Part of the ongoing Culture Wars (and there is always an ongoing Culture War, unless a society is stagnant) is the battle between Intellectual Atheism and Christianity. Naturally both sides are playing the victim card for all they are worth, and just as naturally a lot of the arguments on both sides are so much eyewash.
I was raised as a Protestant Christian, though I have agnostic tendencies. I have never really considered Atheism; I see too much Art in the world to be convinced that there is no Artist. I cannot, therefore, be an impartial judge. But I can make some observations.
Societies founded upon Protestant Christianity are, at least to me, clearly preferable to any of the present alternatives. Catholicism has a historical tendency to produce cultures where the vast majority of people are peasants, and conditions are such that they will stay peasants. Buddhism sounds very nice in theory, but Buddhist societies are also full of peasants, and the peasants in Buddhist societies tend to be treated like farm animals. Islam, at least at the moment, is dominated by violent mobs. Hindus, for reasons that I can’t get my mind around, tolerate the Caste system (*spit*).
Protestants created the first western societies where the spread of literacy was a social priority. They formed the first anti-slavery movement that was not, at base, a slave’s revolt. Theirs are the first societies to even pay lip service to the rights of women and minorities. I don’t know why this should be so, but it is plainly in evidence.
By contrast, Atheists, in the wake of the 20th Century, have a great deal of explaining to do. The U.S.S.R. was an Atheistical society, and so was Mao’s China. Both slaughtered people with an enthusiasm that would have at least startled the most bloodthirsty Spanish Inquisitor. It seems to me that by asserting the nonexistence of Gods, Atheistical societies remove a major check on the rapaciousness of the State, which promptly acts with the kind of calm restraint associated with a column of army ants. Communist (and therefore Atheist) societies murdered between 85 million and 100 million people in the Twentieth Century, according to THE BLACK BOOK OF COMMUNISM (Harvard Press). That is at least an order of magnitude worse than anything any other Religion had managed.
There are plenty of swine who call themselves Christians, the Westboro Baptist Church being a prime example. And Christian societies have a great deal to be ashamed of. But Protestant Christianity is still head and shoulders (and a good deal of the abdomen) above anything else available. Maybe Atheism can produce a nation sized society that doesn’t end up using mass slaughter as a tool of Statecraft, but I want to see it before I believe in it. The 20th Century, with its litany of (Communist) Stalin, (Communist) Mao, and other little tin-pot Communists too numerous and depressing to mention, has worn out any benefit of the doubt to which Atheism might once have been entitled.