When they aren’t busy telling you how Smart they are — this takes up approximately 92.4% of their day — atheists point out that religion is great for social control (it’s a “technology of power,” as the academic phrase is). There’s some truth to this – way back in the BCs, Cicero said no two augurs could meet without smiling.* Religion justifies the power of the powerful, and reconciles the powerless to their fate.
Problem is, man is a religious animal, because man is a striving animal. I forget who said it, but at least 75% of mankind’s problems are caused by our inability to sit quietly. Pick up any volume of medieval history, and marvel at how many people knew they’d end up hanged, drawn, and quartered, but did it anyway… because they felt their honor had been insulted, or over a woman, or on an obscure point of theology, or any of two dozen other things, all of which boil down to “I was bored.” If a man doesn’t have any real problems to struggle with, he’ll invent some.
Because history prior to the 20th century was little more than biographies of the powerful, this bedrock truth about human nature was obscured until modern times. Because Henry IV, say, took that stuff about the Salic Law seriously, we took it seriously, long past the point where everyone should’ve realized it makes no damn sense whatsoever. He was already King of England; why on earth did he feel he needed to be King of France, too? Your Lefty historian, who thinks the world is run by Mr. Pennybags and his homies, actually had a point in that regard. But because “capitalism” and “toxic masculinity” are at least semi-plausible explanations for Henry’s behavior (if you don’t think about it too much, or use empathy), they trot them out at book length and hey, bingo, there’s your People’s History of the Hundred Years’ War.**
The truth is, the man who has everything he could ever want is a miserable creature. Even people for whom real hardship is a recent memory will, instead of kicking back and enjoying it, throw over their hard-won luxury for a new struggle. Orwell saw this clearly, in his review of Mein Kampf:
Also [Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all ‘progressive’ thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flags and loyalty-parades. However they may be as economic theories, Fascism and Nazism are psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life. The same is probably true of Stalin’s militarised version of Socialism. All three of the great dictators have enhanced their power by imposing intolerable burdens on their peoples. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them ‘I offer you struggle, danger and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet. Perhaps later on they will get sick of it and change their minds, as at the end of the last war. After a few years of slaughter and starvation ‘Greatest happiness of the greatest number’ is a good slogan, but at this moment ‘Better an end with horror than a horror without end’ is a winner. Now that we are fighting against the man who coined it, we ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.
A man of the Left himself, Orwell couldn’t see that “Progressivism” can only offer “the hedonistic attitude to life.” Progressives know there is no God, and only stupid people believe in Him. They are Smart, and therefore salvation must be found down here, in this world. Who could possibly ever want more than three hots and a cot? It’s so bourgeois to think otherwise.
In 1940, when even Americans involuntarily went to bed hungry from time to time, you could forgive yourself for thinking that we’d eventually educate ourselves out of this bourgeois longing for something more than material comfort. But who can doubt it now? Everyone in the West has everything anyone could ever possibly want, to the point that poor people routinely die of heart disease, and we’re miserable. Does a person who’s content with life worry about which gender he is? Compared with your average modern SJW, Lenin was a sane, moderate, reasonable man. The greater the material security, the worse the mental instability.
That’s what religion’s for. That’s why belief in God is such a great “technology of control,” if you must. One never lacks things to struggle against when one struggles against oneself. There are always new sins to root out, new temptations to overcome. The calmest, happiest, sanest men I’ve ever met were monks, who entered the cloister specifically to do perpetual penance for the world’s sins. Christians can be as venal, hypocritical, and shitty as any other people, but at least they keep it local. They know there’s no salvation in this world, so they won’t attempt to bring Utopia about by killing off all the badthinkers.
If you want to start winning the culture war, bring God back… whether you believe in Him or not.
*Though they of course don’t know Cicero said this. Like all Smart folks, atheists don’t read much — apart from some stuff about Heisenberg they don’t have the math to misunderstand properly, all their objections to religion (=Christianity) were mooted, and answered, in the first few centuries AD. Julian the Apostate was doing their point-and-laugh routine — and doing it much, much better — all the way back in the 4th century.
**There actually IS a book out there called The Hundred Years War: A People’s History, and it’s not Lefty claptrap. It’s actually really good, with the best short explanation of the whole thing I’ve ever come across. I’m very much not a medievalist, so I can’t comment on the technical stuff, but it’s a good read if you’re into that kind of thing.