Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Is Atheism a Religion Revisited?

with 6 comments


Many people of faith make the claim that atheism is a religion. Ask any atheist if this is true and the answer will be a resounding no. For the longest time I thought the comparison was absurd, as evidenced by my repeated quote: “Atheism is a religion the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby.” Alas, I am cursed with a tendency to think about things, especially a tendency to think about things from different perspectives, and as a result, I have concluded that the “atheism is a religion” argument is not entirely without merit. Here then, in no particular order, are some reasons why. (Note that I am not claiming that atheism and religion are identical, just that the theistic argument has some merit.)

The fact that atheists generally get annoyed to angry at the comparison is the first indication. Even worse, most of them don’t even want to discuss the issue, and dismiss it out of hand with truisms like my quote in the preceding paragraph. Um, getting angry at an accusation and responding to it irrationally and emotionally is a hallmark of religion, not a neutral secular belief. Just in general I’ve noticed that people get angriest when an accusation contains an element of truth, atheists are just as capable of denial as anyone else. And I think that this is an area where many atheist exhibit strong indications of denial.

Moving right along, atheists have formed organizations to both defend and promote their beliefs. Granted lots of different organizations do such, but the beliefs of atheists tend to revolve around religion to a large degree. They have meetings, they form groups, they often tend to associate with other atheists. And a lot of them have issues with people who aren’t atheists. Frankly I’ve had atheist trolls berate me for not being atheist enough. Again, I certainly see common ground here between atheism and religion.

Then there’s the definition. If there were no religious people, there would be no atheists. Granted some will say that everyone would be an atheist then. Still, the word atheist wouldn’t exist, and there would be no people that called themselves atheists. It’s certainly safe to say that atheism as we know it wouldn’t exist without religion. That to me indicates, again,  that atheism has some things in common with religion.

It should also be pointed out that atheists are not above using false, malicious, or misleading arguments in their attacks on religion.  Granted this is human nature, hell, I sometimes I think there must be a straw man argument gene, right next to the slippery slope argument gene, they seems so hard wired into some people. It’s hard for me not to notice when both sides of a debate are stooping to irrational lows. And boy, want to make an atheist mad, point this out when they post such on Facebook.

Speaking of anger and emotional responses, there is one final point in this argument that isn’t debatable. If one asks atheists, American atheists at least, which is the “worst” religion, the vast overwhelming majority of them will answer that it is Islam. Let’s think about that. Atheists in a Christian country, a religion that demonizes Islam and has been waging war on it more or less continuously since the seventh century … mostly agree that Islam is the worst religion. Since Islam and Christianity are essentially the same religion, and both have a history drenched in blood, it’s impossible for me to not notice the similarity between Islam hating Christians and Islam hating atheists.

I am saying is that American atheists have internalized some core Christian values and thought forms, and not the pretty ones. It makes it hard for me to understand how they can claim they are in no way religious. If one share’s a religion’s prejudices, there is common ground. Granted, I’m not an atheist, so I can’t speak for them. The only point I am trying to make in all this is that the religious contention that “atheism is a religion” is at least debatable. From some perspectives, there are a lot of similarities between atheism and religion. Whether atheists like it or not.

PS. After I published this I discovered I had written a previous post on “Is atheism a religion?” I knew this would happen sooner or later. :)

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, etc. It’s all over Facebook so I have no clue who the author is. Granted it’s not exactly germane to the topic, but close enough. It’s also funny, since it’s true. The American Christians agitating for prayer in school aren’t doing so out of some concern for freedom of religion, they are doing so because they want to promote Christianity among America’s youth. They are also off the mark since the Supreme Court not only didn’t prohibit prayer in school, they specifically said they weren’t prohibiting prayer in school. They prohibited organized religious services in school, big difference.)

Written by unitedcats

December 13, 2012 at 7:48 am

6 Responses

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  1. Atheists tend to have their own beliefs and philosophies. If they want to call it a religion, that’s up to them.
    Maybe, if others agree with them, they can turn it into a religion, get some followers and make a few Bucks.


    December 13, 2012 at 9:17 am

  2. Just in general I’ve noticed that people get angriest when an accusation contains an element of truth, atheists are just as capable of denial as anyone else. And I think that this is an area where many atheist exhibit strong indications of denial.

    This is just dumb. Of course I get annoyed at repeated canards thrown at me without any intellectual merit whatsoever. If you were repeatedly classified as a different kind of woman without female reproductive organs, someone who drove a different kind of airplane that rolled on wheels, a hobbyist who collected a different kind of stamp, you too would grow weary to the point of annoyance at such stupidity. Atheism simply means non belief in your god. That’s it. Deal with it. It by no stretch of the imagination can it be considered a different kind of belief. An absence does not a ‘similar kind’ make.

    Your other comparisons are equally dumb; when faced with an overwhelming bias against those who do not believe in any gods – as well as face the daily legal and social privilege granted to believers and their institutions – (where such privilege is actually illegal) then anger is fully justified on its own merit.

