Again, For The Willfully Ignorant: Atheism Is Not A Religion

“If I had a dollar for every time a Christian says that atheism is a religion, I’d be a fairly wealthy man.” – Al Stefanelli

It seems that every time an atheist organization puts out an advertisement, erects a billboard, files a lawsuit or does anything even remotely connected to activism, the religious idiots crawl out of the woodwork like termites feasting on the structure of reason that defines reality and common sense with their statements that atheism is a religion, that atheists are cramming their “beliefs” down their throats and that we are more fundamentalist than the most extreme fundamental religionists. So, every once in a while I am compelled to reprint an article that I’ve written and re-written so many times that I’ve actually lost count.

Of course, those of us that are atheists know full well that atheism is not a religion and cannot be categorized as a belief system, but since when did knowledge stop a believer from being willfully ignorant. After all, they do believe some outlandishly ridiculous things in spite of extant proof to the contrary. In fact, they are proud of their ignorance, and often quote from the book of Hebrews, chapter 1, verse 1, which states, “Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Pot, Meet Kettle…

The reason that the believer stubbornly insist that atheism is a religion is actually quite simple. They are mentally unable to conceive otherwise. They are are so caught up in their own beliefs that they cannot comprehend not having them, and thus, cannot comprehend another person not having them. For the indoctrinated, there is no void. One can not simply exist without having a belief in God, and their standard responses when we atheists tell them, very simply, that we do not believe usually provokes a reply to the order of us being in denial. A believer accusing an atheist of being in denial is an oxymoron and actually quite humorous to me. Those who claim that atheism is a religion lack a clear understanding of what atheism is, which is evident by their tendency to use religious terms to describe atheism.

I have often stated on this and other blogs, as well as in my book, the following:

“There exists only one definition of atheism, and that is simply the lack of a belief in a deity.  There is a philosophical aspect to atheism, but it is not part of the definition, but an extension of the individual. Atheism, in of itself, cannot be described as religious because it takes mental gymnastics to attach the narrative, experiential, social, ethical, doctrinal, ritual and material aspects of religion to atheism because it is not a structured system with defined rules.  It has no uniform beliefs and is not a means of understanding our existence.”

Religious belief is a philosophy, but not atheism. An atheist may adopt a philosophy that is based on unbelief, but that philosophy is merely an extension of their atheism, and germane only to the individual. Religion, however, is a shared experience, regardless of all the claims about personal relationships, etc. The concept of religious belief is directly dependent on and pertinent to specific dogma, doctrine and superstitions that are common to the religion. Every Muslim, no matter which sect, has a set of core doctrines that serve to define them as Muslims. Same for Christians, etc. The atheist has no shared belief, doctrine or dogma for obvious reasons.

Mental Gymnastics…

Putting atheism up as a legitimate parallel to religion takes mental gymnastics of Olympian proportions. It is the epitome of that old axiom eluding to the comparison of apples and oranges, but it would be closer to comparing an apple to a Chevy. Atheism has nothing even remotely similar to religious belief. As I stated above, atheists do not have a single positive aspect of existence that binds us together.

We are categorized as a group based on one, single negative – the lack of belief in God. Outside of that, we can and often do, adopt a wide variety of points of view that can include anything. Even those of us who are among the outspoken, widely read and well-known in our movement cannot intelligently be compared to religious leaders, which is another common statement of ignorance coming from the religious, followed in ignorance only by their assertions that atheist organizations are comparative to religious congregations.  The plain truth is that there exists no similarities between atheism and religion that can logically command such designations.

The fact that there are a plethora of religionists who go through great lengths in their attempts to define atheism as a religion is indicative of the ignorance that is prevalent within their mindsets. A man named Daniel Smart of “Creation Ministries International” published an article last year that is probably the most batshit crazy attempt at this. It is lengthily, poorly written and completely devoid of anything close to accurate. In fact, his first commentator put it very succinctly,

“This article is a typical example of you’re complete failure to understand atheism or science. The entire CMI website and team produce nothing but propaganda which this is a clear example of. The CMI website, I understand, is supposed to be providing a scientific explanation of creation, yet it has failed to provide one solitary unbiased piece of evidence. All the website is good for is hypocrisy and propaganda.”

You Keep Using That Word…

Believers, particularly Christians, are fond of using what I like to call “Disingenuous Heteronyms.” A heteronym is a is a word that has equal spelling and pronunciation, but has different meanings. The word “lick” is an example. You can lick an ice cream cone, and you can lick someone in a fight. A disingenuous heteronym is word that has equal spelling and pronunciation, but a meaning is attached to it that does not follow the standards by which definitions are arrived.

Examples would be the words “preacher” and “congregation.” These words have a few different meanings, which make them heteronyms, but the assignment of these words with definitions within the confines of atheism is disingenuous. Point of fact, many religious people like to call me a preacher.

Now, I used to be a preacher, so calling me a former preacher would be accurate. But within the confines of atheism, calling an outspoken atheist that tours the lecture circuit, produces radio and television programs, writes articles or authors books (or a combination of some or all of these) a preacher is inaccurate.

Atheism has no “preachers” nor “congregations.” Atheist groups have leaders and agendas, much in the way as groups such as the United Way, but to suggest that atheist groups are religious in nature is not only preposterous, but shows a lack of intellectual savvy that is common found in very young children.

We Gather Here Today….

The lack of “faithful believers” and the other inherent characteristics of religion do not allow for anything parallel between the two outside of a group of humans meeting at the same place.  After that, there is no commonality. When atheists gather to hear a speaker, they are encouraged to be skeptical about the content of the lecture. The speaker generally offers food for thought, knowing full well that individual expression of opinion is accepted as the norm.

No single atheist is obligated to agree with what another atheist might take away from any given lecture. The religious leader, however, does not offer food for thought. Quite the contrary, they have a goal of uniting their congregation under one dogmatic banner where there is no room for congregational interaction, skepticism or free thought.

Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated…

As I made reference to earlier, atheism stands on its own as a definitive and does not require an attached philosophy that all atheists must adhere to. The fact that an atheist has an individualized philosophical compass that is not connected to a common belief is the main tenet that separates it from religion.

The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in an article on Religion, defines religion as such:

  • Belief in supernatural beings (gods).
  • A distinction between sacred and profane objects.
  • Ritual acts focused on sacred objects.
  • A moral code believed to be sanctioned by the gods.
  • Characteristically religious feelings (awe, sense of mystery, sense of guilt, adoration), which tend to be aroused in the presence of sacred objects and during the practice of ritual, and which are connected in idea with the gods.
  • Prayer and other forms of communication with gods.
  • A world view, or a general picture of the world as a whole and the place of the individual therein. This picture contains some specification of an over-all purpose or point of the world and an indication of how the individual fits into it.
  • A more or less total organization of one’s life based on the world view.
  • A social group bound together by the above.

As you can see, these characteristics in no way reflect someone who lacks the belief in supernatural beings, nor anything that unites atheists on a dogmatic level. Atheism does not include any distinctions between sacred and profane objects. There are no ritual acts or moral codes to be sanctioned by God(s). There is nothing about atheism that fits any of these.

