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Is Atheism a religion? If not, what is?

AlbqOwl

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This question has been kicked around on at least a couple of other threads. So let's talk about it. What makes an atheist different from a Buddhist? Or a Unitarian? Or a Presybterian? Or a (fill in the blank)? Keep it civil please.
 

Thorgasm

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Atheists aren't superstitious. Religion is the same thing as superstition.
 

Donkey1499

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Atheism follows a belief, just like any other religion/cult. Atheisms' belief is that anything superstitious is wrong or insane or whatnot. So, imagine if atheism was the dominant belief in America, or the only belief allowed. Then everyone would be forced to believe that all religions/cults are wrong, 'cept atheism.
 

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Well I asked Jeeves, and he said this......

Myth:
Atheism is just another religion.



Response:
For some strange reason, many people keep getting the idea that atheism is itself some sort of religion. It's an assertion which I keep hearing in newsgroups, in private email, and in this site's chat room. Maybe it is because these people are so caught up in their own religious beliefs that they cannot imagine any person living without religion of some sort. Maybe it is due to some persistent misunderstanding of what atheism is. And maybe they just don't care that what they are saying really doesn't make any sense.

Whatever the actual reasons, this claim keeps appearing and this article is my attempt to answer such ideas by dissecting an actual letter which I have received, one which manages to perpetrate a number of mistakes:

Dear Sir,

I am afraid I will have to kindly decline your offer to rewrite my post. I stand by my original contention; atheism is a religion. Whether it fits technically with the semantics or not is not a concern of mine; the practical definition of religion is what matters to me, not the letter of the law. And the practical definition, distasteful though it may be to those who disdain religion in all its forms, is that the very thing most atheists hate is what they have become: a religion, with clearly defined rules, eschatology and a philosophy by which to live. Religion is a means of understanding our existence. Atheism fits that bill. Religion is a philosophy of life. So is atheism. Religions has its leaders, the preachers of its tenets. So does atheism (Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Lenin, Marx). Religion has its faithful believers, who guard the orthodoxy of the faith. So does atheism. And religion is a matter of faith, not certainty. Your own faithful say that, as that is what I was referring to in my posting. Welcome to the religious world!

Please forgive my contentious tone. However, I would very much like to bring some (albeit not all as that is not possible) to the realization that all religions set themselves apart from the crowd; they are the pure, the faithful, all others are just "religion." Here again, atheism fits the bill.

That's the whole letter in one shot, in order to give readers a sense of original context. Let us now examine it piece by piece so that we can get a better sense of just what lies behind it all...

Whether it fits technically with the semantics or not is not a concern of mine;

In other words, he doesn't care if he misuses language to fit his purposes? This is a very sad attitude to adopt, but at least he is honest enough to admit it - others making the same claims are less forthright. The fact is, his (convenient) definition lacks one of the central aspects of what a religion most often is (a belief in gods or the supernatural) - and that's an abuse of language. In fact, whether or not atheism fits technically with the semantics of "religion" should be a concern of his, if he has any interest in an honest dialogue.

Let's examine what he considers to be the defining characteristics of "religion."

...a religion, with clearly defined rules, eschatology and a philosophy by which to live. Religion is a means of understanding our existence.

Does atheism have anything approaching "clearly defined rules?" Not in the least. There is only one "rule," and that is the rule of the definition of "atheism" - not having any belief in any gods. Other than that, atheists are free to do whatever they want and still be called atheists. An atheist can do and believe absolutely anything beyond gods and still fit the definition. Quite the opposite of how "rules" are treated in a religion. This is one area where a misunderstanding of what atheism is probably comes into play.

Does atheism have an "eschatology? Eschatology is a "belief about the end of the world or the last things." Now, I'm sure that many atheists have some sort of beliefs about how the world might end, but those beliefs sure aren't clearly defined or uniform among all of us. In fact, any beliefs about the end of the world are accidental - that is to say, they are not a necessary part of atheism. There is absolutely, positively nothing inherent in the disbelief in gods that leads one to any opinions about the end of the world. Quite the opposite of how 'eschatology' is treated in a religion.

