You're quite right that most "people who believe they are atheists worship at the altar of the state." (Sounds like you've been reading Larken Rose.) And I entirely agree with you that theistic religions are preferable to the religion of statism.
I'd like to offer an explanation as to why so many atheists do become devout statists.
There is a similarity between atheism and anarchism that bears some examination. Neither is a "positive" belief system. I don't believe in God, ergo atheism. I don't believe government is either necessary or moral, ergo anarchism.
But I'm content to leave theists to their fantasies. I don't quite respect their beliefs, but I entirely respect their right to hold them. People cannot function without some moral foundation, and if religion is what works for somebody, so be it. I am not even an argumentative atheist, let alone a crusading atheist. At least, until the point be reached where the zealots decide to start killing heretics.
My anarchism is not such a kindly beast. I do not see statism as a harmless, comforting sort of belief system. If I were a Christian, I would name it Satan. To me, government is the very embodiment of human evil.
Guess I need to distinguish some terms here. "Morality" is each person's code of values, by which he judges "good" and "bad." Religions define and justify their own moral systems by simply explaining, "It's good (or bad) Because God SAID so." This is just one step removed from a child's first notion of good and bad coming from "Because Mommy SAID so." The step from parental to divine authority as the foundation of morality is truly a "baby step."
Enter the Snake in the Garden. Once a kid learns the awful truth about Santa Claus, he may be bright enough to figure out that God is the same sort of critter, and God's moral authority is kaput.
So what does a bright kid like that do? He NEEDS some kind of morality to make the choices he faces every day; it's impossible to make ANY decisions without a standard of value by which to judge the desirability of different choices and their consequences. Contrary to what many theists believe, atheism is NOT a system of morality; it is merely the absence of one particular belief, not a positive belief, and it offers NO moral guidance. So the kid needs to find a way to distinguish "good or evil," "right or wrong," "better or worse" in order to make ALL the choices he faces every day. He needs to find a new system of morality.
So how does that work out for him? Does that kid decide to be his own judge of right and wrong, and rationally select values which will further his own well-being and allow him to get along with other people effectively? Does he stop relying on some "Authority," and turn into a rational, independent adult?
Nah. He just looks around for another Authority to take the place of Mommy and God. Since at that point in his life, he is being bossed around by Government teachers, he decides that the State is the REAL Authority in the world. No more fairy tales for him; everybody KNOWS that Government is real, and unlike prayers to God, asking favors from Government gets you real goodies! So he becomes a socialist and a statist. "The good" is whatever government decides is good for society.
The bottom line: atheism is not a moral code by which a person can make his life choices. Religion is. Take away religion, and a moral vacuum results, which is most often filled by statism.
Recommended reading: The Most Dangerous Superstition, http://www.amazon.com/Most-Dangerous-Superstition-Larken-Ros...
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