There exist no characteristically religious feelings such as awe, nor a sense of mystery, guilt or adoration.  Atheism includes nothing even remotely similar to prayer or other forms of communication with the supernatural. Religion is a system of belief. Atheism is not, and cannot be classified as such because there is no belief and there is no system. No rituals, practices, rules, doctrines or dogma.

It Takes More Faith To Be An Atheist…

I wasn’t actually going to address this very common statement by the religious because it’s just so completely stupid that I doesn’t even deserve the energy it takes to make the keystrokes. But it does come up often, so I will give it some attention. Religion concerns itself with gods and religious belief is classified as “faith” because it includes unquestioning belief in unconventional definitions that require no proof to believe as truth. Hence the common, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it” bumper stickers that adorn the chariots of the godly.

Atheists, however, live according to reason and do not apply a reference to a higher power. Atheism is a scientific approach to theistic belief systems. An atheist contradicts theism by using rational thinking and scientific theory to debunk the dubious and irrational assertions of religion. In short, atheism merely awaits evidence to confirm the existence of god.

It Just Ain’t So…

Defining atheism as a religion is embellishment and bad philosophy. Atheism has no dogma, no rites, no holy books, no places of worship and no clergy of any description. It offers no moral guidance, no political opinions and no world view.

Atheism is a religion like “off” is a channel on your television…

  86 comments for “Again, For The Willfully Ignorant: Atheism Is Not A Religion

  1. Thorne
    March 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve always had a problem with people who cannot accept that atheism is NOT a religion.

    “You believe that God isn’t real,” they tell me.

    No, I don’t know if gods are real. I just don’t believe that gods are real. Any gods.
    They can’t seem to differentiate between the two.

    “You just have to have faith,” they preach.

    I DO have faith: I have faith that they will never, ever be able to provide scientific evidence for the existence of gods. Especially THEIR God.

    Doesn’t sound much like religion to me!

  2. drdave
    March 5, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Al, “Atheism is not a religion, it’s a personal relationship with reality”.

    • March 6, 2012 at 11:42 am

      That’s brilliant!

    • bcoppola
      March 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm

      That needs to be a T-shirt.

  3. March 5, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    Okay, but by that argument, Christianity is not a religion because Christians have wildly differing beliefs (just look at any web site where, for example, Evangelicals bash Latter-day Saints). To retool your statement in ¶7, Christians are categorized as a group based on one, single negative: the lack of belief that Jesus did not exist. Outside of that, we can and often do, adopt a wide variety of points of view that can include anything.”

    “But wait,” you say, “that’s a double negative, which means it’s a positive belief!” The problem with this is that it presupposes that all Christians believe that Jesus existed. Some, for example, believe that He is probably a metaphorical individual, but He might have existed. True, these types are the minority, but they do exist, and they are Christians. (There are even some people who are merely “social Christians,” who don’t even fit into the earlier category but identify as “Christian” because they enjoy the subculture and its more tangible benefits.)

    So, when it comes right down to it, there’s really no conclusive, unifying belief that ties all Christians together. Ergo, by your argument, Christianity isn’t any more a religion than atheism is.

    Thoughts?

    • Thorne
      March 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Isn’t a Christian someone who believes that Jesus, whether he existed or not, is the Son of God? And doesn’t that presuppose the existence of God? How can one be categorized as a Christian without actually believing in the Christ?

      • Gregory
        March 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm

        Nope. Arians, Unitarians and others who reject the dogma of the Trinity are Christians. Non-trinitarians hold a diverse view of the nature of Christ: Arians say that the Son is a lesser, created being, god-like but not God; several historic Christian groups believed that Jesus was a human who was “adopted” and imbued with a divine spirit at his baptism; several others held a position called modalism, which says that there is one deity operating in three different states, like H2O being found as vapor, water and ice. These different views then break down in to finer points of doctrine, such as whether or not Jesus had a human nature and its relationship with the Christ nature. All of these groups are classified as Christian, even though none of them accept the Trinitarian notion of the Son as a distinct person.

        • Thorne
          March 6, 2012 at 2:12 pm

          Yeah, but they still believe in the Christ, regardless of the details. They don’t deny that he existed, or that he is a conglomeration of 1st century preachers. You can’t have a Christian with Christ.

          • Thorne
            March 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm

            You can’t have a Christian WITHOUT Christ! Sorry.

          • Gregory
            March 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm

            You asked:

            Isn’t a Christian someone who believes that Jesus, whether he existed or not, is the Son of God?

            My answer was in the negative.

            As for the broader question of being a Christian without the Christ, the answer is still negative. There are several historical and modern Christian churches that reject the deity of Jesus in any way, shape or form, who derive their claim to being Christians by saying that Jesus was the MShYKh (a Hebrew word transliterated into English as “messiah”, or “christos” when translated by way of Greek.) Unitarians, some Monophysite churches and a number of other historic and modern Christian movements say that Jesus was a human prophet and nothing more, and place him in roughly the same position that Muhammad holds in Islam. Since they identify themselves as “Christian,” who am I to say otherwise?

        • hepburn1
          March 8, 2012 at 11:23 pm

          All of that aside I think that the term “Christian” is derived from those, who very soon after the alleged “Jesus” lived, were identified as his devotees. So in it’s pure original rendering the term refers only to those persons who have adopted the beliefs of the apostles as recorded in “the book”.

          Many groups claim the monicker and for a variety of reasons but may not, in fact, qualify by the aforementioned criteria.

          But who the heck cares anyway?

    • John Horstman
      March 5, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      You’ve just highlighted the problem with group/community/identity labels: they are unstable and constantly contested. I suggest rejecting any identity label out-of-hand and asking for specificity instead, if some parsing of the identity is at all relevant to whatever discussion is being had. I usually interpret “I’m Christian” as meaning that someone minimally believes in a very powerful hyper-dimensional being named Yahweh that projected part of itself into a human body in order to tell people how their consciousnesses or something (“souls”) could survive after death and wind up in an eternity that was seen by people 1400-2600 years ago as pleasant versus one they saw as unpleasant. If any of that is relevant to the discussion, I ask about specific beliefs. Sometimes people consider rejecting the label “Christian” as a result, but usually not.

      Also, self-identity doesn’t have to be accepted. If I think tapping my foot at a certain pressure a certain number of times can cure my bipolar disorder, you’d have every reason to reject my claim of the label “rational”. It’s entirely possible to do the same for “Christian”, though identity labels are frequently loaded terms, and it’s usually most effective to dodge the problem by insisting upon addressing specific, stated beliefs.

    • March 5, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Christians are categorized as a group based on one, single negative: the lack of belief that Jesus did not exist. Outside of that, we can and often do, adopt a wide variety of points of view that can include anything.

      By that definition, Muslims are Christians.

      I can’t think of a definition of Christianity that doesn’t include following the teachings of Christ (even if cherry picking is involved), and a belief in some sort of deity that is somehow connected to the Bible.

