Atheism is a Religion — NOT!!

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.

Atheism
1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

Religion
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.

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7 Responses to Atheism is a Religion — NOT!!

  1. BubbaRay says:

    Can’t imagine where I’ve heard this argument before. 😆 It’s going to take forever to convince some people.

    Here’s a headline for a new article I’m cooking up:

    Naked Girl Scouts kill rabid pit bulls during drug sale to atheist alien athlete Blu-Ray pirates — hacked iPhones lead to crooked cop shootout during abortionist gun control rally.

  2. Misanthropic Scott says:

    Bubba,

    I think your new article will come up on google searches for just about everything. In fact, it sort of resembles the word soup common in many spam messages.

    I think the solution to the problem you mention will likely be to start at the beginning and bake some Girl Scout cookies. Check this definition for child. I bet those girl scout cookies really sound good now …

    (Maybe sometime in the future I’ll add a post for why anthropophagy is funny.)

  3. BubbaRay says:

    Anthropophagy — uh, oh, sounds like “Stranger In A Strange Land”

  4. asecularhumanist says:

    So true, I can’t even tell you how many times someone has called atheism a religion in front on me.

    Except, atheists do believe there is no God. Those who believe that the question of God isn’t worth the time thinking about or those people who simply don’t care are apathetic agnostics. Just a little added detail for those future people your going to have to convince.

  5. asecularhumanist,

    I have thought a great deal about the god hypothesis personally. Here’s the complete text of a message I just sent via email on a similar topic.

    I do not believe that science will ever be able to answer all questions. I do not know whether our minds are capable of understanding everything in the universe. Besides, as we see daily, the more we know, the more we learn that there is even more to know. There may not be a limit to this.

    That said, examining evidence still provides the best hope of providing the greatest understanding of the universe in which we live. There is quite simply zero scientific evidence for any supernatural being. We need not give credence to hypotheses for which there is no evidence. Were we to do so, we would have to give equal weight to all of the following potential hypotheses.

    * Every god ever dreamed up, including but certainly not limited to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Baal, Satan, Odin, Thor, Zeus, Vishnu, and Ganesh.
    * Unicorns
    * Dragons
    * The Great Pumpkin
    * The teapot orbiting between Mars and Jupiter
    * Scientology
    * Astrology

    And, a great many others. Just as we all most likely reject all of these hypotheses, I also reject the god hypothesis, for exactly the same reason.

    How do we pick and choose which ones to consider? When we see evidence, we begin to question. When a simple shred of evidence is presented for one or more gods, I will become an agnostic. Thus far, there is no reason to allow for the hypothesis.

    Atheism does not include the premise that one must disbelieve god despite whatever evidence may arise. It merely states that, at present, there has been no evidence to even create the doubt that would make one an agnostic.

  6. stillhere4u says:

    Atheism may well be spurred on by the refusal of religions to engage in self-criticism. I’ve just read http://deligentia.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/263/ on how foreign self-criticism is to religion, and, moreover, how religion misunderstands itself. You might be interested in it.

  7. stillhere4u,

    Interesting post. However, in my opinion, religion (or at least the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion, deliberately singular) is inherently dogmatic and thus will not change from within. Further, I have two problems with the blog post you cite, “Authentic Inter-Religious Dialogue: Confronting Oneself and the Nature of Religion”.

    First, I do not agree that it is an authentic inter-religious dialog. Since the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religion has just a single root, all of the sects and subsects of this one religion have more in common than they have differences right from the start. A rabbi, a priest, and a sheik, have nearly identical views on religion, when compared to Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Greco-Roman, Norse, or a wide variety of other religions dreamed up by humans. The surprising thing then is not that they were able to get along, but how frequently and thoroughly members of this one religion encompassing about half the world population completely and utterly fail to get along.

    Second: What this post seems to suggest is a way to make religions less damaging. Well, the easiest way to make religion less damaging is to teach real truth and the scientific method. We will not solve humanities problems via a delusional belief system where an imaginary sky creature will solve all of our problems. “The lord will provide” may be among the biggest and most dangerous lies that western religion propagates. It may be second only to “be fruitful and multiply” in the level of damage it causes. And, I would bet that the author of that post does not even consider these two ideas to be dangerous. Combined, they threaten our very survival as a species.

    Wars will not end while we have people too numerous for the limited resources of the planet. Environmental issues need not be solved if god will provide. We live in a truly perilous time for our species. Religion not only will not provide the answers, but is likely to further entrench us in our lethal ways.

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