The comments to “I thought I saw a dictionary atheist” have been quite interesting. Much is predictable, but not all, and all are quite thoughtful. And looking at something I wrote some time ago, I am reminded that the good that atheism does–even dictionary atheism, I would argue)–is not a function of what (again, even dictionary) atheism is; rather, it is a function of what it is not.
If you don’t think that atheism actually is an improvement over religious belief, then you must have a much more benign view of religion than I do. Not of religious people, necessarily–there is too much variability there, of course–but when we look at the cultural, institutional influences religion has historically had (and continues to have), then yes, even though water has no protein, fat, nor sugars for you… at least it doesn’t have poison. Atheism, even pure unadulterated “no belief in god”, acts to challenge all sorts of cultural defaults, whether it intends to or not. Even if all it is doing is framing the null hypothesis and asserting the burden of proof where it belongs. And then, positions like humanism (or cephalopodism) can add the nutrients.
There’s no reason to think that we’re better
There’s no reason to think that we’re worse
There’s no reason to think we’ve been chosen
Or are damned by some ultimate curse
There’s no call to put faith in the Torah
Or in any or all of its sequels
And without such a misguided compass
We are free to treat others as equals.
There’s no reason to think there is magic
There’s no need for an ultimate cause
There’s no need for some stellar mechanic
Who’s unburdened by natural laws
There’s no need to infer a creator
Looking on as creation unfurled
And without all those misguided questions
We are free to examine the world.