How Would Life on Earth Be Different if Everyone Was an Atheist?

Belief in God and an afterlife affects how people see reality.  What if one day we all woke up without any superstitious beliefs in the metaphysical?  What if science caught on and everyone began thinking in the same way about how reality works – would that change the social fabric of Earth?  Does religion help or hurt when it comes to doing good?

Think about what John Lennon suggested in his song “Imagine”

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

If religion and metaphysical ideas disappeared would we come together as one?  I doubt it, but I think we could start working on the real problems we face.  I can’t help but believe that if people didn’t think a better life awaits them after death they would take this world more seriously.

I think religious divides us, but I think something else divides us more:  politics.  But politics are just the outward manifestation of our inner beliefs which are tangled up in religious beliefs.  The litmus test for that division is how we treat the poor.

Some people hate giving to the poor.  They feel the poor should work.  They feel the poor are undeserving of charity.  Welfare makes their heads explode with anger.  Paying taxes for public schools galls them no end.  Foreign aid and food stamps just annoy the hell out them.  Their resentment knows no bounds when it comes to paying taxes.

Other people want to divvy up the wealth and make life on Earth decent for all.

What’s strange the first group tend to be Christians and the second tend to be secular or spiritual rather than religious.  To the first group, socialism is a dirty word, even though their God was known for dividing the fishes and loaves so everyone could eat.

So, I’m not sure if religion disappeared life on Earth would be any different.

We are going through transformative times.  Communism failed.  But capitalism cannot provide enough jobs for all.  There will always be a certain percentage of the population that are idle.  We have incorporated many socialistic solutions into our economy, and many people hate that.  If we revert to a complete free market, where it’s dog eat dog capitalism, we will have a world where the rich lived in armed enclaves and the rest struggle to survive in a cruel uncontrolled Darwinian conflict.  The early Christians saw Jesus’ teachings as a solution to this problem, but modern Christians have moved away from those socialistic beliefs.

I tend to wonder if modern Christians haven’t jettison all the Christian philosophy and just hung onto the belief of heaven.  They want to be rich on Earth, and rich in Heaven.  If these people turned atheists one night I doubt anything about the world would change.

Religion is a distraction like watching TV.  Believing in vampires or angels, it doesn’t matter, it’s all fiction.  To get the world that John Lennon imagined doesn’t come from giving up religion.  What we need is for everyone to stop thinking about themselves and resenting others. 

The real solution is to think global but act locally.  We have to solve the problem of creating a healthy Earth, and how to create an economy that provides the basics of a decent life for all seven billion people that live on Earth.  Our problem is the 10% want everything for themselves and expect the 90% to go fuck themselves.  As far as I can see religion is irrelevant to this problem.

Like I said, we’re going through a transformative age that people in the future will name and analyze.  Will the Earth survive?  The rich want to ignore that issue.  They want to get as much as they can for  themselves.  They do not care what happens to the Earth.  They do not care what happens to future generations.  They do not care about the rest of the people living on the Earth now.

Humans are a cancer consuming this world.  Unless we get our greed under control we will consume everything, including ourselves.

To answer my title question:  Unless becoming atheist means becoming liberal and socialist, the disappearance of religion would mean nothing to life on Earth.  The real issues to how we live on Earth lies elsewhere.  I don’t think greed is a belief.  It’s genetic, conditioned and animalistic.  Religion neither helps nor hurts in solving greed.

I think people who want to help the world do so because they just want to help the world.  But those people aren’t enough.  Unless the greedy are brought under control, and we’re all greedy, we can’t save ourselves.  Christians want to be saved, but the plight of the Earth is another kind of salvation.  Unless we’re all saved, then we’re all lost.   Whether a God is watching us or not, it does not matter, because we can only save ourselves.

JWH – 5/16/12

9 thoughts on “How Would Life on Earth Be Different if Everyone Was an Atheist?”

  1. Very good points – you’ve pretty much defined agnosticism – it doesn’t really matter if there is a God or not; we have only ourselves to depend upon.

    BTW, I’m a big fan of that John Lennon song!

