thanks Neil— I am up at 3a.m. with jetlag, so you reached me at the exact right time, we could say …
Religions offer much better prizes than that — spiritual fulfillment, love
I have both of these things, as an atheist, and many atheists I know have them also. I have them (again, I wrote about this in my response above), through
- emotional connection to family and friends;
- appreciation of music and the visual arts;
- the craft of writing (obviously, the reason we are on this site);
- appreciation of the beauty and complexity of nature (it is even better without the burden of any creation myth … highly recommended).
To define either love, or spiritual fulfillment, or morality, AS religion, or as the exclusive domain of religion, is a non-sequitur, self-referential non-definition of religion, and is an example of the hubris you speak of.
neither you nor I can with certainty know wether these people will reach heaven, Shangri La, or to explode their soul into oneness with the Universe
This is the classic agnostic argument, that proponents or organized religion use to justify their own teachings, and that people on the spiritual fence who cannot bring them selves to admit they are full-on atheists use to justify their position. “You cannot know anything for sure, so why reject that anyone may be right?”
I am not an absolutist. I do not claim with 100% certainty any knowledge. However, I trust the tools of common sense and the scientific method as our best available tools to increase knowledge and awareness, to reach what you might call enlightenment. And I do claim, using common sense and the scientific method, that while I cannot be sure whether we were created in a giant Petri dish by some higher order intelligence, I do know with 99% certainty that all the Gods and creation myths and paths to enlightenment and spiritual frameworks recorded in all the holy books of mankind over the past few millennia are in fact artificial man-made constructs. Why? Because they all (a) contradict each other hence cannot all be right (b) make wild assertions that have been debunked over time (c) violate the principle of Occam’s razor, by introducing unnecessary assumptions (of Gods, of an afterlife, of hidden portals to knowledge unlocked by smoking magic mushrooms, etc.) which are in fact not required to explain natural phenomena.
Please see this article explaining how I feel about atheist and agnostic labels.