I've just read the June 2007 article The New Atheists at the Nation by Ronald Aronson reflecting on the rise of atheism, particularly in published literature, in America during the height of the Bush regime. "Atheism" as we're exploring it here is in a broader sense of a "lack of belief in or devotion to invisible cartoon characters called 'gods'". During that period of time, as we all recall, religion was pushed on us like crack cocaine as the economy was coincidently dismantling itself brick by brick, evolving into the exciting roller coaster of red it is today. (Notice how I've cleverly employed a reflexive mood to avoid speaking of any hypothetical agents that may or may not have been treasonously involved in this transitive but possibly non-agentive act of "dismantling".)
Back to atheism, one question implied is to what end should atheism be expected to supply us with "hope" in our daily lives? Aronson reasons:
"Living without God means turning toward something. To flourish we need coherent secular popular philosophies that effectively answer life's vital questions."But flourish by what definition and by who's standards? A rationalist may recognize in this subtle statement the attempt to politicize mere truth here. That is, the simple truth that any argument that unnecessarily invokes hypotheses about the existence of an invisible, unmeasurable being to explain the unknown is by any rational definition invalid. We don't need anything. We flourish just fine by logical means and it's the irrational that suffer immensely. Rather it remains Religion's onus to explain why it's had the right all this time to manipulate reason away from tried-and-true Logic to give us all the illusion of an answer to life's vital questions. Why must atheism be expected to attain an ideal that Religion has itself failed to reach? More manipulation.
Additionally why must we, in a world absent of benevolent sprites, "turn" to anything other than Logic (and thus to atheism as a result of that Logic)? What other mode of thought is as functionally complete? What kind of competent adult prioritizes invisible beings over the measurable, the unknown before the known? What does that implicit set of priorities say about such individual's psychological and cognitive state and why should we "respect" their banter by silencing our challenges? If organized religions (ie. cults) manage to still hold on, I'm bold enough to argue that it's precisely because mental illness too persists.
Another observation of his catches my eye: "In recent polls, far more respondents have declared themselves willing to vote for a woman or African-American for President than for an atheist--atheists are more unpopular than gays." As a gay atheist, I sadly must concur, so I guess that means I'm doubly maligned. Triply so if you count being constantly outspoken against nonsense. (Nobody likes a loud mouth, they say.) To prove that point, ignorant hysteria has once again hit the fan recently, this time over transgender Chaz Bono's involvement in Dancing with the Stars. According to some lunatics, her on-air trysts may somehow cause a transsexual apocalypse, kind of like a Borg collective but with rainbow flair perhaps.
The sense of true compassion, the purposeful attempt to understand another person's perspective within reason, has been lost as religious leaders either condemn others with outright loathing or confront them with insincere politesse drenched in disrespect and willful stupidity. This just leads back to how it's ironically organized religion that's failing to offer a life-affirming purpose to individual existence. It's this continued apathy of the religious, their self-contradictions and their increasingly nihilist undertones that are sure to eventually unseat Religion's common allure, even without the help of outspoken atheists.