One of my pet peeves is hearing people refer to atheism as a religion. This tends to stem from a misunderstanding of the strong version of statement of atheism. Some atheists state, “I do not believe in god.” Some state, “I believe there is no god.” Some go even further and state simply, “There is no god.”
I have personally not met an atheist that would refuse to listen to new evidence on the subject. I have a hard time imagining what would constitute real rational evidence for the existence of a deity. But, I have a difficult time imagining a deity. I will consider any such evidence if it comes up.
What the atheists I know are really stating, even if they say that there simply is no god, is that there is no reason to give credence to the god hypothesis. It’s a classic “show me” type of attitude. Simply stated, if someone wants me personally to even consider the possibility of a deity, it is their job to provide some evidence. As yet, I have seen none and therefore give no credence to the hypothesis. There is no god.
So, if we’re going to have a debate about whether this constitutes a religion, we must use dictionary definitions of both atheism and religion. I have already given my opinion of the former, but will also provide a formal definition from dictionary.com.
1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
By these definitions, it is my opinion that atheism does not even come close to meeting any of the definitions of religion. Please feel free to comment. Please also feel free to contribute other definitions to the discussion, but be prepared to cite the source of your definitions. Pharmer Phred’s Dictionary of Religious Terms is unlikely to carry much weight, especially if you post as Pharmer Phred.
As an aside, it is possible that antitheism comes close to definition number 6 of religion. However, the topic here is simple atheism, not the strong opposition to religion. Personally, I am an antitheist. We can start another thread if anyone feels the need to discuss the possibility of antitheism being a religion. However, as an antitheist, which is a positive belief as opposed to a negative non-belief, I am not offended by someone claiming that I am religious in that belief.