    • Jeff Sherry
      March 5, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Ya lost me Jeff. Non-trinitarians are also christians. I don’t know if you are moving goal posts, but the lowest denominator would be a faith in Jesus to be a christian. It doesn’t matter if the are Mormon, Catholic, Protestant or Non-Trinitarian.

    • June 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm

      The belief that defines what a Christian is was clearly decided at the Council of Nicea as the “Nicene Creed”. It is recited at nearly every Christian church service (At least every one I have ever attended).

      While there are some different versions out there, it outlines the basis of faith for the Christian church. It’s a comprehensive set of statements as to what a Christian is.

      Atheism, on the other hand, is a single statement about a single point of view. There is no system of beliefs or ethics, which is required by the actual definition of the word “religion”.

      From http://m-w.com :
      re·li·gion
      noun ri-ˈli-jən
      Definition of RELIGION
      1 a : the state of a religious
      b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural
      (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
      2: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
      3 (archaic) : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
      4: a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

  4. Brian
    March 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    You may want to update your quote from Hebrews. “Now, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” is actually from Hebrews 11:1.

    No need to publish this comment, just to let you know.

  5. Buford
    March 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    First time commenter but I’ve been reading your stuff for weeks. This is a good article with solid points, but I think you may have made a small leap that is not justified and runs counter to much of the rest of the article.

    In your penultimate paragraph you say: “Atheists, however, live according to reason and do not apply a reference to a higher power. Atheism is a scientific approach to theistic belief systems. An atheist contradicts theism by using rational thinking and scientific theory to…”

    I know that many or most atheists who hang out at freethoughtblogs probably fit that description (I do), but you are using that to describe “all” atheists. As you established in the opening paragraphs, atheists come in all types and that includes those who do none of the things I quoted above.

    There is nothing about atheism that requires reason, science or rationality. They do often go hand-in-hand and one does often lead to the other, but not globally. After all, you also said; “Outside of that [the lack of belief in gods], we can and often do, adopt a wide variety of points of view that can include anything.”

    • Chuck Doswell
      June 11, 2012 at 2:13 pm

      I actually agree with this point – the ONLY thing atheist have in common is DISbelief in a god-myth. It’s logically absurd to imply disbelief is a belief, but where atheists go from there is purely up to them as individuals. If we ask about their beliefs, rather than their disbelief, then they’re all over the map. I agree that many atheists do use science, rational logic, and observable evidence but … reading atheist forums convinces me that atheists have nothing but their DIS belief in common.

  6. March 5, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me how many times we, as atheists, need to have this conversation. You summed it up my feelings well when you wrote, “since when did knowledge stop a believer from being willfully ignorant.” They just do not care to learn anything that might force them to think a little, to learn something new. They have faith and religions are groups, therefore, we must be the same. Rubbish.

    If they took the time to learn even a little about us, they would see all of the differences between us. They would learn that there is no central belief that atheists share other than the disbelief in god(s). The problem I see is that they are too busy talking and spewing their rhetoric to stop and listen to anything anyone else has to say.

  7. scenario
    March 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    There is one sense where atheism is a religion, the fill in the blank way. I have a form where I must fill in a line for religion and I put atheist there. For the purpose of the form, atheist is a religion in the same way bald is a hair color.

    This could be important in a legal sense. If a law states that someone cannot be fired because of their religious beliefs, could you be fired for saying you’re an atheist? You don’t have any religious beliefs so how can you be fired for having something that you don’t have.

    I can see a lawyer saying, yes he was fired for being an atheist. The law says we cannot discriminate based on his beliefs. He doesn’t have any beliefs so this doesn’t qualify as discrimination.

  8. Norman Lycan
    March 5, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    If atheism is not a belief system, then state to me directly that you do not believe that the universe is an accident. If you do believe it is, you have adopted a belief that is unsupported by science. That is not the same as to say the assumption is incorrect, but assumption it remains, and if you believe in an assumption, that is religion.

    And I often wonder, why atheists, many who have escaped the religious brainwash would get caught in the same trap again. Science is all we can trust, and that which science has not proven belongs in a file labeled “I DON’T KNOW”. But you want to leap forward into the face of many other freethinkers who feel there might be something out there, they just don’t know what it is. And you fracture the movement, but the purity you seek is a new religion. And failure of your cause.

    You argue that you are not practicing religion. What blows my mind is that you totally miss the vital point. That is that if there is some mind out there that set the chaos in motion, he watched several cycles of evolution pass by on this planet, and he didn’t step in, extinction after extinction, and he did not interfere. How many millions of years of evolution, and the dinosaurs are gone. A freethinker would realize a perspective of where we as humans stand as well. On a razor’s edge, and no one cares. I love to debate atheists but it troubles me I have to provide them with their best defense. But, I am not here to win a debate, I am here to win the world for freethought.

    NL

    • March 6, 2012 at 1:15 am

      A nice piece of sophistry NL, but a failure.
      The origins of the Universe are unknown. For all we know, the Universe might have been brought into existence by a deity; however, that hypothesis cannot be falsified, so it is not amenable to testing or examination using the scientific method. The use of the word “accident” is pure sophistry. Scientific research tells us a lot about how it appears that the Universe expanded after the time of its creation, and how it is still expanding, and there are models of that process which are a close match to measurements of the processes and the relics of past processes. Science can therefore tell us a lot about understanding the evolution of the universe, however, the precise mechanism of its creation is, as a far as I can tell, unknown. This does not bother me, and I do not have to believe in “accident”, “divine creation” or “made by the Flying Spaghetti Monster” or any other hypothesis. I will wait for further insight that I can hopefully understand. There is no assumption there, simply no belief. Your entire first paragraph is bunk.
      The second and third paragraphs of your comment, which appear to be derived in some way from the first paragraph, simply seem to me to be poorly argued twaddle. I cannot make head nor tail of them, I cannot discern whether you are even making an argument, or what arguments might be there. I have parsed them numerous times and I am still confused. You need to do a much better job of making a point.

      • John Morales
        March 6, 2012 at 4:10 am

        Norman is a goddist tediously pretending to be an agnostic.

        (That’s being kind)

        • Dave The Sandman
          March 6, 2012 at 6:02 am

          ahhhhhh …. I was wondering when Norman, our resident billy goat gruff munching dweller neath the bridge, would turn up and pass out some more BananaMan flavour Kool Aid.

          Norman wants to win the world of “freethought”. Mwaaaah ha ha ha ha.

          Good luck tilting at the windmills sparky.

      • Norman Lycan
        March 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm

        G Shevlin said,

        “Science can therefore tell us a lot about understanding the evolution of the universe, however, the precise mechanism of its creation is, as a far as I can tell, unknown.”

        Thanks for your vote.

        NL

        • Thorne
          March 6, 2012 at 11:44 pm

          Um, you do understand that “I don’t know” ≠ god(s)?

          • Norman Lycan
            March 7, 2012 at 7:43 pm

            I would agree with that for the most part, but, I would reword it, it has nothing to do with religion.

