I think most people feel that one of the major drawbacks to atheism is that they can no longer legitimately fantisize about an "afterlife." Because atheists use reason and science to determine what is real and what is imaginary, we know that there is ZERO evidence for the existence of a god or for a "heaven" or a "hell" (unless you count being an involuntary audience member at a Sarah Palin event). Indeed, most atheists themselves believe that after death, "that's it." The difference with religious adherents, is that atheists are ok with it.
Not me. I think death is stupid. It's a clever concept if you're a gene and you want to spread your DNA quickly and effectively, but if you're a human, it sucks being a means to an end.
One of the great things about being an atheist, however, is that I am able to focus my attention away from fruitless fairytales about "heaven", and instead focus it on real live things...like science and technology. And as an avid reader of scientific journals and follower of technological advancements, I'm aware of the fact that scientists fully intent to erradicate death and disease altogether...and alot sooner than you think.
Seriously. Probably within the next 20 or 30 years, scientists will present us with the technology that will allow us to live as long as we like. I'm not going to go into the details of how this will all be possible, because you can read about it from a much smarter man than I right here.
The basic idea, however, is that, on average, every year technology (specifically computer based tech) doubles in speed and halves in price. This enormous computing power will become more and more intelligent because it will eventually be able to compute not just billions of times faster than the human brain (which it already does), but it will also be able to process billions of things IN PARALLEL (just like the human brain). As you may know, almost every single field is now heavily influenced or altogether controlled by computer technology. Including medicine.
And at some point our vast computing power will allow us to build millions of tiny, super-intelligent robots (or "nanobots") that can patrol and analyze your body, repair damaged cells, and destroy malignant entities. This will essentially slow down the aging process to a virtual standstill. A little further into the future after that, we will be able to literally replace our molecular biology cell by cell with materials that are profoundly more lasting and capable.
The future will not be us versus the machines. It will be us BECOMING the machines. Or at least much more intelligently designed machines.
Some people balk at the idea as if we shoudn't mess with "god's" work. Why the hell not? If your heart failed, you would no doubt accept a pacemaker so you could live longer, no? Well, what if your entire body failed and you could replace it with something much better? What if that new body allowed you to live as long as you liked free of disease or limitations?
This is not a question of "if." It's a question of when.
As an atheist, this is extremely exciting to me. Religion is attractive because it promises life after death. The irony here, is that scientists who are largely atheists that shun the cerebral sloth of religious ideology...will be the very ones that bring us "eternal" life. Once the fear of death and disease is erradicated by scientific advancement, I suspect many others will see the folly of religious dogma too.
But why wait? Become excited NOW. This technology IS coming. And rather than waste your precious time on earth praying to invisible men, or donating your hard earned dollars to the intellectual philanderers on your church's pulpit...why not instead donate your money and attention to something that can ACTUALLY change your life for the better? Why not devote yourself to learning about your amazing universe that is brimming with promise?
What is there left to discover in religion? More lazy vague explanations? More hate? More arbitrary conditions and prohibitions? More sadly empty promises? More "mysteries" that man can never understand?
Do you want to "live forever" by hoping and praying that a fairy tale will come true? Or do you want to live by supporting real science and technology that exists and advances every day in real life?
The beauty of a scientific mind is that it does not accept "it's a mystery" as an answer, but as a challenge. So I challenge YOU to start thinking about your actual, right here, right now, real life. After all, as far as the evidence suggests, you only have one.