People seem to think that a society where atheism has become widespread and religion has been defeated will be a place where different sexualities will be tolerated, sexual freedom will be complete, and the respect for science will reign.
I hate to disappoint but I happen to know for a fact that this is not true.
I was born in a fully atheist society where nobody went to church (let alone a synagogue), religion was ridiculed, and everybody had to take classes on “Scientific Atheism.” We weren’t a country where religion had been driven underground. After several generations of people brought up as atheists, nobody knew anything about religion except that it was “an opium for the masses” and something that very uneducated, backwards folks believed in because they hadn’t discovered the light of reason.
And you know what? Homosexuality was punished by prison sentence in the Soviet Union until 1993. The society was fiercely homophobic in a way today’s United States, a country that is quite religious, is not. Sexual morality was extremely repressive. A young woman would be slut-shamed and vilified if she had a steady boyfriend, irrespective of whether she even had sexual relations with him. Victims of rape were shamed so badly that the suicide rates amongst them were staggering. The general consensus was always that a victim of rape must have “asked for it” in some way or another.
And science? I’m sure you have heard about the persecution of geneticists and cyberneticists in the Soviet Union, right? When the completely atheist leaders of the Soviet Academy of Sciences decided that “Darwin’s evolutionary theory is reductive and unsatisfying”, they persecuted scientists that studied genetics. Many of those scientists were killed for no other crime than practicing their science. Quiet, nerdy folks, killed by an atheist regime because they believed in evolution and wanted to study genetics.
The sad truth is that eradicating religion is not a road to tolerance, freedom, and respect for science. Human beings have a tendency to react violently to the manifestations of sexuality of others, they have a tendency to blame victims as a psychological mechanism of distancing themselves, they have a tendency to fear science and to kill each other.
An atheist society does not do any better or any worse than a religious society in terms of morality, tolerance, intelligence, etc. And you know why that happens? Because the moment religious (or atheist, or agnostic) beliefs stop being a deeply intimate, personal issue, they lose all meaning and turn into yet another way of building collective identities. Their principles become empty formulas that people recite in order to feel less alone in the world.
It doesn’t matter which group you abandon your individuality for. As long as you give up on your right to figure out the fundamental questions of existence for yourself and adopt the answers of any collective, you will become that more likely to participate in barbarity and fanaticism. And atheist fanaticism is just as bad as religious fanaticism.