            NL

    • John Morales
      March 6, 2012 at 4:08 am

      If atheism is not a belief system, then state to me directly that you do not believe that the universe is an accident.

      Bah. The vuvuzela toots yet again, I see.

      Either the universe just is, or something caused it.

      If the latter, either whatever caused it just is, or something caused whatever caused it.

      If the latter, either whatever caused whatever caused it just is, or something caused whatever caused whatever caused it.

      Et cetera.

      (Occam’s razor is obviously beyond your comprehension)

      • March 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm

        Most assuredly a one-note vuvuzela argument! Responses simply bounce off NL’s thick wall of defense and he doggedly answers with the same note, over and over and over and over … ad nauseum.

        Evidently, he simply is unable even to hear, let alone grasp, the idea that belief is NOT involved with current scientific understanding of the origins of the universe. Where evidence is available, it is consistent with the Big Bang hypothesis. Where evidence is NOT available, science is mute, although scientists are free to speculate if they so wish (as is anyone). When they do so, science-based speculation inevitably based on some rational argument (e.g., mathematics), not just any random notion. Scientists don’t necessarily BELIEVE the universe originated as an “accident” (undefined, but presumably NL equates “accident” to “random chance”), but neither do they exclude that possibility. The physical process that resulted in the origination of the universe just is not known to science currently.

      • Norman Lycan
        March 6, 2012 at 8:05 pm

        The razor is not involved, because there is no simplest explanation. One, because science cannot create something out of nothing, and two, it cannot evolve life in a test tube. So while it may not be the simplest answer, the honest answer is I don’t know. I don’t understand your resistence to that.

        NL

        • John Morales
          March 6, 2012 at 9:21 pm

          The razor is not involved, because there is no simplest explanation.

          You imagine your evasiveness goes unnoticed?

          (Had you any decency, you’d address what I wrote)

          One, because science cannot create something out of nothing, and two, it cannot evolve life in a test tube.

          Therefore, something else must have created something out of nothing and evolved life outside of a test tube?

          (Heh)

          So while it may not be the simplest answer, the honest answer is I don’t know. I don’t understand your resistence to that.

          To what resistance do you refer? It’s bleeding obvious you don’t know, and no-one disputes that.

          • Dave The Sandman
            March 7, 2012 at 5:57 am

            John

            whilst I doff my cap at your pluck for trying to debate old Norman you need to bear in mind the mask he wears – that of a supposed free thinker – is but a mask.

            As Eugenie Scott has written and spoken about many times, by their words shall you know them. Note the way that Norms posts are peppered with ID/Creationist/BananaMan buzz phrases and arguments – something from nothing/testube life/etc etc. These show him for what he is….a faith head troll. Look up his other actvity on other blogs and this becomes ever more clear. Same dumb statements over and over and over again.

            Have fun pulling the wings off him….Im gonna sit it out, wait for the sun to come up, and then laugh when he turns to stone.

          • Norman Lycan
            March 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm

            Dave the Sandman said,

            “These show him for what he is….a faith head troll.”

            You see this is the sort of crap that divides freethinkers. I make a argument, and back it up with fact, and because it does not mesh with your religion, you call me a troll!!! Where’s your input Dave? How do YOU refute my arguments? I guess you are one of the “sheep” that Jesus describes who would blindly follow his bullshit as well.

            NL

  9. Eris
    March 5, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    *ponders*

    Belief in supernatural beings (gods).
    A distinction between sacred and profane
    Ritual acts focused on sacred objects.
    A moral code believed to be sanctioned by the gods.
    Characteristically religious feelings (awe, sense of mystery, sense of guilt, adoration), which tend to be aroused in the presence of sacred objects and during the practice of ritual, and which are connected in idea with the gods.
    Prayer and other forms of communication with gods.
    A world view, or a general picture of the world as a whole and the place of the individual therein. This picture contains some specification of an over-all purpose or point of the world and an indication of how the individual fits into it.
    A more or less total organization of one’s life based on the world view.
    A social group bound together by the above.

    If the atheistic-secular strain of Buddhism that I’ve been flirting with only meets the requirements that I haven’t crossed out, does that mean it doesn’t count as a religion? I had always assumed that it did, but maybe not . . . ?

    • John Morales
      March 7, 2012 at 12:49 am

      [OT]

      If the atheistic-secular strain of Buddhism that I’ve been flirting with only meets the requirements that I haven’t crossed out, does that mean it doesn’t count as a religion?

      “The wisdom of the Buddha is currently trapped within the religion of Buddhism
      […]
      While it may be true enough to say (as many Buddhist practitioners allege) that “Buddhism is not a religion,” most Buddhists worldwide practice it as such, in many of the naive, petitionary, and superstitious ways in which all religions are practiced. Needless to say, all non-Buddhists believe Buddhism to be a religion—and, what is more, they are quite certain that it is the wrong religion.”

      Sam Harris

      (Me, I’ve argued this with Buddhists — problem is, Buddhism is even more varied than Christianity)

  10. March 5, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    For the record, science and rational thought do have a symbiotic relationship, but an atheist need not buy into what science offers. The problem with not accepting science is: what’s the alternative you propose? If you’re not going to accept a scientific viewpoint based on rational thought and evidence, what besides religion exists? Where can freethought be if you deny BOTH rational ideas based on evidence and irrational ideas based on faith?

    Science is not a religion, either. There’s NO FAITH required to accept science – its “explanations” for the natural world can be (and have been) tested and you can decide to accept (or refute) those explanations based on the evidence. There are no sacred writings or arguments by authority in science. If no explanation exists for something, then science is mute, although scientists are free to speculate. Science’s explanations work in practical ways that religion can’t begin to approach. If there are other explanations for the natural world out there besides those of science and religion, what might they be?

    • Norman Lycan
      March 6, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      Chuck D. said:

      “The problem with not accepting science is: what’s the alternative you propose?”

      Exactly, it is the shining light. It can guide us into the light. But, it invented the nuclear bomb, and it, unregulated can also lead us to extinction. Food for thought.

      NL

  11. Gregory
    March 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    By and large, I would agree with you. However, I have met a few “dogmatic” atheists who hold what can only be described as a theological position regarding the non-existence of god(s). In this regard, they are not much different from theists; they just do not add “but mine does” when they say “Your god does not exist.”

    Taken as a whole, atheism is not a religion. There are some atheists, however, who have made it such.

    • Sqrat
      March 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Why do you consider the position of those “dogmatic” atheists to be “dogmatic”?

      • Gregory
        March 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm

        Consider the difference between “I do not believe in gods” and “I believe that there are no gods.”

        The first expresses a lack of belief. To me, it indicates a position of considered opinion, of analysis and conclusion. From conversations and reading, this seems to be the most common view among atheists, with great diversity in what was/continues to be analyzed in those considerations.

        The second expresses a belief in lack. To me, this indicates a theological position, one that is essentially identical to the position taken my most theists that “I believe that there are no gods except mine.” It is a doctrinal statement that cannot be examined by reason or evidence… a dogma, if you will.

        • Sqrat
          March 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm

          So you are saying that most atheists are like, say, Christians, in that they lack a belief that God does not exist?

          • Gregory
            March 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm

            I am saying that “absence of belief” and “belief in absence” are fundamentally different positions, and that “belief in absence” is essentially a dogmatic position, resting as it does on an assertion of belief.

          • Sqrat
            March 6, 2012 at 9:55 pm

            I take it that you yourself are not “dogmatic,” meaning in this context that you lack a belief in the non-existence of God. Is that correct? And is it correct that you believe that most atheists likewise lack a belief in the non-existence of God?

  12. jfigdor
    March 6, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Hey Al, first time commenter here.

    I agree that atheism/Humanism and religion are completely different things (atheism/Humanism don’t have a “faith” component, whereas faith is central to most religions). But consider the US Supreme Court’s definition of a religion.

    For example, in Torcaso v. Watkins, the Court writes, “[a]mong religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.”

    Additionally, consider the United States v. Seeger case, which defines religion as: “whether a given belief that is sincere and meaningful occupies a place in the life of its possessor parallel to that filled by the orthodox belief in God of one who clearly qualifies for the exemption. Where such beliefs have parallel positions in the lives of the respective holders we cannot say that one is in a relation to a ‘Supreme Being’ and the other is not,” which was refined in Welsh v. United States to the view that while Welsh’s views couldn’t be accurately described as religious, they “function as a religion in his life.”

    (http://www.religiousfreedom.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=431&Itemid=442)

    • John Morales
      March 6, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      Aren’t you a self-professed Assistant Humanist Chaplain?

      (Kind of belies your claim)

      • jfigdor
        March 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm

        I’m not a self professed Humanist Chaplain. I am one (http://harvardhumanist.org/harvard/meet-the-staff/). And your comments have nothing to do with the argument. I’m not saying I believe that Atheism is a religion. I’m saying it might be a moot point because the US Supreme Court ALREADY considers Atheism a religion.

        • John Morales
          March 6, 2012 at 8:40 pm

          I’m not a self professed Humanist Chaplain. I am one

          The two are not mutually-exclusive, you know! 😉

          And your comments have nothing to do with the argument.

          If one ignores the etymology, usage and connotations of the term ‘Chaplain’, I suppose so.

          I’m not saying I believe that Atheism is a religion.

          No, indeed you claimed the opposite — but, aAs a recent Pew poll had it, 21% of (self-professed) atheists believe in God.

          (I note that your capitalisation is, um, revealing)

          I’m saying it might be a moot point because the US Supreme Court ALREADY considers Atheism a religion.

          When did the USSC get to define reality by fiat?

          • Dave The Sandman
            March 7, 2012 at 6:09 am

            1) Really? The USSC defines Atheism as a relgion? Please enlighten this ignorant fool…..cite the relevant case decisions please.

            2) As someone else posted….. so when did the USSC suddenly become the authorty on this? So because a pack of political and faith appointed whores, some of whom are demonstrably corrupt to the core, say that atheism is a religion it is? (NB:-Im a Brit, and in my country every single member of this politicised body would be disbarred for conflict of interest offences. Guess Im just used to the highest courts being courts of law rather than whorehouses and circuses.)

            3) This would be the same USSC that says a corporation is actually a person and has the same rights as any US citizen? THAT USSC? Riiiiiiiiight…..

            4) And on the USSC exactly how many of the judges are atheists as opposed to Catholics and Jews? Give you a clue…its the same number as atheist POTUS.

          • Jonathan Figdor
            March 7, 2012 at 2:01 pm

            All the citations I used in my post are given above. Instead of asking, just read the thread.

    • otrame
      March 6, 2012 at 10:40 pm

      Good FSM, jfigdor. You are a piece of work. This:

      “[a]mong religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism and others.”

      was an obiter dictum (said in passing) and has no legal authority. It is also wrong. Yes, judges are sometimes wrong. The point is that what judges say only becomes part of the law when they say it as part of a ruling. An obiter dictum doesn’t count. So, are you being dishonest or are you just ignorant?

      The other quote is almost as hopelessly jumbled as something you would write. It is true that some people have tried to define atheism as a religion legally, largely to provide the protections this country gives to religions, but that does not mean that atheism is, in fact, a religious belief.

      • jfigdor
        March 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm

        Good FSM, you sure are a piece of work. I didn’t happen to know what an obiter dictum is, and there was no obvious indication that the comment was “obiter dictum.” I’m sorry to be so stupid that I fail to have a law degree.

        Now, when you say the judges are wrong, can you offer a legal reason why they’re wrong? Because so far it just sounds like you saying “Nunh-uh.”

        I never said atheism is a religious belief. I only said that atheism is currently regarded by the courts as a religious belief. Now would be the time to provide a legal reason why the second two court cases cited (thanks for your information about the first case) fail to clearly define a standard under which atheism would be regarded a religion.

        When you’re done sneering at me, you might bother to respond substantively to the arguments The USSC has made. They’re not my arguments, something I made pretty clear early on.

        • John Morales
          March 6, 2012 at 11:06 pm

          [meta]

          I’m sorry to be so stupid that I fail to have a law degree.

          No biggie; O magister divinitatis.

          (Your stupidity is not your fault, you need not be sorry about it)

  13. March 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    Hi Al,

    Fallen from Grace pointed me here and I made you my Notable Quotable on my teensey weensy blog today. Hope that is okay.

    http://agardeninthesun.blogspot.com/

    If it isn’t okay, would you let me know?

    Loved your article since I have particularly dealt with this issue of word usage a number of times and it tends to throw me for a loop. I am catching on to this use of disingenuous heteronyms by the religious and thank you for giving me a name for this tactic.

  14. Norman Lycan
    March 6, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I think that Humanists, Agnostics, and Atheists are generally all freethinkers, given the definition. But, atheists are the biggest assholes who look down on the rest as existing on a lower plane. But, while they might call us cowards afraid to take sides, the truth is that we are the courageous, that weather your insults, and stay true to science. You cannot prove the universe is an accident, you cannot prove that something can be created out of nothing, and you cannot prove that life can spontaneously generate. Yet you believe. And while motivated to respond to the vile shit that has been thrown at me in the past by atheists, I will not, because I want freethought to win. That will not occur unless we unite.

    NL

    • John Morales
      March 6, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      So, you think that Atheists [sic] are generally freethinkers, but you want freethought to win.

      (That you imagine that humanism, agnosticism and atheism are mutually exclusive is amusing to me; that you imagine atheism is a religion is not just amusing, but ludicrous)

      • Norman Lycan
        March 7, 2012 at 8:24 pm

        Agnostism rejects religion. Humanism says that no god interferes in the affairs of men. Atheism believes the universe is an accident, and sprang out of nothing, which makes it a religion. And you can stand upon your imagined mountain, and look down on me, but remember there is no up or down in space, only in gravity.

        I can explain over and over, that I hate religion and what it has done to this world. I can explain that agnostism, at least that which I understand, is refusal to believe anything unproven by science. I think that makes me a freethinker. But, again, as I interact with atheists, I am called a “troll”. Well, I did not come here to disrupt your religion, I came to call you to a summit of freethought. There is no date or time, it’s when you, one by one, realize that there are many freethinkers out there in the world who do not fly the atheist flag. Insulting us only hurts our cause.

        NL

        • John Morales
          March 7, 2012 at 8:55 pm

          [1] Agnostism [sic] rejects religion. [2] Humanism says that no god interferes in the affairs of men. [3] Atheism believes the universe is an accident, and sprang out of nothing, which makes it a religion.

          1. Either you’re clearly unaware of (for example) Christian agnosticism (e.g. The Christian Agnostic by Leslie D. Weatherhead), or you’re bullshitting.

          I ask you again: do you distinguish between belief and knowledge?

          2. Either you’re clearly either unaware that Humanism is entirely congruent with both religion and theism (thus the term “secular Humanism”), or bullshitting.

          3. And you’re still repeating your hoary old claim about atheists (and stupidly failing to note that, even arguendo, it doesn’t entail such belief being a religion in any sense).

          Yet again:
          Either the universe just is, or something caused it.

          If the latter, either whatever caused it just is, or something caused whatever caused it.

          If the latter, either whatever caused whatever caused it just is, or something caused whatever caused whatever caused it.

          Et cetera.

          • Norman Lycan
            March 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm

            You see, you are left with the same dillema. Creationists need to prove the origin of god, and you need to prove the origin of the universe, from nothing, with self generating life built in. You can vote “accident” but you are as religious as Pat Robertson. At least he has the honesty to admit he has “faith” while you are a hypocrit. Again, the only honest answer is “I DON’T KNOW”. Or maybe you are a witchdoctor or shaman with special understanding dispensed to you by some god. I think that is as fair as being called a “troll” by your brethren. Don’t you agree?

            NL

          • John Morales
            March 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm

            You see, you are left with the same dillema [sic].

            To what dilemma do you refer?

            Until there’s a scientific need to postulate some creative agency, the null hypothesis is that the universe accounts for itself.

            Creationists need to prove the origin of god, and you need to prove the origin of the universe, from nothing, with self generating life built in.

            I need to prove nothing, since I’ve made no claims.

            (Whyever do you think the universe had to have an origin?)

            You can vote “accident” but you are as religious as Pat Robertson.

            For the umpteenth time, I’m not making that claim!

            (I merely see no need to invoke some supernatural critter to account for what exists)

            At least he has the honesty to admit he has “faith” while you are a hypocrit [sic].

            I don’t have any faith in the religious sense; I merely apportion belief as appropriate. I believe that the universe exists, and I believe that no supernatural denizens need be postulated so as to account for it.

            (This you characterise as a religion, O dishonest one)

            Again, the only honest answer is “I DON’T KNOW”.

            Whatever makes you imagined I claimed to know?

            (Yet again: do you distinguish between belief and knowledge? 😉 )

            Or maybe you are a witchdoctor or shaman with special understanding dispensed to you by some god.

            You really don’t know what an atheist is, do ya?

            I think that is as fair as being called a “troll” by your brethren. Don’t you agree?

            Indeed, I agree: It’s eminently fair that you are called a troll.

            (Brethren?

            Poor guess: I only have sisters, FWIW — the collective term for such is sistren)

    • Jeff Sherry
      March 6, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      Norman, I’m a non-supernaturalist that expects the separation of church and state in this country which is a founding principle of our federal government. What type of free thought are you talking about?

      • Norman Lycan
        March 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm

        Freethought is about not accepting religious, cultural traditions, or political views on their face value. Examining your beliefs and deciding if they measure up to reality. In that way, there is only one freethought, but we are humans, and the results of that process render variable results. Religion offends my intelligence, so I tend to caucus with atheists, but they say I’m a troll. But, from my point of view, if you want to argue the US constitution, you need to look at the big picture.

        NL

  15. jfigdor
    March 6, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I’m not willing to tar and feather all atheists with the terrible example John Morales is giving (his behaviour is basically making your point). But there are actually a lot of quite reasonable atheists out there.

    And one more thing, I’m not sure what kind of agnostic you are, but if you’re like me, you’re as agnostic about god as you are about the existence of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, , and you are functionally an atheist. This is often what people mean when they say that they are atheists.

    Oh, and one more thing, John Morales, the USSC has the right to declare the law of the land in this country. So as long as the USSC considers atheism to be a religion, then legally, in this country, atheism is technically a religion.

    • John Morales
      March 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      I’m not willing to tar and feather all atheists with the terrible example John Morales is giving (his behaviour is basically making your point).

      Pray tell what point it is that my behaviour basically makes, O Chaplain*?

      the US Supreme Court ALREADY considers Atheism a religion.

      When did the USSC get to define reality by fiat?

      Oh, and one more thing, John Morales, the USSC has the right to declare the law of the land in this country.

      <sigh>

      You imagine that Al’s post is about whether atheism is legally a religion?

      (Was your minor in sophist obfuscation?)

      * Both actual and self-professed! 🙂

      • jfigdor
        March 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm

        No, but if you were smarter, you’d realize that the general cultural question of whether or not atheism is a religion is a basically irrelevant question. Whether someone chooses to categorize atheism as a religion or not in their own mind is their prerogative. However, the LEGAL question of whether atheism is a religion or not is an important one as religions are given certain privileges (more lax accounting requirements, parsonage exemptions, etc.) that we think are wrong (or should be extended to all persons, regardless of religious beliefs).

        • John Morales
          March 6, 2012 at 11:13 pm

          No, but if you were smarter, you’d realize that the general cultural question of whether or not atheism is a religion is a basically irrelevant question.

          Does it count that I’m smart enough to realise that it’s the very topic of this post, to which we are both commenting? 🙂

          Whether someone chooses to categorize atheism as a religion or not in their own mind is their prerogative.

          Indeed.

          However, the LEGAL question of whether atheism is a religion or not is an important one as religions are given certain privileges

          Sure.

          So… are you comfortable with the fact that religions are given certain privileges, so that atheists must be legally be held to be religious so as to partake of them?

          (I’m not)

        • John Morales
          March 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm

          PS Are you familiar with the concept of a Legal fiction?

  16. Tony
    March 7, 2012 at 7:51 am

    ::SIGH::
    Gregory @11:

    Taken as a whole, atheism is not a religion. There are some atheists, however, who have made it such.

    You can take the whole; a fifth; a billionth; a half; however much you want. Atheism is *not* a religion. Did you miss the part in Al’s post that says this:

    The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, in an article on Religion, defines religion as such:

    Belief in supernatural beings (gods).
    A distinction between sacred and profane objects.
    Ritual acts focused on sacred objects.
    A moral code believed to be sanctioned by the gods.
    Characteristically religious feelings (awe, sense of mystery, sense of guilt, adoration), which tend to be aroused in the presence of sacred objects and during the practice of ritual, and which are connected in idea with the gods.
    Prayer and other forms of communication with gods.
    A world view, or a general picture of the world as a whole and the place of the individual therein. This picture contains some specification of an over-all purpose or point of the world and an indication of how the individual fits into it.
    A more or less total organization of one’s life based on the world view.
    A social group bound together by the above.

    Now, let’s look at what dogmatic means:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dogmatic
    dog·mat·ic   [dawg-mat-ik, dog-] Show IPA
    adjective
    1.
    of, pertaining to, or of the nature of a dogma or dogmas; doctrinal.
    2.
    asserting opinions in a doctrinaire or arrogant manner; opinionated.

    As well as dogma:

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/dogma
    1.
    an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church. Synonyms: doctrine, teachings, set of beliefs, philosophy.
    2.
    a specific tenet or doctrine authoritatively laid down, as by a church: the dogma of the Assumption; the recently defined dogma of papal infallibility. Synonyms: tenet, canon, law.
    3.
    prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group: the difficulty of resisting political dogma.
    4.
    a settled or established opinion, belief, or principle: the classic dogma of objectivity in scientific observation. Synonyms: conviction, certainty.

    So we see that by the definition of ‘dogmatic’, those atheists you speak of could fit the second definition. Then what? Asserting your opinion in an arrogant manner doesn’t make that opinion religious.
    Looking at the definition of dogma, we know atheism isn’t a prescribed doctrine (and even if it was, it wouldn’t be proclaimed as unquestionably true). In addition, since atheism is *hardly* a settled/established opinion, belief, or principle, it can’t be considered dogma. Finally, since atheism doesn’t have an official system of principles, nor a specific doctrine, we arrive at the realization that
    atheism is not a religion.

    • Gregory
      March 7, 2012 at 1:42 pm

      I agree with you that atheism is not a religion. Do you dispute that there are some atheists who attempt to make it into a religion?

      Regarding the definition of “religion,” that definition excludes Jainism, most schools of Buddhism, some schools of Hinduism, a few schools of Sufi thought, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Church of Scientology, and several other groups acknowledged by custom and law to be religions. Is it your assertion that these are not, in fact, religions? I am using “religion” in a sense that includes these groups: a system of positive assertions regarding metaphysical or supernatural issues that are supported by belief and faith in the absense of, or in contradiction to, objective evidence.

      I would assert that the statement “I believe there is/are no god(s)” meets definition 3 of dogma: prescribed doctrine proclaimed as unquestionably true by a particular group, specifically, the group that makes that statement. Because it is a positive assertion regarding a metaphysical or supernatural issue — “I believe” rather than “I do not believe” — I further assert that it meets the operative definition of religion that I am using.

      We can certainly disagree over the definition of “religion.” My challenge to you, though, is to come up with a definition that includes Jainism, Buddhism, Samkhya and Mimamsa Hinduism, the UUA and Scientology. Once we have a mutually agreed upon definition, we can continue this discussion.

      • Dalillama
        March 8, 2012 at 2:46 am

        Here’s one: Change the first item from supernatural beings to supernatural phenomena, and all of those qualify.

  17. Sqrat
    March 7, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Al,

    You wrote, “There exists only one definition of atheism, and that is simply the lack of a belief in a deity.” Subsequently you cited the Encyclopedia of Philosophy for an authoritative definition of the term, “religion.” It might also be worth taking note of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy‘s definition of “atheist” (and its implied definition of “atheism”):

    According to the most usual definition, an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no God, that is, that the sentence “God exists” expresses a false proposition. In contrast, an agnostic maintains that it is not known or cannot be known whether there is a God, that is, whether the sentence “God exists” expresses a true proposition. On our definition, an atheist is a person who rejects belief in God, regardless of whether or not the reason for the rejection is the claim that “God exists” expresses a false proposition. People frequently adopt an attitude of rejection toward a position for reasons other than that it is a false proposition. It is common among contemporary philosophers, and indeed it was not uncommon in earlier centuries, to reject positions on the ground that they are meaningless. Sometimes, too, a theory is rejected on such grounds as that it is sterile or redundant or capricious, and there are many other considerations that in certain contexts are generally agreed to constitute good grounds for rejecting an assertion. An atheist in the narrower, more popular sense, is ipso facto an atheist in our broader sense, but the converse does not hold…. A person is an atheist in our sense who adopts an attitude of rejection toward all three theistic positions previously stated—belief in a metaphysical God, in an infinite anthropomorphic God, and in a finite anthropomorphic God.

    I do not disagree with your assertion that atheism is not a religion, but rather with your assertion that only one definition of atheism exists. The definition of atheism in the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, for example, is quite different from yours, since it asserts that atheism is not simply the lack of belief in God, but the outright “rejection” of belief in (three specific conceptions of) God.

  18. March 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    “Atheism is a religion like “off” is a channel on your television…”

    Well put.

    This old and endless argument from Christians is so tiring. I find it only comes from those Christians who are willfully misunderstanding atheism, those who don’t want to hear what atheism actually is and prefer their own blind interpretation.

    It’s basically just a sound bite they use that can be disregarded.

    • left0ver1under
      March 8, 2012 at 7:45 am

      “I find it only comes from those christians who are willfully misrepresenting atheism….”

      Fixed it for you.

      The false claims aren’t a result of ignorance nor accident. They’re done deliberately to foment and incite hate.

  19. hepburn1
    March 7, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    If I may offer a comment: We are all seeking truth, something sure and solid within this reality. We know full well that that is the prime directive of science: discover truth. To that end it seems to me that we would best accomplish this by maintaining open minds.
    After all, we don’t know everything that we don’t know. We have embarked upon a quest to expand the boundaries of certainty. There is so much that we haven’t the means to discover that we cannot logically rule out any possibility however distasteful it might appear.

    Just a thought to ponder

    • Norman Lycan
      March 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm

      hepburn1 said:

      “There is so much that we haven’t the means to discover that we cannot logically rule out any possibility however distasteful it might appear.”

      Thank you. Spoken like a real freethinker. If we have learned a single lesson from history, it is not to believe that which has not been proven by science. And I don’t know if you call yourself an agnostic or an atheist, or a humanist for that matter, but, you have rung the bell that sings the note.

      NL

  20. left0ver1under
    March 8, 2012 at 7:41 am

    If the religious didn’t lie and pretend atheism “is a religion”, then they couldn’t falsely accuse atheists of their own failings.

    They can’t call atheists “dogmatic” if they admit there is no atheist dogma.

    They can’t call atheists “militant” if they admit there is no atheist militancy.

    They can’t call atheists “violent” or “dictatorial” if they admit atheists have no desire to force anyone to do anything, whether physically or legally.

    If the religious didn’t repeat the lie until people believe it, they would never be able to rouse the rabble.

    • hepburn1
      March 8, 2012 at 11:12 pm

      More important to avoid getting caught up in meaningless rhetorical diatribe, ad hominem invective that serves no beneficial function in our desire to advance toward truth.

      Knowledge requires no faith to believe. Only that which cannot be fully known.

      But how might knowledge come to us? Would it be reasonable to state that we do not now know all of the ways in which knowledge might be imparted?

