Atheists often come off as cynical. Often, our realism is confused with pessimism. The religious see us complaining about how shitty everything is, and then compare that to their happy hallelujahs in church, they come to the conclusion that we’re a bunch of sad miserable pessimists whose future hold nothing but bleakness – we see religion trying to erode away the separation of church and state, we see the propagation of Islam and its massively inhumane doctrines being enforced on a literal level, is the world going to hell on a hand-basket?
But wait a minute- we don’t believe in hell. You do. You believe that when you die, you will be judged by an all-seeing santa claus who will determine if you’re naughty or nice. And since you most likely have done things in your life you aren’t proud of, that’s going to be part of your judgement, and depending on your religion you just might be sent to hell even after a lifetime of religious devotion, especially given the easily angered gods of certain religions. How bleak can you get?
Cynicism is not the same as pessimism. We atheists see the world as it is, we try our best to bypass the delusion of perception. When an atheist like me looks at the world, I recognize that while the world is pretty darn shitty. But, I also see that it certainly is less shitty than it was 50 years ago, and less shitty than it was 100 years ago. If we take a look at the historical trend, we realize that in general, everything is improving, and the only reason we hear of so much pain and suffering is because our communications have vastly improved as well. The problems were always there, the only difference is we’re aware of it now.
We are cynical when we hear proclamations of miracles, not because we don’t believe in extremely nice things, but because we know that extremely nice things can only be vindicated through rigorous scientific testing, and that extremely nice things have only come from mankind’s efforts to improve. For that reason, the future can only improve, as it has done throughout the evolution of prehistoric humans, as it has done since recorded history.
The end times proclaimed in Christianity tell of a world so depraved and messy that Jesus has to reappear and airlift all the believers to safety in an event known as “the rapture”. For that to happen, society first has to degenerate, the degeneration of the human race is a theme common to many religions. When a religious person looks at modern society, he thinks “oh look at all these greedy deviant sinners ruining the earth, look at all the wars and natural disasters god must clearly be pissed, the world is clearly going to shit and we can only save as many as we can before the rest of these heretics drown in their disbelief (and god’s wrath), at least I got my Jesus card for a first class ticket to heaven when the time comes.”
I mean seriously, how pessimistic is that? The world is going to become so bad that god has to wipe out the human race from planet earth for good, where the unbelievers and followers of other religions (60% of the world population) are sent to hell for some nice fiery torture, where humanity’s millennia of hard work, scientific and social development all crumble under god’s wrath – utterly horrible, unless you’re a genocidal maniac who likes murdering entire races of people due to your self righteousness, oh wait.
When it comes to the future, I am a optimist. I see humanity growing out of its prejudices as it has done for its history. I see humanity continue to cure diseases and solve its problems as it has done for its history. I see a society more and more progressive, more resilient against crime and with complete human rights – I see a world where every newborn is born without disease or defection or disadvantage of any sort, I see a world where people are no longer forced to choose between career, family, recreation – I see a world where nobody does anything when they’d rather be doing something else.
If you’re religious, you simply don’t have the same outlook, your scripture is too prohibitive and from a time where everyone living fulfilling, physiologically satisfied lives devoid of any suffering wasn’t even a feasible fantasy. When you see how your religion is being chased out of the first world, your feel persecuted, and you translate that into degeneration of humanity. When the world has progressed beyond your understanding, you interpret it as evil. By religious standards, the world will only get eviler. You’re a pessimist.