadequate and ill-equipped or even an outright misology. It’s also found in the demonization of reason whenever reason challenges the belief in a god and the methods of attaining it. According to theism, faith trumps reason. The best reason can accomplish is to compliment faith. Reason serves to merely placate faith. Reason alone is the trickery of Satan or the product of a prideful fallen creation. Atheism, at this fundamental level, doesn’t allow for such manipulation to take hold. And thus allows for honest, critical analysis. That is all atheism needs to do. But let’s not think this as some trivial thing. Far from it.

“It is the absolutism of theism, its pernicious influence upon humanity, its paralyzing effect upon thought and action, which Atheism is fighting with all its power.” – Emma Goldman[4]

But there’s another, more personal reason how atheism can be a benefit. It must be acknowledged that many atheists were religious at some point in there lives. And given that religion is deeply ingrained in practically every society around the world. There’s no escaping it’s influence in some capacity. For those that escaped the grip of religion, or are constantly having religion shoved down their throats, atheism can be liberating. Many have witnessed first hand the harm these beliefs have on relationships and we are bombarded daily with news displaying the immense tension caused by religion in societies around the world. Many have been shunned by their community and ostracized by their own family. But consider those who live in regions of the world where harsh religious oppression is everyday life. Where religion isn’t a free choice and apostasy is punished. Where religious totalitarianism suffocates every independent thought of the people around you. Just uttering the words “I’m an atheist” is like a breath of fresh air. Even if it must done clandestinely behind closed doors out of fear of punishment, including death. It is a push-back against the unrelenting inculcation of dogma and religious extremism. Taking into account these two points discussed here, the necessity of atheism couldn’t be more apparent and its benefits are far-reaching. The fewer false, irrational, faith-based things we believe, the better we will be able to grasp reality and thus flourish. And atheism eliminates the biggest offender.
[1] Nick Harding, News Talk, January 25, 2016
[2] This isn’t to say that one’s atheology doesn’t contain philosophy, or the reason for one’s rejection of theism. But that’s irrelevant to the topic as atheism doesn’t require any. One can be perfectly justified in simply saying they have no place for a belief in a god belief in their lives.
[3] see my blog where I argue against faith and it’s incompatibility with reason…
[4] Emma Goldman, Mother Earth, Feb. 1916