  21. Here Now
    March 8, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Interesting discussion. I ask have you ever pondered why you are here right at this moment? Of all the possibilities to the nth power of you existing at all then ask why right here right now? It is improbable (an understatement) need I say. But here you are and so am I. It blows my weak mind and I suspect it does yours.

    • Norman Lycan
      March 8, 2012 at 8:39 pm

      Here Now said:

      “It blows my weak mind and I suspect it does yours.”

      I think that was the best post on this thread, and I hope you read this. Mostly because it was just a non-committal expression of the unanswerable questions. For what it’s worth, it blows my weak mind as well. No matter how far back in history you want to reach, a reasonable mind must ask, what is the origin that force or person? While I believe that evolution is a fact, science has yet to prove that there was not some spark behind it. Science cannot create something out of nothing, all they can do is manipulate existing matter and energy. So, there is a void, and probably the questions will not be answered in my lifetime, so I fall back on the lessons I learned when I escaped religion, to never believe anything unproven by science. So as an honest and humble person, I admit, I don’t know. Those who think they know are religious.

      NL

      • John Morales
        March 9, 2012 at 3:11 am

        Science cannot create something out of nothing, all they can do is manipulate existing matter and energy.

        There is no nothing to make something from; we exist in spacetime.

        That said, one can demonstrate vacuum energy: Casimir effect

        • hepburn1
          March 9, 2012 at 10:13 pm

          John,
          I read the wiki info on the Casimir effect with great interest. If I understand correctly, when set in a vacuum two adjacent metallic plates positioned within a certain minute distance generate a measurable energy where non previously existed?

          How does that relate to a position that prior to anything there was nothing and now that we exist within the everything that is all things (all things being an absolute, relative to our ability to know) we cannot step outside of the “matrix” and produce anything truly original.

          Hope you enjoy the “absolute relative” remark.

          It’s theoretically concrete you know.

          Any insight would be appreciated.

    • hepburn1
      March 8, 2012 at 11:03 pm

      It is the eternal now, as it will always be. For as far as we know it can be none other than what it is.

      When we choose to believe that which cannot be ascertained through scientific inquiry are we not exercising faith?

      Are not “faith” and “belief” essentially codependent inseparable transcendent immaterial rationalizations of that which we desire to become truth?

      We are, all of us, in some way, held by our own presupposition though not necessarily all of our own choosing.

      Can we wipe the slate clean from all that we are and so proceed untainted, unimpeded by perception, free of presupposition?

      Pure science appears to exist only in the language of mathematics.

      I’m only an unschooled blue collar flooring guy and don’t know squat. However, I have observed, that no one has, of yet, amassed sufficient knowledge to explain much of anything in this here universe.

  22. April 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Guys, just because you hate religion, doesn’t mean you aren’t one. If you look at all the definitions of atheism, only two or three involve or mention supreme beings as the creator of all things. I’m agnostic but I’m not RELIGIOUS about it. I know people who are Christian and they are not religious at all. Plus, atheism is now actually defined as a religion by the US Supreme Court. Do you see Scientology as a religion? Well, unfortunately for all of us, it is one. So here’s the thing, considering religion is based on the existence of god, why would a group of people defining themselves as the nonexistence of god not be considered a religion?

    Here, I’m going to bash atheists for a second here. I know an atheist dude that said that there isn’t life on other planets. I asked how he knows and he said that there’s no evidence to support. So basically, it seems as though atheists live in a shell built by Popular Mechanics.

    If you see the idea of a creator or particular creation theories or beliefs as absurd due to logic and reason, remember, logic and reason are based on what you know currently.

    Were you aware that there are physicists who are finding more and more evidence that the universe is two dimensional? Another group of physicists are finding more and more evidence that our entire reality is artificial. Wouldn’t that make the creators gods?

    In case any of you want to bust on me for saying that I’m agnostic, well that is specifically defined as ‘not knowing’. Technically you’re all agnostic but you, for some reason (as people who are supposed to support the scientific method) believe something without evidence. That’s called faith, commonly found in religion.

    Hepburn, you’re right. Math is fucking awesome BUT there are a billion and one things that we now have proof of that were only thought up due to someone’s imagination.

    In conclusion, anything is possible and you’re all limiting yourself thinking that there are restrictions.

    • John Morales
      April 11, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      Guys, just because you hate religion, doesn’t mean you aren’t one. If you look at all the definitions of atheism, only two or three involve or mention supreme beings as the creator of all things.

      The definition is built-in: atheism → a-theism → without theism. Religiosity is a different thing to theism, some atheists are religious, some theists are non-religious.

      And only a few atheists hate religion, me, I just despise it.

      So here’s the thing, considering religion is based on the existence of god, why would a group of people defining themselves as the nonexistence of god not be considered a religion?

      Because being an atheist is not a definition, it’s an attribute.

      Since there is no such self-definition, your question is meaningless.

      Here, I’m going to bash atheists for a second here. I know an atheist dude that said that there isn’t life on other planets. I asked how he knows and he said that there’s no evidence to support. So basically, it seems as though atheists live in a shell built by Popular Mechanics.

      You cannot generalise from a sample of one; your hasty generalisation aside, it is not known whether there is life on other planets, but physics indicates it’s very possible.

      [1] Were you aware that there are physicists who are finding more and more evidence that the universe is two dimensional? [2] Another group of physicists are finding more and more evidence that our entire reality is artificial. [3] Wouldn’t that make the creators gods?

      1. Three space dimensions, one of time.

      2. Bullshit.

      3. From bullshit, anything follows.

      In case any of you want to bust on me for saying that I’m agnostic, well that is specifically defined as ‘not knowing’. Technically you’re all agnostic but you, for some reason (as people who are supposed to support the scientific method) believe something without evidence. That’s called faith, commonly found in religion.

      No; technically, knowing and believing are different categories; I believe I will live for at least another week, yet I don’t know that I will (I might get hit by a bus).
      So, technically, it would be foolish not to plan as if I were to live another week merely because I lack evidence that I shan’t.

      You know that you’re going to die, you believe it shan’t be for (hopefully) a long time — to call that religious faith elides that difference between belief and knowledge.

      In conclusion, anything is possible and you’re all limiting yourself thinking that there are restrictions.

      On the contrary, we know many things are not possible, and recognising this is not limiting oneself since it includes all possible things.

      (We live in the real world, not the world of wishful imaginings)

  23. sliderossian
    June 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    “… shows a lack of intellectual savvy that is common found in very young children” … SNAP! SNAP! and DOUBLE SNAP!!!!

  24. Elizabeth
    June 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Truth be told, I was born ATHEIST. I grew up with religion in my house and family but SIMPLE REALITY did not have to be taught to me. To be ATHEIST does not mean to have or be part of a religion. Atheism is defined to me as *obvious rationale. As stated in the article, other than the lack of belief in a god, atheist do not as a whole follow any one belief. Anyone including the US government or whoever can label atheism as they wish and I will continue to disagree. A person of “faith” cannot begin to understand atheism being that atheism is based on fact and reality.

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