I read another article on Space.com, about the new attack on evolution, Intelligent Design. In it, they quoted Sen. Santorum (R, PA) as saying "If we are the result of chance, if we're simply a mistake of nature, then that puts a different moral demand on us. In fact, it doesn't put a moral demand on us."
This, to me, is the result of sloppy thinking. People who believe in God seem to believe that without God, we would all be useless hedonistic criminals. We'd rob, rape, kill at will to satisfy whatever transient urge happened to pass through our maddened Godless brains. That turns out not to be the case. (I've been told that's a more polite way to express myself when I really want to say "Bulls**t!")
Atheism puts a GREATER moral burden on us, even from the most selfish of viewpoints. Without a promise of Heaven, we have only this life to make the best of it. Without a threat of Hell, we can only depend on our own intelligence to decide how best to do that. And a dog-eat-dog world where the strongest bully wins is not my idea of an Earthly Paradise.
Let's take a closer look. If everyone is out solely for themselves, and there is no societal framework, only the biggest or most ruthless will prosper - everyone else will serve the few rulers in basically a slave society. An intelligent Atheist can see that the odds of him being the biggest or most ruthless are slim, and it is far more likely to end up as one of the downtrodden masses. With that in mind, that's not the society I'd choose.
Even if you ARE the biggest and most ruthless...let's say you are the absolute ruler of your society. You've built more than 50 castles, you've got hot and cold running servants (not much in the way of technological comfort, but enough servants keeps that from being YOUR problem). Your picture is everywhere, thousands of people cheer your name everywhere you go. You don't have the power of life, but you do have the power of death - you can point to any individual that crosses your path, speak a few words...and that person will be dead within the hour. You have it all, and no one can challenge you! But...how do you sleep? Who can you turn your back on? If you remember, Saddam Hussein had all that. How's he doing now? Is that really a good life to strive for? And even if you avoid all the hazards...what are you leaving for your children? With no immortality, your children are REALLY the only way to live on past your death!
No, in my opinion, the best we can do to make Heaven on Earth is a rational society, with a strong legal framework and respect for individual rights. You know, kind of like the U.S.A. We're still not perfect, but we're better than 'most anywhere else. An ethical Atheist participates in his society to make it better for everyone, as the best way to benefit himself and his loved ones. That's a moral demand far beyond the "carrot and stick" method of most religions. And as for the next person who tells me I have no morals because I don't believe in his god...well, I won't do anything to him, because I support his right to believe differently - I'm even sworn to defend it with my life, if necessary. I just hope he recognizes that right for me.