The empathy system as you describe it is built in to our DNA for the most part. There are aberrations of course. Fear of punishment is not the best way to help behavior. This is the province of
religious authoritarianism and ultimately will fail. There are no normal social pressures, only different ones administered by various social agendas.
That would show the general public that those who think like that are totally delusional.
People really don't understand what atheism is. If they realize that
atheists are humanists or humanitarians, this changes their picture.
Right now, they think atheists are Josef Stalin (who was not a real atheist). I don't think
Ayn Rand was a legitimate atheist either. (She was a cultist and not a freethinker.)
Atheism by definition conjures a negative image by the use of the term non-believer.
I like freethinker better because it has a positive connotation. (If connotation is the right word). As freethinkers, we have to get beyond the provocation and confrontation
to help people understand that we care about humanity, the environment, making the
world a better place by freeing ourselves from the shackles of dogma and moribund
institutions. We can't just be the bad little kids flipping the bird to the authoritarian
parents. Freedom from religion is a positive agenda.