  2. “Humans are a cancer consuming this world. Unless we get our greed under control we will consume everything, including ourselves.”

    Couldn’t agree more…

    1. I agree with you….but there is a theory called the Fallacy of the Commons..which says “we all share a common world and we could share evenly, but the greedy bastard who grabs as much of this free stuff and plunders all the wealth will succeed in our society and there for advance in a darwinian race with all the fair people. Jim

    1. I disagree – if we were equipped with the same scientific ability we have now. Religion is just failed science. I think it was Douglas Adams who said to imagine that everything we know is wiped out and we had to start all over again. At what point would we as a society require a belief in a virgin birth?

  3. Jim, I’d like to recommend a book for you that is related to this topic. The Story Telling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human by Jonathan Gottshcall. Quote from the book, “Religion is the ultimate expression of story’s dominion over our minds.” So yeah, you’re probably right, we’ll always have some kind of religion.

  4. Jim, I’d say it’s not religion so much as faith-based thinking that’s the problem. Religion is faith-based, but it’s not the only example.

    Even politics wouldn’t be so divisive if people were evidence-based. Note how scientists come to a consensus, since science is evidence-based. Faith is a vice in science. Scientists are supposed to change their minds based on the evidence, and by and large, they do.

    Being human, there are always exceptions. But minor exceptions wouldn’t be a problem anywhere. And think of how much we could accomplish if politicians were evidence-based (in other words, if voters were evidence-based).

    If there were difficult problems – and there are difficult problems – we’d try what seemed most likely to work and go by the evidence. We’d use not just science, but history and other evidence-based disciplines.

    Religion could not survive in an evidence-based land, but faith-based thinking could still survive without religion. After all, if everyone became an atheist overnight, how many of them would be atheists for good reasons? If they were just changing their faith, that wouldn’t help much.

  5. Religion is simple to understand and has two reasons for existence: Control and the fear of death.

    Example of the former would be the story of budda is which it’s about a prince transecting into the high plains of understandings of everything. He passes on his learning to man (peasants) with the idea that if one lives a life of calm and charity, they would reincarnate into a better and higher state! Maybe become a loving leader or *gasp* a Emperor over all the peasants below them! That religion was designed by powerful leaders wanting to create a concept that the common lowly dirt farmer could understand and embrace and look and behold that it still works to this day.

    The latter is as obvious and simple: People fear DEATH. Atheist have been known to cry out to God to forgive them with their last breath. People want to believe that all this pain, boredom, shame and regret will let them transcend after death to another place of calm and peace forever more. And again leads back to the former about Control because you only get that golden ticket to the pearly gates if you lead a peaceful calm and forgiving life. Don’t and its the fire and brimstone for you!

    As the blogger of this website at the ripe age of someplace over your 60th rotation of this planet, reflect on those moments of terrible illness you’ve had where it seemed death was knocking. What passed through your mind as the lights faded out? Was it forgiveness to a higher being like Lennon? Or was it to someone else…

    p.s. I find it humorous how you tied in your intense hatred of greedy men and their desires of power and wealth. Seeing how America was built on greed in all forms and gave you the ability to whine about it on you computer made by “greedy” companies. It’s akin to those whiny brats protesting wall street while twitting about it on their $500+ iphones and raping women in saddam styled basements.

    1. Forlourned, I think there are levels of greed, and different kinds of greed And there’s a difference between ambition and greed. Did Steve Jobs build Apple out of greed? And what about the greed of Wall Street that’s caused our current depression that’s ruined people’s savings and investments?

      You can justify greed by its results. Most current examples are ethical failures.

      Also I don’t think our founding fathers were greedy. There certainly wasn’t the kind of wealth we have today to be insanely greedy. They were ambitious. They wanted to build a new nation. I wouldn’t call that greedy. Later on, the robber barons were greedy, but they built something real with their wealth.

      If I get dementia before I die I could possibly slide back into religious thinking. But the reality is religion is a comforting fantasy, and yes, it’s primarily motivated by the fear of death. However, I find comfort in my beliefs. I feel existence after life will feel exactly like existence before life, and that didn’t hurt at all.

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