Is atheism good for society

In the view of Chris Arnade, atheism is an intellectual luxury for the wealthy.

At 16 years old, I was a practicing Catholic, would go for confession every so often. In my circle of friends, enemies and those I was indifferent to, no one I knew was an atheist. If there was an atheist in our midst, must have been a closet one. We are products of the age we live in. In that age, in my village where I lived, atheism was not part of the cultural milieu. Was everyone poor? No, not by a long stretch of imagination.

I am a university graduate and most of my school life I was a practicing Catholic. Was I catholic because I was poor or because I was a product of the cultural milieu I had grown up in? At some point in my studies, I met some atheists but at that time, this chance meeting and spending time together did not result in deconversion. On the contrary, I was at a loss how one could have lived their lives without belief in god, that was how I had grown up. By the time I was graduating, I was nominally a christian but neither had I switched sides.

Now several years later, I am godless. My needs are basically taken care of. As a result of my education and my baloney detector, I am usually able to see a bad argument and in many cases see inconsistencies even in my choices, but that will be the story for my autobiography.

Coming to Chris, he tells us

When I first walked into the Bronx I assumed I would find the same cynicism I had towards faith. If anyone seemed the perfect candidate for atheism it was the addicts who see daily how unfair, unjust, and evil the world can be.

None of them are. Rather they are some of the strongest believers I have met, steeped in a combination of Bible, superstition, and folklore.

which in any case is neither an argument in favour of the bible nor against disbelief. Is it Chris’ argument that there are no atheist homeless and drug addicts? Was he an atheist because there is injustice, cruelty, and so on or because he was convinced that the evidence for deities is wanting? And if this is the case, what has this got to do with drug abuse?

He is right however when he says

They have their faith because what they believe in doesn’t judge them. Who am I to tell them that what they believe is irrational? Who am I to tell them the one thing that gives them hope and allows them to find some beauty in an awful world is inconsistent? I cannot tell them that there is nothing beyond this physical life. It would be cruel and pointless.

because that would make him a jerk. But if and when they ask him about his religious beliefs or lack of that matter, he is not being a jerk when he says he has no belief in the gods or that he thinks their hope in god is inconsistent with their present circumstances, especially if they believe in an all loving god.

I am surprised that Chris did not know people make mistakes. He writes

In these last three years, out from behind my computers, I have been reminded that life is not rational and that everyone makes mistakes.

It doesn’t take genius to know this. Nor do you need to sit behind a computer to know that you make mistakes, your neighbour makes mistakes and so on.

Chris tells us he had an epiphany

Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.

at which point I quote William Foote on freethought

Our salvation is here and now. It is certain and not contingent. We need not die before we realise it. Ours is a gospel, and the only gospel, for this side of the grave. The promises of theology cannot be made good till after death; ours are all redeemable in this life.
Happiness is the only good, suffering the only evil and selfishness the only sin.
Learn what is true in order to do what is right.

but more relevant to his epiphany is the observations of Jean Messlier

We may be asked if atheism can suit the multitude? I reply, that every system which demands discussion is not for the multitude. What use is there, then, in preaching atheism? It can at least make those who reason, feel that nothing is more extravagant than to make ourselves uneasy, and nothing more unjust than to cause anxiety to others on account of conjectures, destitute of all foundation. As to the common man, who never reasons, the arguments of an atheist are no better suited to him than a philosopher’s hypothesis, an astronomer’s observations, a chemist’s experiments, a geometer’s calculations, a physician’s examinations, an architect’s designs, or a lawyer’s pleadings, who all labor for the people without their knowledge.

And maybe Chris is right, on those who have their needs taken care of have the luxury to reason about atheism and not before. In any event, the thing we must do is to heal the dysfunction in society that drive people to misery where their only hope is belief in chimeras and phantoms.

