Normally I hate it when I see atheism accused of being just another religion (or worse: just another faith) because of, well, the usual “is bald a hair color?” (or “Is ‘not collecting stamps’ a hobby?”) argument that I won’t waste your time repeating here today. Yet I was perversely pleased to see atheists make it onto some of the lists of groups who — like Mormons — think they’re better than everyone else in a comment here.
Why was this a pleasant surprise? Mostly because it’s an accurate and legitimate criticism. I get tired of believers who recite that gibberish about how if you don’t have a higher power directing your life you’ll surely wind up dead in a ditch from a heroin overdose and/or without fear of God’s punishment there’s nothing to keep you from going on a rape-pillage-murder spree. Those speculations are the result of only the purest, most unadulterated ignorance. Whereas when I see believers saying “Those uppity atheists can’t stop patting each other on the back for how clever, ethical, and non-violent they are,” then I think “Aha! This person probably knows some real live atheists, or at least has read some atheist blogs.” See? The atheist visibility strategy is working.
Now I’m not going to claim that all or even most atheists think that atheists are (on average) smarter and/or more virtuous than religious people. However, if you spend any time in the atheosphere, it’s pretty clear that some of them do think that. And given atheists’ famous love of hard data, they have a fair amount of stats to back it up, showing atheism correlated with high levels of education and low rates of things like criminality, violence, divorce, abortion, STDs, etc. (Here’s one recent article about it, for example.)
As with any correlation, it’s hard to be sure which thing(s) caused what, and many have suggested that atheism is likely to be the result of having a happy and satisfying life rather than the cause. (There’s an interesting article arguing that point here.)
And this brings me to the point where I’d like to play devil’s (or God’s?) advocate: I could have sworn there was a major theme in the Book of Mormon where people who are prosperous start to lose interest in God (until He smites them back into submission). Is this a case of the Book of Mormon being right about something?
p.s. This purely theoretical and introspective discussion is in no way to be construed as encouraging believers to help their God(s) smite atheists.