    Finally, you make a very typical mistake, namely that Since Islam and Christianity are essentially the same religion… you then assume there is the same spectrum of belief, from liberal to fundamentalist, from ‘mainstream’ to extreme. This is factually wrong. Islam is qualitatively different in that the spectrum is from ‘good’ to ‘bad’, meaning that all support the notion that the Koran is the perfect word of god and adherents live up to some level of submission to it. In this sense, all muslims are equally liberal or equally fundamentalist (depending on how much or how little you agree on your definition)… just that some live closer to this ‘perfect word’ than others. This explains why fully 33% of British born, British raised, university educated affluent muslims say that it is justifiable to kill in the name of protecting islam. You get between .01% and 2% right of all sects of christians agreeing to this. So, yeah, islam is a terrible danger to all of us because it is antithetical to enlightenment values of secularism… secular values such as religious freedom, a value prohibited in the Koran. So tell me again much like a religion non belief in god is? The percentage you are looking for to be accurate is… zero.


    December 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    • This is seriously laughable. The best a man can logically attain to is agnosticism, not atheism. Any form of conviction, conclusion or belief held without exhaustive consideration of all facts (perceptible, not-yet-perceptible and humanly imperceptible) presented by all dimensions of reality or existence requires faith (assumptions or call it whatever you like). The human mind is incapable of that kind of research so he needs to form faith informed by some things he has neither seen nor understand.

      The key principles that underlie atheism are logically flawed, lending it to religious comparism. Objectivity is one of them. The capability of the human mind to attain absolute objectivity is immediately impaired from the first day he comes in contact with the world. Experience weakens the ability of man to be objective.

      Atheism overvalues the human knowledge. We’ve touched the moon, the planets. Our gadgets and discoveries speak volumes. All these without the intervention of “God”. But, do we really know a lot? Or do we really know enough to “logically” answer the questions of divinity or spirituality? We appear to know so much when we compare with other species or our previous track records. Those are poor benchmarks if you ask me. Continous capacity to discover and invent points to the limitlessness of the facts in nature. Absolute understanding of the entire facts that constitute reality (as perceived by our theoretical fully objective man) is required for atheism. Without this, the unfathomably large knowlege gap is the very point where faith is needed. Therefore, atheism is a religion.


      December 17, 2012 at 4:44 am

      • You are torturing the term ‘faith’ in order to criticize non belief unfairly.

        Like you, I do not share a belief in Isis or faeries. Does that make us fellow believers in this ‘religion’ of non belief? Of course not. This is just silliness. Like you, I don’t know everything about everything. Does that make us all – believers and non believers – equivalent agnostics? I don’t see how this kind of langauge torture helps to do anything but create a false equivalency. For example, do you honestly assert that you have to understand quantum mechanics thoroughly before pronouncing that you do not believe in Isis or faeries?

        Of course not; you do not believe in either for the same reason I do not: there is no compelling evidence from reality to suggest that either is true and you yourself don’t insist that you must know everything first and for sure or be agnostic. There is a middle ground you and I occupy, one you are pretending does not exist for atheists, one that does not insist we must all practice this extremism of either certainty or agnosticism. If you did so (and you do not), you would be paralized in life, insisting that you cannot possibly know if gravity will remain constant for each footfall you take or if the wings of the plane you board will continue to be aerodynamic during flight. You have a reasonable expectation that there remains a very high degree of probability that some knowledge remains stable over time – stable independent of our beliefs about them I, let’s admit – to the degree that you entrust your life to this understanding even though you don’t know everything about gravity or aerodynamics. That makes you a hypocrite.

        You exercise this middle ground of something less than certainty but more than an agnostic ‘I-don’t-know’ all the time because that’s how all of us function in reality…. all of us, of course, except atheists who are held to different standard in order for people like you to demonize us. All you’re really trying to do is feel superior to both believer and non believer wih your cowardy and hypocritical agnosticism.


        December 18, 2012 at 8:21 am

  3. OK. Atheism is a religion.
    Praise the (whatever), I have found my religion!

    What do we call those who just do not believe in any pre digested models for explaining the system of the world? I mean those of us who can live with the fact that we do not understand everything. I do not care if most of the matter in the known universe is unaccounted for. If I someday bump into it, I’ll worry about it then. Is it really required to have absolute understanding of the entire facts that constitute reality to dismiss some 2-4000 years old superstitions as just silly? ..don’t think so.

    Have a nice midwinter celebration, and may your gods be with you;)


    December 18, 2012 at 6:01 am

  4. Think about it. Really think. If collecting stamps is a hobby. How is NOT collecting stamps a hobby. It isn’t.

    Believing in a supernatural god is religion how is not believing in a supernatural god a religion

    The ONE thing all atheists believe is that there are NO GODS. That is it. That is THE binding element. Stop.. Of course they have a lot if interests, I have a lot of things in common with xtians. Most likely with Muslims and Hindi people. It does not make me xtian or Muslim or Hindi.

    Pick up a dictionary. Atheism is

    a·the·ism [ey-thee-iz-uh m] Show IPA
    the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
    disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

    That is it. The love of baked goods is not in there. But a lot of atheists love to get together and bake. But that is not part of atheism.

    With your “logic” politics is also a religion so is cosplay, and bake clubs.

    Also saying Islam and Christianity are basically the same thing is laughable. Yes they have a lot in common. BUT I can draw a picture of 2 Jesus 1 cup. Or burn a bible and not get hunted down and killed.
    If I did similar with the Muslim book or prophet and went public with who I was and went to a Islamic country I would be dead within the hour. Yes basically 100% the same

    Happy to say you are wrong.

    Old man Henderson

    December 21, 2012 at 8:42 am

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