Because, in the atheist belief system this life is all there is, it’s been frequently said, by atheists, that atheists find this life much more precious than do Christians. I think they’re right. Very generally speaking, the effort to live as long as possible, the drive to consume and to make money, the need to be in a relationship, the desperation when a loved one dies, the need to look good and to “succeed” in their chosen profession, all of these seem more important to “those who live on the earth” than they are to Christians. I’ve even heard atheists claim that their children are far more important to them than Christian’s children are to them. This last one is a bit of a stretch but really, I’d have a hard time arguing that atheists don’t take their lives more seriously because according to their faith, after this, they’re done.
If this is true, then is the opposite also true? Do those who believe in another stage of life, specifically the Christian “heaven” take their lives less seriously? Is there any evidence for this or is it really no more than an ignorant assumption? Because again, for those who think this life is all there is, I think they’re right. I think that we Christians do take our personal lives less seriously. What happens instead is that we find the lives of others more precious than our own.
We attended a "Family Camp" this summer, run by our Church and located at one of our northern lakes. It was just five days to come and relax. There was organised stuff for the kids to do - hiking, wallclimbing, archery, water sports, trampolines, etc. etc. And for the adults there was one morning Bible study, but the rest of the time was whatever we wanted to do. My point however is this. Out of all the families that were there (around 60) from various Congregations around the province, fully 68% were foster parents and slightly less than that were adoptive parents. Family in general and children specifically, both of which require an other centred focus in one's life apparently rates highly in the lives of those who live by the Christian faith. One can't go by one Church summer camp but this trend has been true down through history.
Wherever Christians have gone, hospitals and schools have been built. Orphanages, homeless shelters, houses that focus on one’s spiritual needs, food distribution centres, medical outposts, clothing depots, homes for the aged and dispossessed, drug and alcohol treatment centres, treatment centres for leprosy and AID’s and centres for the severely handicapped, these are the things that spring up wherever Christianity takes root.
While there have been exceptions to the claim, it wasn’t until close to the end of the 20th century that atheists began in earnest to project an “other” oriented view of themselves and their belief system. Like teens who think they've discovered the joys of sex, atheists have discovered for the first time that ‘Helping others is almost like being good to yourself! Cool!’ Well, better late than never.
So, I think that claim is probably true, atheists do indeed think more about themselves because this life is all they’ve got. Like the saying goes, “Apart from Jesus, this life is as good as it’s going to get. With Jesus, this life is as bad as it’s going to get.”