Finally, I am not sure whether this was Chris’ attempt at reflection about his life, experiences with the homeless or a way to attack Dawkins. I for one do not see the reason for writing this

I also see Richard Dawkins differently. I see him as a grown up version of that 16-year-old kid, proud of being smart, unable to understand why anyone would believe or think differently from himself. I see a person so removed from humanity and so removed from the ambiguity of life that he finds himself judging those who think differently

Let’s not be jerks, that’s all. Others will believe in gods others will not. But as yet, gods remain un-demonstrated hypothesis, we are within our rights to ask questions. It would be condescending towards others to argue that because of their situations in life, they should not have access to philosophical questions. This, to me, is like treating them like little children.


About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

28 thoughts on “Is atheism good for society

  1. foolsmusings says:

    Although I generally try to guide people toward atheism, I don’t push people towards it. I will however call out the despicable charlitons that manipulate the religious for financial gain.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Although I disagree with your conclusions and beliefs I respect your right to choose for yourself. MY own faith is not threatened by the faith or not of others. It is one reason why I no longer “join” a church. I let no one stand between me and my own GOD. I wish you health and success. Thank you for sharing your mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • makagutu says:

      Which particular conclusions do you disagree with?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have made some very stupid mistakes that I should never survived. In my blog I mention some but there are more. I have been very foolish. I have reaped so much greater rewards than I deserve. It is easy for me to vision it as gifts from the GOD that I believe in. Your conclusions of no greater power than our minds and science are as hard for me to accept as are the beliefs of folks that commit violence in the name of their GOD. I view scientific, natural and as of yet explainable laws as proof or order in the universe or tools used. Maybe I am confused, when I read the Chris parts. I have had problems that even my family don’t know but in my darkest nights and loneliest days my faith alloys me to feel not alone. Your choice of GODlessness is your right. It just seems lonely to me. O don’t begrudge you your hapiness or success.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Tish Farrell says:

    I like your conclusion 🙂


    • makagutu says:

      We should not be jerks, no?
      Good day Tish

      Liked by 2 people

      • Tish Farrell says:

        It’s all we need to know, isn’t it. Txx


      • basenjibrian says:

        The problem with his whole thesis is that “Jerky Atheists” is not the environment most of us live in. Instead, it is all about fervently (even fanatically) religious pushing their views onto friends, family, strangers, and the body politic. There is a stench of “pot calling the kettle black” here that is rather amazing.

        There is an American blog by a now open Atheist called “Godless in Dixie” about the travails of no longer believing in a faith-besotted region of the USA. Not to be a jerk, but the blithe smugness of “Chris” is pretty awful.


  4. renudepride says:

    Humanity is as diverse as there are people. I think that there are some wealthy atheists and some poor atheists. I think there are some substance-using atheists and some religious believing substance-users. To say that one group is more inclined to one behavior or belief system belittles their humanity and their human dignity. This is just my humble opinion for an overworked academic in an underpaying position reading here during his all-too-brief lunch break! Naked hugs!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “Soon I saw my atheism for what it is: an intellectual belief most accessible to those who have done well.” To this I say, bull-fuckin’-shit, buddy, bull-fuckin’-shit. I am poor. I’ve been poor all of my adult life. I struggle day to day to get by, and I do not believe in invisible, powerful guys in the clouds. I read. I study. I learn because I want to. I learn because I know I know nothing and want to learn more. Wealth or lack of it has NOTHING to do with who I am or what I believe. Many on the right, conservative side here in the U.S. stink of money. It drips out of their skin. And by far almost ALL of them are “Christians”. Devout, Christians who behave like spoiled brats–not like highly educated free-thinkers. Also, they’ve all gone to some of the best universities in the country and/or world. I would argue the opposite of Chris–that wealth and access to money allow one the comfort to see that comfort as a god-given right that makes them favored and chosen by God to be great. They see poverty as a choice people make–as something they’re in because of laziness. Their cruelness is disgusting. It is because of their wealth that they are unable to empathize with those less fortunate than they. Their wealth reaffirms their feeling of specialty in God’s eyes. It reinforces their faith–makes them blind to reason and to see said “faith” as the bullshit it is. Any way, $Amen$.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. […] In this post I wrote yesterday, the second and third paragraphs give a background of my beliefs until deconversion a few years ago. Then I get this comment in my spam […]


