Is Atheism a Religion?

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18 Responses to “Is Atheism a Religion?”

  1. Micah Cowan Says:

    Pat Condell’s cast, “God Bless Atheism”, gives this some (somewhat humorous) treatment as well:

  2. Juliet Says:

    I loved this! It cracked me up, and it’s so true… as usual. :D I need to make a disc of all these to show to some of my friends lol.

  3. Paul of Olympia Says:

    Atheism in essence can’t be a religion, however it is slowly becoming one. Sorry guys =/

  4. Samuel Skinner Says:

    Movement, not religion. They are differant.

  5. Aspentroll Says:

    I’ve been a full fledged, dyed in the wool, undeniably strong atheist all of my life and have never been interested in having a “church” or a
    “congregation” or a priest, pastor. clergyman of any sort telling me how to live my life. It seems to me that you need these things to be a part of a religion, especially, islam and xtianity. I think for myself and do what is expected of me
    by the laws of my country and fellow man. The latter is not a religion.

  6. Steve Says:

    Of course atheism is not a religion. I think some people say atheism is a religion since they claim that atheism is a “belief”. It’s not, atheism is disbelief of a supernatural god and/or god’s.

    Keep the vid’s coming Al and also thanks Al!

  7. Lohitaksha Says:

    Oh, but atheism has no magic, no control over the presiding deities of rain, volcanoes, tsunamis etc., no one to ask for help.
    What a worthless religion

  8. John Says:

    I’d think of atheism as being a “belief system” insomuch as belief and dis-belief are pretty in the same category… It’s boolean.

    But I suppose if religion was a variable, for atheists it’d be

    religion = 0

    Other than that, Al sounds pretty pissed in the video.

    Cool thing about freedom of religion means you don’t have to follow a religion if you don’t want to. (as opposed to the old days where you got burned at the stake)

  9. Socrates Johnson Says:

    it’s easier to check a box therefore Confucianism is a religion, now THAT is solid logic, and not just a sort of straw man to the objection that religion isn’t actually a well defined concept.

    Largely this sort of misconception can be traced to the late adoption of the concept of religion to non-western thinkers. It isn’t until the last couple centuries that the term “religion” showed up in many parts of the world. Generally this is believed by scholars to be due to the fact that religion is historically concerned with facts about the world. Our enlightenment period in the west shows a perfect way in which this sort of melding of religious views matches the scientific or “factual” matters. Those truths held self evident by TJ in the Declaration of Independence don’t state that there are facts about mankind, then religious beliefs, and that we should separate them, and define which are religious in character, and which factual. Rather intellego ut credam holds and our reason was held as informing our understanding of all natural facts about the universe, even those which today we might call “supernatural.”

    What’s the cash value here. Well, way back in time, before Al was born (apparently since no matter how often this point is made on these posts Al never acknowledges it) a point was made here in the comments/responses part of the page.

    To be continued!

  10. Socrates Johnson Says:

    The point went something like this: The claim that positive epistemic claims must be backed up by evidence or must be able to be shown to be logically necessary through matters of definition or the like (think math) holds in all possible cases, (except in reference to itself, but don’t tell anyone!) This is called logical positivism, it’s a sort of holdover from a more naive period of scientific realism that had a sort of “damn the logic!” attitude toward the world.

    Unfortunately this view still holds great power in the “enlightened” minds of the scientific realists. While not all scientific realists believe this, nor do all atheists, the combination of the two sets of beliefs in heads (scientific realism and atheism) seems to lead toward this being a sort of favorite modus operandi for attacking faith.

    Now, those astute readers will notice that the singular claim that we must back things up with evidence or logical necessity had a hole in it (also I pointed this out for clarity.) The only way to accept that thesis? that’s right, something like silliness, an appeal to ignorance, gullibility, or good ol’ fashioned faith in science.

    OHNOES the F word! This is where I think we might be tempted to truly say that atheism can be a sort of religion. How about this for a hard and fast definition of what we are talking about from the “scientific” perspective when we speak of religion: reasonable methods of inquiry are abandoned, and positive claims which are internally inconsistent are believed without suitable justification. THAT might be a reasonable definition of religion. However, any person engaged in the logical positivist program, who is also interested in logic, would do well to recognize that this definition fits his or her beliefs perfectly.

  11. Steve Says:

    Nope ;-)
    Watch video below and it will become clear atheism is N0T a religion.


