Something that used to puzzle me as an atheist was why Christians seemed to reject the goal of maximum happiness in this mortal life while asserting that the goal ought-to-be maximum happiness in the after-life.
It seemed to me that if happiness was the goal, then proximate happiness - the sure and certain happiness of here-and-now, today and tomorrow, was preferable than the uncertain (and perhaps non-existent) happiness after death.
At any rate, I couldn't understand why if attaining happiness in Heaven and avoiding suffering in Hell was the legitimate goal of a Christian; then why was it that happiness in mortal life was regarded with such indifference?
There seemed to me to be a double standard at work with respect to happiness. Was happiness a good things, or not? If it was - then why was uncertain later happiness to be given a higher priority than sure and immediate happiness?
I assumed that what was going-on was some kind of concealed politically-motivated manipulation, designed to encourage sacrifice: for example, to make the working classes accept their miserable lot in life, or to encourage soldiers to risk death.
What I did not recognise was that this was a very modern and utopian argument. To Men of the past it was obvious - so obvious that it seldom was stated - that mortal life was intrinsically a tragic thing.
For the ancients; all that we value, absolutely everything - goodness, beauty, family, our-selves - would be lost in time; would be changed, corrupted, would die and be lost altogether.
Suffering and sadness was a simple fact; and was unavoidable. The Good News of Jesus was that this suffering and sdaness need not be inevitable and forever - there was something better... if we wanted it.
The modern attitude, that I used to have, was implicitly that mortal life was naturally (or, if not, then potentially, achievably) a kind of utopia; and that the suffering and miseries were actively caused by choices of Men.
In other words, with modern utopianism there was a denial of what had previously been regarded as the immovable fact of the sad, transitoriness, bitterness of mortal life.
So Christians, by their focus on the hypothetical after-life, are seen by 'moderns' as choosing Not to make real mortal life good (or better); whereas atheists are seen as focusing their best efforts on the place where they could achieve the most good: the material actuality of of daily existence.
So the Good News of Jesus, that we can have an eternal life in Heaven, is regarded by typical modern people (such as my former self) as a distraction from the proper business of living: which is the progressive, Leftist project of alleviating mortal life by means of changing the structure of society.
It is assumed that the proper implementation of a socialist-type society can (and should) abolish the ancient, fundamental tragedy of the transience of mortal life.