Since I'm an atheist who doesn't believe in Christianity or any other religion, I'm free to imagine alternatives to theological myths that would be more beneficial to society.
For example, Jesus dying on the cross and then remaining dead.
I'd find this way more inspiring than the Biblical story of his subsequent resurrection. Sure, dying on a cross so that the sins of humankind can be washed away is an admirable thing to do.
But Jesus' sacrificial altruism is markedly lessened if we assume that the final outcome was being brought back to life and spending eternity with God in heaven.
Hey, who wouldn't be willing to be crucified if the choices were (1) eventually dying and being dead forever, or (2) dying on a cross and then living forever? I'd choose the latter, for sure, and I make no claims to any sort of righteousness.
This is why I much prefer viewing Jesus' death as a secular, not supernatural, story.
I can envision him believing that he was atoning for the sins of humankind by his crucifixion, even though this belief was just a fantasy. And I see Jesus expecting that he would die and be dead forever, yet willing to be crucified anyway for a greater good.
Everybody loves heroes who sacrifice themselves to save others.
My father's mother comes to mind. She died giving birth to him. Now, she didn't know this would happen when she became pregnant. However, in the early 1900s childbirth was a heck of a lot more risky than it is now, so every woman who had a child was a hero, as is still true today.
So as long as I'm messing around with the New Testament, I'd like to change the virgin birth to a regular birth. This makes Mary, Jesus' mother, like every other woman, just as my refashioned Jesus is like every other human in that he died and was dead forever.
I readily admit that my revisions to the Jesus story wouldn't attract many adherents. However, I can see numerous benefits if people didn't believe in an afterlife that almost certainly is a religious fantasy. Here's a few of them.
Accepting that each of us has just one life to live would automatically make that life exceedingly precious. So atheism actually is the most pro-life worldview. Religious believers can be rather cavalier about sending soldiers off to die, taking health insurance away from children, or putting up with dangerous pollutants.
Hey, their thinking goes, no problem. God is in charge and will usher the faithful into the Pearly Gates after they die, so what's the big deal with foreshortening some people's lives when eternity awaits them?
Well, this is a hugely big deal if instead of dying and being reborn, everybody dies and is dead forever. Which again, is almost certainly the way reality works.
Now I'm not saying that every atheist acts in the life-affirming fashion that I'm describing here, so please refrain from leaving a comment on this post about the horrors that unbelievers like Stalin have wrought. Atheists can be horrible people just as religious believers can be.
My point is just that when someone sacrifices themselves for a greater good without expecting a reward in heaven, this is a more exemplary act than if the person believed that a wonderful afterlife awaits them.
Thus Jesus would have been a better example for humanity if he had willingly died for our sins (or any other selfless purpose) knowing that after being crucified, that was the end of the line for him. After all, this is the stark human condition known to anyone who sees how things are without religious blinders:
We are born. We live. We die. Forever.
That's scary. We have a natural desire to cling to life and avoid death, since any living organism without this attribute wouldn't be an evolutionary success story.
Thus when someone faces death bravely or willingly, putting their own self-interest and fear aside for the benefit of others while knowing that no afterlife awaits, this is way more admirable in my view than someone like the Biblical Jesus who dies with the expectation of heaven.
(I'm no expert on the Bible, but I just Googled "did Jesus know he would be resurrected" and found a bunch of Yes's on the first page of the search results, so the Great God Google has spoken. See here, here, here, and here.)
Another benefit of accepting that each of us is living the only life that we ever will have is so obvious, I won't dwell much on it here other than to point it out: this produces a sense of gratitude and preciousness in every moment insofar as we are able to keep in mind our inescapable mortality.
Meaning, recognizing that our lifetime is limited, not eternal, infuses our earthly existence with a large dose of Make the freaking most of it! that is absent when a religious mentality gives us a false assurance of an afterlife.
It's like a reverse Pascal's Wager. Betting on an afterlife dilutes our ability to enjoy and appreciate life to the fullest, while accepting the finitude of life enhances our ability to view every moment as infinitely precious, since no other sort of infinity exists for us.