  12. Montane Says:

    al – i loved your video. i just happened to Stumble! on it. your blog is like the rational version of my friend’s blog
    he’s a friend since elementary school, but also a conservative southern baptist. we had so many arguments about religion….the best was when i went out to dinner with him and two of his friends, where i has to argue against three fundamentalist christians why i thought people were actually descended from an ape common-ancestor.

    and atheism is not a religion. a religion requires claims to supranatural events, beings, etc. otherwise one is dealing with natural philosophy such as, for example Confucianism. religion is also has faith-based proscriptive components, and it is difficult to call the lack of belief faith-based. what i would say, and i think a few people have hinted at, is that atheism is at risk of becoming dogmatic. the risk is currently quite small given the relative numbers, but one can imagine people being just as closed minded about not believing. i, and i suspect many atheists, want people to be critical of any belief or lack of belief.

    i’m starting to ramble and deleted it.

    again, al, good job

  13. Montane Says:

    al – great job on the video. the blog is like the rational version of my friend’s:

    and atheism is not a religion. it lacks the supranatural narrative. without that one simply has at best a natural philosophy, for example like Confucianism.

    there may be people who tend toward becoming dogmatic about atheism, but that by itself doe snot constitute a religion.

    again, al, great job

  14. Montane Says:

    sorry, i missed the little at the bottom and thought the first post was trash-canned :/

  15. Socrates Johnson Says:

    Wow Steve,
    both a Pythonian response “no it isn’t!”
    and an appeal to the internet!

    That video once again assumes a definition of religion that is at best pedantic or even spurious and at worst misinformed or insensitive to the myriad world-views out there.

    Thank goodness atheists can tell theists what religions are (as opposed to religious studies academics or the like.) Though we always have the dictionary, that’s ALWAYS a good source. The dictionary isn’t an authority on what words mean, this should be clear from one of the definitions used in the video containing the word it means to define. I think that objection speaks for itself.

    Either way, no one reads the rebuttals. Everyone just argues the same worn out points. BLAH BLAH BLAH atheism = good BLAH BLAH BLAH religion = bad. I have repeatedly pointed out the problems with pretty much every argument to come accross this message board but no one cares. I don’t know why I bother.

  16. AlSweigart Says:

    Socrates Johnson,

    I suppose I would tend towards logical positivism. I understand your argument that using logic would itself require faith, but I disagree. If all we have is faith, then aren’t we throwing out any standard for determining what is true and what isn’t? Do you think “truth” in this sense even exists?

    I meant to imply that Confucianism can be thought of as a philosophy moreso than a religion. It has great deal of ritual and beliefs about the nature of the world, but it lacks a lot of the mystical and supernatural beliefs that usually characterize religions. It can be miscategorized as a religion for convenience, the same way atheism is. That is all I’m saying.

    What would you give as a more accurate definition for what a religion is? And do you agree or disagree that atheism does not fit this definition of religion?

    Socrates Johnson, could you send me your email address so we can talk more? I’m interested in learning more about your viewpoints.

  17. smeagain Says:

    Theism, is the belief in a God without conclusive proof.

    Atheism, simply stated is the (belief) that there is no God without conclusive proof.

    I would say that an agnostic holds no religious belief either way, he simply is open to what is and says “I don’t know to the rest.”

    It seems reverend Al is Preaching to the choir.

  18. Socrates Johnson Says:

    Heyo Al, sorry I had wandered away from my net-argumentation for a couple months. My school seems to think funding me means they get all my attention.

    In short, about the logic and faith point I somewhat agree that if we whole-sale abandon logic we run into nasty problems. However, this doesn’t actually prove logic as such, just means people who abandon it are screwed. This goes back to Aristotle. When attempting to defend the principle of non-contradiction he eventually throws his hands up and says “hey, try to prove something to me without using logic bitc#es!” I paraphrase of course.

    As such, my primary point here was not to say abandon logic all ye who enter here. Rather to establish that when one is positioning oneself within the theist-atheist debate appealing to logic as the foundation of one side’s beliefs is a bit of a false-facade.

    Essentially if logical positivism holds one has to accept a bizare claim as true. That all sentences are true in virtue of meaning, or in virtue of some fact EXCEPT THIS LAW! That’s rather untenable from where I sit. This of course doesn’t characterize all those who are scientifically minded. However, other similar principles apply when one uses induction, Ockham’s razor, etc. They all end up appealing to really bizarre and arguably unacceptable principles to prove themselves. Though sometimes it is just a matter of accepting a brute fact about the universe.

    Though to be fair accepting brute facts as law (if the evidence points toward such) is generally accepted in science, so there you go. (I have in mind any particular grand-unified theory of everything, whichever one you prefer.) At some level that theorem will just be a brute fact about the universe.

    Either way. hopefully you got an e-mail address from me with this post. I will also attempt to locate your address on the page so I can send you mine directly.

    Also thanks for taking the time to read my responses.

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