  7. Barry says:

    Our 5-yearly census will be held in little over a week, and I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome with regards to the religion question. Unfortunately it still asks only one’s religious affiliation rather than specific beliefs, as I believe what is generally perceived here as “Christian” is radically different than what would be considered “Christian” in Kenya or the USA. Nevertheless, I am confident that those with no religious affiliation will outnumber those who claim a Christian affiliation. And it wouldn’t surprise me if less than 50% of the population claim any religious affiliation at all (at the last census, a little under 54% claimed some religious affiliation, and 48% Christian).

    As to whether atheism is good for society, it certainly doesn’t seem to have been harmful to us here in Aotearoa New Zealand. We’ve had atheist Prime Ministers for 19 out of the last 20 years, and unless you’re Bishop Brian Tamaki, there’s no evidence that God is the slightest bit concerned about our declining religiosity.


    • makagutu says:

      Bishop Brian must be a relative of the late Graham Bill.
      You have census every 5 years? Ours happens every ten and I doubt the accuracy since the first census. I have a feeling the figures have been massaged over the years for political ends

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry says:

        They’ve been every 5 years since 1881. Prior to that they were every 3 years.

        Politicians and the civil service are kept well apart here. Both must not only be free of corruption but must be seen to be free of corruption. The transparency in our system makes corruption at any level extremely difficult and rare. There’s a good reason why we are consistently in the top two or three least corrupt countries in the world.


  8. johnfaupel says:

    Young children instinctively believe in the divine power of their parents but as they gradually begin to think for themselves, they realise their parents’ power is no longer divine – that is, unless they have been prevented from thinking for themselves, which is what most religions try to do. They define their own ‘rule-books’ and insist others should follow what they have written. But, as a social species, empathy allowed our pre-linguistic ancestors to adjust their own behaviour according to how others responded to it and thereby maintained a balance of communal harmony for hundreds of thousands of years. Since then, our self-centred need for power and influence, more than our social need for harmony and balance have encouraged up to believe in hierarchy and the ultimate influence of all-powerful gods. Atheist don’t accept this but for others who do and are prepared to comply with god’s rule-book, the comfortable feeling that they are cared for and will be rewarded (if not in this World, then in the next) is a rich reward … and who can argue with that.


  9. keithiest and blooba says:

    Atheism is simply not a class issue.


  10. Swarn Gill says:

    Not sure how I missed this post, but it’s a good one. I would say that those who originated organized religion were also people with two much time on their hands. The way that farming was such a game changer is that it allowed fewer people to be involved with the growing of food such that other people, now not needing to spend all their waking hours hunting and gathering could perfect crafts, become politicians, ask questions and try to find the answers, and yes even become clergy and perfect the art of convincing people that there were unseen forces at work in the world and it was our duty to please them. And for the longest time the clergy were the people holding the books, so perhaps not all clergy were wealthy, but they certainly held much of the power, for knowledge is power, and as we know from history that power was often used for the suffering of others. Now that we have many countries where church and state are separate, people with time on their hands and who have been educated can feel free to counter religious arguments. Atheism, to me, seems like the logical thing to arise out of civilization where church and state our separate and education is secular. Some of our leading atheists may be people with a lot of privilege in terms of education and financial support, but so are the “leading” apologists. I put leading in quotes here because what does it mean to be a leading apologist. A better bulshitter? 🙂

    Since we are born not believing in any Gods, there is no reason atheism is only for the wealthy. Since there no actual God to rely on, isn’t it better that we learn to rely on ourselves make the changes we want for ourselves and for the world we live in? I don’t buy the idea that without the concept of God that people will walk around in a hopeless and immoral stupor, we’ve certainly never seen such a thing.


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