Short answer: No
Some atheists subscribe to the blank slate theory regarding human behavior. The notion, long dismissed by psychologists, evokes the nature vs nurture debate leaning wholly towards nurture. In other words, they believe that humans are born without guile and that our badness is entirely the product of external influence.
Among those influences that lend themselves to bad behavior, the argument goes, is religion. It follows that the absolute eradication of religion would relieve most of what ails humanity.
While most atheists are thoughtful enough not to be entrapped in the extremity of blank-slateness, many still presume that religion is fundamentally corrupt whereas human nature is not. From such noble notions comes the concept of humanism.
There is a fatal flaw.
Let's presume religion is inherently evil. Then, let's ask, "From whence did it come?"
Religion is a product of human imagination. If it is evil, then the humanity that devised it must also be evil.
Consider this syllogism:
1. Religion is inherently evil
2. Religion is the product of human imagination.
3. Human imagination is evil.
Oddly, atheists use a similar argument to refute theism.
If God created everything, they wonder, who created evil?
When applied to the 'religion is bad; humanism is good' perspective, that question would read, If religion is man made, where did it get its evilness?
My summation is that religion is neither bad nor good. It's apparent badness and goodness are innately human and, therefore, exist with or without religion. The same is true for the badness and goodness attached to secularism.
Here's where atheists err:
The flaw of religion is not in its inherrent goodness or badness, for it has none. The flaw of religion is that it is not real; it defies and denies reality.
When demonizing religion atheists are, in effect, being religious because they are defying and denying the reality that religion is inane. They are replacing one false notion with another. The gain is net zero.
The same applies when atheists effectively deify of humanism. They employ religiosity by shrouding human nature with altruistism and, thereby, denying and defying its innate badness. Whether we like it or not, badness is no less a part of our genetic composition than hair color. Denial defies reality and that smacks of the same nonsense that engenders religion.
Religion is a merely a vehicle through which humanness is made manifest. Eradicating religion would not diminish bad human behavior anymore than plucking an apple would kill the tree. Religion and humanism are different apples from the same tree.
My conclusion is that supernaturalism is neither good nor bad. It is simply not real.
-- David Stone, August 21, 2010