Seeking Liberty

Liberty is the Fruit from Which All Progress Grows

Atheism is a Religion

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.

Filed under: religion, , , , ,

13 Responses

  1. morsec0de says:

    “I cannot stand to talk with people who insist that Atheism is not a religion”

    That’s a convenient way to avoid being proved wrong, isn’t it?

    • fredmaidment says:

      You misunderstand. I still engage in the debate. It is simply infuriating that they cannot comprehend that they step away from logic and delve into faith.

      • morsec0de says:

        I understand it must be infuriating.

        But you won’t get much sympathy, as your position is inaccurate.

      • morsec0de says:

        For example, this line:

        “In that respect, atheism must be a religion, because it is a belief system based upon less than all the facts.”

        Is wrong in all it’s parts.

        Not only is atheism not a system, it hardly qualifies as a belief (being the lack of a belief), and is based on only the facts.

  2. fredmaidment says:

    It is not a “fact” that God does not exist. It is only a fact that science does not support the existence of God. Making the leap to “therefore, God does not exist” is a leap of faith, no different than witnessing a “miracle” and using that as support for God’s existence.

    Atheism is absolutely a belief system. It is not a “lack” of belief, but rather a belief in non-existence.

    The idea that atheism is not religion because it has no God figure is wrong. Atheists have gone so far as to organize associations and hold meetings. Only the terminology separates them from “denominations” and “services.”

    But again, I’ll never convince you, since you’ve closed your mind and are clearly offended that your belief system is being called a “religion.” Which was precisely the point of this post.

  3. morsec0de says:

    “It is only a fact that science does not support the existence of God.”

    Which is the skeptical position, and the position of atheism.

    “Atheism is absolutely a belief system. It is not a “lack” of belief, but rather a belief in non-existence.”

    It’s not a belief in non-existence. And it is also not a system. One position does not a system make.

    “The idea that atheism is not religion because it has no God figure is wrong.”

    Alright. Who is making that argument? Not me.

    “But again, I’ll never convince you,”

    You could if you were correct.

    “and are clearly offended that your belief system is being called a “religion.””

    Who said I was offended? I’m not. I just think you’re wrong, and it would be good for you to see that.

    • fredmaidment says:

      “Which is the skeptical position, and the position of atheism.”

      Atheism isn’t skeptical, at least not in practice. In practice, atheism is the affirmative conclusion that there is no God. Again, that is the very human “leap of faith” from skepticism to belief. Only apathy and agnosticism are supported by science. “Is there a God?” or “I have no belief in God’s existence or non-existence.” Atheism leaves logic and makes the theistic conclusion, “There is no God.”

      “It’s not a belief in non-existence. And it is also not a system. One position does not a system make.”

      Of course it is a system of belief. Look at Atheist individual and group activity: 1) Rejection of all other religious ideology. 2) Acceptance of a limited evidential precept (in this case, scientific evidence). 3) Conclusions about the existence and relative nature of God(s) based upon a limited evidential window that are not fully supported by the facts. 4) Establishing this belief system in the cultural system as the only rational and acceptable belief system, that all other belief systems are wrong and their followers heretics. 5) Attempting to enshrine this belief system into law and public life, such that other belief systems are not only excluded, but are actively denegraded by the State.

      How is this different than, say, the Reformation in Germany or the Roman Catholic inquisitions? Indeed, how is it different than modern fundamentalist Christianity or Islam?

      “Who said I was offended? I’m not. I just think you’re wrong, and it would be good for you to see that.”

      I’ll admit I’ve made a bit of an assumption that you are offended. I am first assuming that your arguments are based upon your being an Atheist, which you have established by inference but not by affirmative statement. Based upon that assumption, I concluded from your statements that your refusal to accept that atheism even remotely resembles a religion and is rather the anti-religion (which is a logical fallacy in and of itself) was based upon your theistic identity being offended. That theistic identity being that you do not believe in God and have no religion, of course.

      Further, you have yet to refute any position I have stated. You merely insist that atheism is not a religion. Meanwhile I have made the affirmative position that it is and provided some underlying proof to back up my position. Every counter-argument you have made thus far is an automatic game-saying of “no it isn’t” without any proof to back up your assertion. Do you have a dictionary? Mine says atheism is a “disbelief in God.” “Disbelief” is defined as a refusal of credit or trust, another affirmative position. Rather than keeping the argument open (as science must, since there is no proof of God’s existence or non-existence), Atheists close the argument by asserting that there is no God. That isn’t skepticism, it’s affirmation.

      If you wish for me to admit fault, you’re going to have to provide me some evidence, not just say, “you’re wrong.”

      I am not saying that there is anything wrong with having the affirmative position that there is no God. You have a belief about the nature of God and the Universe that differs from mine, nothing more. None of this is meant to denigrate Atheism. I simply counter the position that Atheism is not a religion.

      Again, the only supportable positions based in skeptical science are apathy (“I have no beliefs about God’s existence”) and agnosticism (“I wonder if there is any God?”).

      All else is based entirely in very non-scientific, very Human faith.

  4. I think what you really mean is that atheism is a religious position. If that is so, you would get no argument from me. But to claim atheism is a religion, when we atheists do not worship anything (most would consider that anathema), have no atheism-related ceremony, or anything else in common with any religion or any definition of religion of which I am aware, well, that’s just obtuse.

    • fredmaidment says:

      “But to claim atheism is a religion, when we atheists do not worship anything (most would consider that anathema), have no atheism-related ceremony, or anything else in common with any religion or any definition of religion of which I am aware, well, that’s just obtuse.”

      It may not be the organized system of belief we are used to seeing in common religions like Christianity and Buddhism, but organization is not pre-requisites for religion. Look at some forms of Voodoo and the animyst religions. Systematic organization and worship is a very Western view of religion that does not encompass all religious faiths. Neither is worship necessarily a prerequisite for all religion. Many religions are based in meditation and self-study, the study of harmonic exploitation of the environment or in the extrapolation of meaning from certain environmental or celestial occurrences. These faiths in many ways resemble scientific study, though they come to different conclusions than modern science. Some religions or religious practices, like astrology and alchemy, were the basis for modern sciences like astronomy, physics and chemistry. Your assertion that a religion must have ceremony and worship is fundamentally flawed, because there are myriad examples to the contrary.

      Even your statement recognizes the beginnings of organized thought and the acknowledgment of a belief system. “We atheists do not…” Clearly, there is a group identity beginning to form, if it hasn’t already. And as I have established, Atheism does have something in common with religion: An affirmative theistic position on the nature and existence of God(s). This is not a “religious position,” it is a theistic position that is the underlying basis for the religion that is Atheism.

      It is not Obtuse to recognize and assert that Atheism is based in the same fundamental principle as any religion (that is, “faith”). Rather it is closed-minded to discredit the idea simply because atheism does not fit the very narrow, very modern and Western definition of “religion.”

  5. 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.

  6. “Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.” – Don Hirschberg

    That’s all there is to it.

  7. Atheism is not a religion, a religion consists of many different tenets, stories, and organized meetings. from Merrian- Webster
    “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.”

    Atheism meanwhile is the lack of belief in god or gods. Does atheism encompass the above to be considered a religion? no.

    • fredmaidment says:

      A religion does not have to include Gods. Many things we consider to be religions do not include Gods. Ancestor and animal worship, for example, do not include Gods.

      Atheism seeks to establish the nature and purpose of the universe as existing without a god or gods, as merely a physics experiment on the grandest of scales. IT MAY NOT FIT YOUR DEFINITION, BUT BY ITS VERY NATURE IT IS A RELIGION.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: