Marx is admired by militant New Atheists for saying that religion is the opium of the people. But they forget what he said next, which is that “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions.” I think that is right, which is why moral and political questions should occupy all of us far more than ontological questions.
Would the world be a better place if everyone were an atheist?
Across large parts of the world religion conspires with tyranny and injustice to oppress women, to cement the power of men, to suppress free speech, to force acquiescence with the status quo, and to whip up hatred against other peoples. Nobody would want Europe to return to pre-Enlightenment attitudes; nobody sane thinks that people flourish more under theocracies. But as the Marx quote shows, it would require a whole moral, political, and economic change before the need for religion will wither.