I cannot stand to talk with people who insist that Atheism is not a religion. Atheism is the affirmative belief that there is no God. Atheists argue that, because their belief system includes no God figure, it is not a religion. Atheists argue a God figure is a necessity for a religion, and it is true that Webster’s does define a religion as a “belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary – Third Collegiate Edition. (c) 1994, Simon & Schuster/Prentice Hall General Reference, New York)
However, the definition misses the principle basis for such a belief system: Faith. Such a simple word. Five letters arranged in one syllable. It’s definition is equally simple: “Unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.”
In this manner, all religions are based in faith. As yet, there is no scientific proof of a God figure, reincarnation, karma, or that our ancestors can hear us in death. There is no scientific proof that the spirits of animals and trees guide us and bind us. Religion is, therefore, based upon faith that such things are real and guide us.
Atheists counter their belief, that there is no God, is the anti-religion. They affirm that because they have no God figure, they have no religion, no religious beliefs, no system of faith.
Except that is entirely untrue.In actuality, they are right to say that science does not support a belief in God. Science does not support any belief system. There is no proof one way or another in God, reincarnation or any other traditional religion. There has yet to be an experiment that proves there is a God, or that our ancestors hear us after death, or that we are born again according to our karmic balance. The evidence simply isn’t there.
However, there is also no evidence to disprove such an ideology, either. Lack of proof, as any good scientist will tell you, is not proof of the alternative. It is only lack of proof. In fact, a good scientist can never take a position, based upon scientific evidence, as to whether or not there is a God. Any conclusive statement, one way or another, is based upon belief, upon faith.
This includes the affirmative conclusive belief that there is no God. Atheists cannot base their belief in fact, since there are no facts to support their case. They cannot prove God does not exist, nor can they prove that God does exist. In this regard, the only conclusion that a good scientist can affirm is that they do not know if God exists or not.
In other words, science does not support a belief that there is no God. Science only supports agnosticism. A person who claims that sciences guides their belief that there is no God must have made a leap of faith at some point. It is true that science does not support God’s existence, but no experiment yet has been devised that could do such a thing. Saying that science proves there is no God is logically unsupportable, because science cannot prove that there is a God in the first place.
At some point an Atheist makes a leap of faith. The only reason that atheism is not indicated as a religion is because of the false belief that religions must include a God figure. That, of course, is incorrect. It is clear that 40,000 years ago cave men in Europe worshiped the bear or its spirit, just as many animist religions worship the spirits or forces of nature. Some religions worship ancestors. Others in forces we do not fully understand, such as karma.
In that respect, atheism must be a religion, because it is a belief system based upon less than all the facts. To argue otherwise is fallacious. If faith in a God figure without underlying support is a religion, faith that there is no God figure without underlying support must also be a religion.
Every atheist with whom I have had this conversation not only dismisses it out of hand, they are almost always offended by the idea. How dare I question their intellectual integrity, after all? How dare I suggest that they are practicing a religion when their whole theological identity is based upon not having a religion? But it is true. Making the affirmative leap from “there is no evidence of God” to “there is no God” is an act of faith, which is the basis for the development of a religion.
This has serious social implications. Atheists demand that there be no prayer in schools and that religion not dictate our laws. I agree whole-heartedly that our religions should not dictate law. I would no more want to live in a fundamentalist Christian state than I would want to live under Sharia or Buddhist traditional law. No person should be forced to pray to a God in which they do not believe. However, demanding that no person be allowed to pray in school or that a student cannot list a religious figure as their most inspiring philosopher violates their natural right to their belief system.
In effect, in attempting to enforce the idea of “Separation of Church and State” (a phrase which does not appear in our Constitution), Atheists are in fact attempting to enshrine their religion in law. By refusing to allow any traditional religious expression, Atheists enforce their religion of there being no God in public life.
I do not wish any person to think I am denigrating Atheism. Far from it. I think it better to have a belief in something rather than no belief at all. I simply question this concept that Atheism is the absence of religion. And to do that, I’ll add the second definition of religion from my dictionary: “a) Any system of belief or worship, often involving a code of ethics and philosophy… b) any system of beliefs, practices, ethical values, etc. resembling, suggestive of, or likened to such a system.” By this definition, Atheism must be a religion. Its basis in faith in the unproven and the fervor with which those beliefs are held, the regard in which Atheist “blasphemers” are are fully indicative of a religion.
My father used to joke about the Duck principle: “If it looks like a duck and it quacks like a duck and it waddles like a duck and it swims like a duck and it flies like a duck, it might not be, but odds are, it’s a duck.”
Atheism sure looks like a duck to me.