Let me post a link to the book HERETICS by G.K. Chesterton, the author most famous for his Father Brown detective stories, albeit this polymath also wrote apologetic, political and social observations, biographies, plays, trifles, and even a science fiction yarn or two.
As an atheist, I read the essays of Joseph McCabe long before I read a word, or even heard the name, of Mr. G.K. Chesterton.
So it is with a peculiar sense of revisiting a long-forgotten childhood scene that I come across the following quote by McCabe, part of an ongoing (but apparently congenial) debate between the two. Call me unobservant, but I had not known the two were contemporary, much less engaged in a joust.
Here is McCabe:
“Mr. Chesterton [...] is as serious as I am in his ultimate purpose, and I respect him for that. He knows, as I do, that humanity stands at a solemn parting of the ways. Towards some unknown goal it presses through the ages, impelled by an overmastering desire of happiness. To-day it hesitates, lightheartedly enough, but every serious thinker knows how momentous the decision may be.
It is, apparently, deserting the path of religion and entering upon the path of secularism. Will it lose itself in quagmires of sensuality down this new path, and pant and toil through years of civic and industrial anarchy, only to learn it had lost the road, and must return to religion? Or will it find that at last it is leaving the mists and the quagmires behind it; that it is ascending the slope of the hill so long dimly discerned ahead, and making straight for the long-sought Utopia? This is the drama of our time, and every man and every woman should understand it.
My comment: Reading such a question with grown up eyes from a pen that once I held in high admiration is a disheartening experience.
Did Mr. McCabe actually believe that the erosion of the religious fiber in the English speaking world would not lead to quagmires of sensuality? Did he actually entertain the notion that the abolition of religion would usher in the era of utopia?
However you decide these questions in your mind, dear reader, allow me to submit into evidence Exhibit A, that the world has not escaped the quagmire:
And here is exhibit B that atheist does not, in and of itself, usher in the peaceful Utopia:
From the ad copy:
As the death toll mounts—as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia, and on and on—the authors systematically show how and why, wherever the millenarian ideology of Communism was established, it quickly led to crime, terror, and repression.
Naturally, these two exhibits are not exhaustive. You accumulate your own evidences over a lifetime to weigh before the jury of your conscience before deciding whether atheism, as a social movement, has achieved the rather extravagant promises its earlier partisans claimed, or whether its detractors were nearer the mark.
Then ask yourself whether the test of an accurate model of the universe is the accuracy of its predictions.