I suspect this may be a topic I'll come back to from time to time, so I'll try to number the posts as I write them to keep things organized.
I've been pondering this idea for a long time, but have only recently begun to form some coherent thoughts on it. It's really quite a big question. What if there were no religion...no belief in gods? What would the world be like?
The automatic answer of the faithful is that we would face chaos, anarchy, lawlessness and universal violence...basically the opposite of the world the ten commandments tries to enforce.
I completely disagree. Morality is not dependent upon faith in higher beings. There are so many ways to cover this argument: The evolutionary approach, the nature versus nurture approach, holy war approach, etc, etc, etc.
For now, I want to focus on one point someone made on a message board topic where they were discussing what the world might be like if there was no religion. This person stated, in defense of religion, that one of the first things dictators and totalitarian states often do when taking over a country is eliminate religion. As if this proves the point that atheism is bad.
Um...no. The reason a dictator would eliminate religion is so that he can become the god himself. Dictators are megalomaniacs. They don't want competition! Religion saps the peoples' energy away from the dictator, so of course he's going to get rid of that first. Look at Castro in Cuba and Kim Il-Sun and Kim Jong-Il in North Korea. Perfect examples of personality cults. Even Saddam Hussein, even though he led a Muslim country, was a staunch secularist (though smart enough in at least one sense not to try and tell Iraqis not to worship allah).
So...just because dictatorship and totalitarianism are bad, and dictators and totalitarians sometimes try to eliminate religion when they take power, that doesn't mean that a lack of religion is also bad. Politicians use religion for their own ends (as they use everything else). Whether it's Kim Jong-Il eliminating it or George W. Bush shoving it down our throats, it still winds up meaning trouble for us all.