The rest is here, and it all makes perfect sense to me, this person said it much better then I have patience for, but read and decide for yourself......

http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/ath/blathm_rel_religion.htm
 

Thorgasm

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Donkey1499 said:
Atheism follows a belief, just like any other religion/cult. Atheisms' belief is that anything superstitious is wrong or insane or whatnot. So, imagine if atheism was the dominant belief in America, or the only belief allowed. Then everyone would be forced to believe that all religions/cults are wrong, 'cept atheism.
Atheism isn't a religion/cult. It doesn't follow a belief. It is the default position. There are no supernatural powers at play, just reality.
 

AlbqOwl

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Here's the way I see it.

Religion is based on a belief about a diety or dieties.

Atheism is based on a belief about a diety or dieties.

The religious tend to argue their point of view and discredit the alternate point of view.

Atheists tend to argue their point of view and discredit the alternate point of view.

The religious base their beliefs on what they have been taught and a mixture of experience and faith. The relgiious are unable to PROVE their beliefs to the nonrelgiious.

Atheists base their beliefs on what they have taught and a mixture of experience and faith. Atheists are unable to PROVE their beliefs to the the religious.

People interested in religion are often attracted to threads like this.

Atheists are often attracted to threads like this.

Religious groups use promotional materials and put up websites.

Atheists use promotional materials and put up websites.

Sure looks like Atheism is a religion. Don't you think?

The default position is the nonreligious who are completely indifferent to the whole subject.
 

Thorgasm

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Deegan said:
Does atheism have an "eschatology? Eschatology is a "belief about the end of the world or the last things." Now, I'm sure that many atheists have some sort of beliefs about how the world might end, but those beliefs sure aren't clearly defined or uniform among all of us.
Yes, I have a newsflash, the world isn't going to end. The human race might end. You have to love the egocentric views of the human race.
 

Thorgasm

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AlbqOwl said:
Atheists base their beliefs on what they have taught and a mixture of experience and faith. Atheists are unable to PROVE their beliefs to the the religious.
How are atheists taught what to believe? They are not indoctrinated. You can't prove the flyhing spaghetti monster doesn't exist. You can't prove a negative. The burden is upon those who claim something exists. I don't believe in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster either.
 

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independent_thinker2002 said:
Atheism isn't a religion/cult. It doesn't follow a belief. It is the default position. There are no supernatural powers at play, just reality.
How can I put this....... Atheism's belief is that Darwin, science text books, and mircoscopes can prove that God(s) don't exist, yet, if you can't see them, then how can you disprove them? You can't prove/disprove the unprovable! Even though that could be false in SOME situations; like just because you can't see oxygen with the naked eye, it doesn't mean that it ain't there!
 

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independent_thinker2002 said:
How are atheists taught what to believe? They are not indoctrinated. You can't prove the flyhing spaghetti monster doesn't exist. You can't prove a negative. The burden is upon those who claim something exists. I don't believe in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster either.
Atheists are taught by liberal professors that any belief in any God(s) is complete hogwash. Yet they can't prove it to be hogwash.
 

AlbqOwl

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Atheists don't have an eschatology, but then neither do Buddhists, Hindus, Unitarians, and numerous other sects. Even the Jews, though expecting a Messiah yet to appear, do not share the Christian eschatology that is partly drawn from Old Testament prophecies.

The only completely unifying factor among all the religions is that they are based on their view of deity and their devotion to that belief.
 

AlbqOwl

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independent_thinker2002 said:
How are atheists taught what to believe? They are not indoctrinated. You can't prove the flyhing spaghetti monster doesn't exist. You can't prove a negative. The burden is upon those who claim something exists. I don't believe in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster either.
Of course you can't prove a negative but in this case neither can the believer prove the positive either. Yet both fervently try. Go onto any of these message boards where stuff like this is being discussed, and you'll find the atheists in there pitching their nonbelief and trying to show how the believers are all wet and how atheism is superior to Christianity etc. There is no more fervent preacher for their belief than a committed Atheist. It's all religion, just expressed differently.
 

