I really like Julian Baggini's retort to the oft-heard saying, "There are no atheists in foxholes." (Meaning, in desperate situations.)
Here's what Baggini said in his book, The Ego Trick.
But third, it seems that the charge can be turned around: there are no theists at funerals. Many people say that they believe that death is not the end, but the way people behave at graveyards and crematoria suggests that they don't really believe it.
You may cry and be upset at the prospect of a long separation from someone you love. But I don't think that's how death feels to most people. The parting feels absolute and final.
...Beliefs about what follow life can alter how we respond to death, but it seems that the vast majority of human beings at all times and all places react to the deaths of loved ones in ways which only make sense if at some level they really did think that was the end.
This is perhaps a rare heartening example of the inability of obvious falsehoods to really convince, even when most people officially believe them.
The gap between what religious believers pretend to believe is true for them -- death is just a transition to heaven or some other "better place" -- and what they quite obviously actually believe -- death is the end of a person's existence -- is huge.
On the local evening news I frequently hear Christians saying things like this about a loved one's death: "I know he is joyful with Jesus now," "She's looking down from heaven and is still with us," "The Lord took her for a special reason."
Yet scenes of the funeral show faces of sadness. Nobody is laughing, dancing, ecstatic about the death.
(I leave open the possibility that this might happen in some other cultures with a different attitude toward dying.)
So I think Baggini has pointed out how flimsy most religious faith is. If people truly believed that a better life in heaven awaits the faithful after they die, why don't they kill themselves? Or failing that, rejoice when death befalls a loved one who shared their faith?
The reason is that religious believers aren't sure there is a God, life after death, or heavenly realms. They just hope there is. But that hope is at odds with the facts:
No evidence of God, life after death, or heavenly realms.
Thus as Baggini said, "This is perhaps a rare heartening example of the inability of obvious falsehoods to really convince, even when most people officially believe them."