If you look around you, you’ll notice that the more common something is the less it is valued. Value is generally assigned to something depending on its rarity. Copper is, ounce for ounce, much less expensive than gold because gold is rare in comparison. Diamonds are made of the same material as coal, but they get their great value from their relative rarity. If diamonds were as plentiful as coal, the price would drop dramatically. You can say the same the same for most other things; life for example.
If life is unique and short, it would be valued much more than if it goes on thousands of years. If the after-life is eternal, this short span that we have here on earth would hold relatively little value compared to it. That being the case, being an Atheist makes life more precious by far. If we only have this one short life to live and no other, then it is unique and priceless. If there is no after-life, you must come to terms with the fact that this is the ONLY life you’ll ever get. It is a rare and priceless thing.
If you think about it, it’s religion that cheapens life. It tells you that the after-life is the one you should worry about and that you should use this life to prepare for it; and that nothing could be more important. They tell you how incredibly bad it would be if you used this life for worldly goals, and lost the next one. They tell you that your eternal soul will burn in Hell for an eternity if you don’t follow their religious dictates in this life. However, what they’re really doing is manipulating you into using the only life you know you have in the service of the church.
Take the 9/11 massacre in New York and Washington D.C. for example. Those Muslims were told that their actions would hasten and ensure their entry into eternal bliss, but what they actually did was throw away the only life they had in an act of “faith”. Consider the Jonestown massacre, not only did those people throw their lives away following the dictates of a religious leader, but they also took their children’s lives too.
Let’s say that an atheist throws himself in front of a bus in order to save a child, that action is much more meaningful than if a Christian did the same thing. The Christian thinks they’ll just go to heaven and live there! According to their world-view, death is no more than a change of address.
However, when you say that atheism cheapens life, you may be referring to quality of life, rather than its quantity. If that’s the case, I might concede that imagining that you’re never alone, and that your “heavenly father” is watching over you all the time, could add a measure of value to your life, but even that comes at a great cost. According to what I’ve read in the Bible, that imagined father figure is actually a very judgmental dictator who has the capability of damning you to hell for any transgression or thought-crime you might commit.
I’m certain that you will assure me that He forgives all, and loves you very much, but you also have to admit that bad things do still happen to you in life. How? Why? If He loves you and watches over you, why do bad things happen to you? Or to any Christian? Does He love you or not? Does He have the power to stop bad things from harming you, or not? Any real parent, if they had His powers, would do a much more efficient job. Or do you consider yourself more loved, and more cared for, than the thousands of other Christians who die every day in America; Christians who also believe that that same God is watching over them?
As far as Forgiveness, which is less moral; an atheist who knows he has to live with the consequences of his actions in this life, or a person who thinks that whenever they commit a sin, or harm another person, they can just turn to their Heavenly Father and get forgiveness?
If you tell a child that Santa Claus is imaginary, they will be sad for a while, their life will lose a little quality, but you do it anyway because you know that they will adjust to reality. Indeed we expect no less.
It’s time for the human race to give up its Santa Claus and admit that gods are just as imaginary. The harm done in religion’s name is real, and has gone on far too long. This is the only life that we know we have. Live this life to its fullest! Gain knowledge! Develop and use your skills! Help others! Challenge yourself! Succeed or fail, but try! And, if you can, leave something for succeeding generations to remember you by.
It’s not life, but death that lasts forever. However, we can draw solace from the words of Mark Twain, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” Upon our death, we but return to the void; the materials and energies of our bodies return to the universe, like everything else.