Why do believers dread nonbelief so much? Remember that the believing mind is in quite a different framework than the nonbelieving mind. The believer remains a believer because he values cohesion and acceptance. He really believes that his belief system is a boon to society, and that anyone who opposes it must be morally or socially wrong.
There is a widespread belief amongst statists and religious people that most people in a given society are immoral, even sociopaths. They say things like:
“If we had no State/religion, people would just kill each other in the streets, steal, rape.” (you’d be surprised how often this “argument” is used)
“People need morality/rules/direction. Without it, we would have ‘moral anarchy’/depravity/chaos.”
The implicit premise in all these complaints is, in my opinion, that most people are sociopaths. How else could the absence of imposed obligation create such immorality? Any decent individual does not need to be threatened in order to be moral, but rather sees the obvious advantages of being moral over being immoral (peace of mind, less fear of social institutions, more friends and loved ones, and most importantly, being able to control one’s life). Only someone who willfully opposes society could require threats of divine wrath and kidnapping (the “law,” “jail”) in order to be “kept in line.”
If this is true, then it is easy to see that the whole line of reasoning is specious. No society could subsist and flourish if most people in that society were sociopaths! For one thing, people can already kill, rape and steal RIGHT NOW. It’s not like the State police actually protects anyone. All it can do is capture criminals once they have committed their crimes and are identified.
And some people do kill, rape and steal. The threat of the law or divine retribution obviously does not deter them. But these people are a very small minority compared to the society at large. Prison numbers are no help here, since many State laws are unjust.
Let’s try to quantify this, even though any numbers here are going to have to be arbitrary. Suppose approximately 95% of people are basically good people. This is not to say that 95% of people will always be moral, especially if they follow belief systems that demand that they surrender their moral autonomy to demeaning and dehumanizing doctrines. They can also be confused, desperate, or irrational. But in general, they don’t go around brutalizing people.
Let’s also say that there is less than 1% of sociopaths (perhaps something like 0.1%). These people may kill others if provoked, or even kill others as a way of life. On a lower scale, they may also be people who do their best to get along as badly as possible with others, and make their life difficult. They may steal, defraud, scam and lie their way through life.
This is the view that statists have of most people. But once again, it is fairly clear that a society made of such people could never survive. Whatever the form of social organization, no institutions, no production, no voluntary relations can survive if most people are out to cheat and kill each other. Society would collapse into two groups: small groups of cooperative individuals defending themselves from the mobs, and the mobs.
Believers dread nonbelief because they believe that society would collapse without the threats what supposedly impose moral obligation on the individual. As I have discussed in the past, no collectivist reasoning or threat can justify any moral obligation on anyone, apart for the primitive “might makes right” mentality. Any illusion of such a justification is just that, an illusion.
Whether in a belief system or not, the individual is always alone with himself. The only difference is that a belief system makes him forget that. And that, my friends, is the real “source of all evil.”