[Interesting article by Greta Christina, forwarded by a member]
The most crucial point: Saying that life and morality and reason and virtue and emotions such as grief are physical processes — this is not the same as saying they are illusions.
Yes, atheists think that morality and virtue, love and friendship, reason and grief, are physical phenomena with no supernatural component. We don’t understand exactly how this works — humanity is very much in the early stages of figuring out consciousness — but an overwhelming body of evidence strongly points to that conclusion, and atheists understand and accept that. Whatever consciousness is, it is almost certainly a construct of the brain. And we think social experiences, such as morality, virtue, love, grief, are emotions and mental constructs, which evolved in us to help us survive and flourish as a social species…
When you look at the most common arguments for religion and against atheism, you’ll find that most of them aren’t actually arguments. They’re not attempts to look at the evidence and logic supporting theism and atheism. They’re attempts to deflect the question. They’re attempts to shield religion from ever being seriously questioned. The notion that any criticism of religion is intolerant; the idea that religion shouldn’t have to defend itself in the marketplace of ideas; the endless parade of “Shut up, that’s why” arguments that typically get marshaled against atheists… it all exists to protect religious faith from ever being seriously examined. Not to mention the more obvious attempts to silence atheists — like preventing atheist high school students from organizing clubs, and overt bullying and harassment of atheists, and blasphemy laws in theocracies that put atheists in prison and even execute them. Religion is like a house of cards — protected by a massively strong fortress.
And one of the largest pillars in this fortress is the bigoted mythology about atheists. The idea that atheists are amoral? That our lives lack meaning and joy? That we’re only atheists so we can reject religious rules? That we hate God? That our atheism is shallow, and we reject it and embrace religion when faced with suffering and death? That we have no basis for human emotions like love and friendship and grief? It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that all this mythology exists to keep believers from listening to anything we have to say.,,
The very existence of atheists and atheism is a challenge to religious belief. Religion relies on social consent to perpetuate itself… and It’s easier to ignore [atheist] voices if they’re marginalized (and) if people can pretend that we don’t care about right and wrong, that we think everything is physical and therefore nothing matters, that we see love and compassion as illusions, that we have no reason for grief. It’s easier to ignore those voices if people can pretend that we’re not quite human.