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Donkey1499 said:
How can I put this....... Atheism's belief is that Darwin, science text books, and mircoscopes can prove that God(s) don't exist, yet, if you can't see them, then how can you disprove them? You can't prove/disprove the unprovable! Even though that could be false in SOME situations; like just because you can't see oxygen with the naked eye, it doesn't mean that it ain't there!
No, you can't prove that something doesn't exist, only that it does. But until god is proven to exist, I, myself, will believe that man created god as the first form of science and government.
 

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Donkey1499 said:
Atheists are taught by liberal professors that any belief in any God(s) is complete hogwash. Yet they can't prove it to be hogwash.
This atheist doesn't follow others like a sheep. I use reason and logic to arrive at my conclusions. I was an atheist before I had any liberal professors.
 

Donkey1499

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independent_thinker2002 said:
This atheist doesn't follow others like a sheep. I use reason and logic to arrive at my conclusions. I was an atheist before I had any liberal professors.
I'm sure that you didn't just pull your "logic and reason" out of your ass. You've had to heard it somewhere.
 

Donkey1499

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independent_thinker2002 said:
No, you can't prove that something doesn't exist, only that it does. But until god is proven to exist, I, myself, will believe that man created god as the first form of science and government.
I see the Bible and the various creations around me as proof of God's existence. But that's just what I believe. To me, evolution from single-celled organisms is an impossibility without outside manipulation. Single cell organisms are near perfect in their state, so why would they want to evolve when there is no motive or reason to? Also, how did the single-cell organisms even get there in the first place? did they just appear out of thin air? Another impossibility.
 

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AlbqOwl said:
Of course you can't prove a negative but in this case neither can the believer prove the positive either. Yet both fervently try. Go onto any of these message boards where stuff like this is being discussed, and you'll find the atheists in there pitching their nonbelief and trying to show how the believers are all wet and how atheism is superior to Christianity etc. There is no more fervent preacher for their belief than a committed Atheist. It's all religion, just expressed differently.
Perhaps christians are the ones who think that they are the superior ones. You seem to think if someone comes to a debating forum and debates a topic with fervor and zeal, then that topic is a religion. This is not true. Atheists don't market their ideas as religions do. I do enjoy debating and with zeal. I don't go around trying to attain sheep for my flock so I can feel safety in numbers.
 

Thorgasm

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Donkey1499 said:
I'm sure that you didn't just pull your "logic and reason" out of your ass. You've had to heard it somewhere.
No, that is how people are indoctrinated into religion.
 

Thorgasm

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Donkey1499 said:
I see the Bible and the various creations around me as proof of God's existence. But that's just what I believe. To me, evolution from single-celled organisms is an impossibility without outside manipulation. Single cell organisms are near perfect in their state, so why would they want to evolve when there is no motive or reason to? Also, how did the single-cell organisms even get there in the first place? did they just appear out of thin air? Another impossibility.
A book is not proof of fact. The DaVinci Code is not fact even though idiots think that it is (it was published as fiction). I have never seen anything with a "Made by God" tag on it. Your threshold for what is "proof" is rather weak. Are you an expert on microbiology or is this another low threshold for what is proof and a possibility.
 

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independent_thinker2002 said:
No, that is how people are indoctrinated into religion.
Tell me, please. Where did you get your reason and logic from, then? Don't be ashamed. And I don't care that you're an atheist. I just want to know what made you an atheist. Then I'll tell you why I'm a christian, if you care to know.

I'm not an evangelist, like the ones that try to recruit more christians. I'll give you the materials if you want to learn it, but you have to approach me about it. And learning it doesn't mean that you have to believe it, but at least have some info on the "opposition". Atheism is the belief in an unbelief, is there anything more to that?
 

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independent_thinker2002 said:
Perhaps christians are the ones who think that they are the superior ones. You seem to think if someone comes to a debating forum and debates a topic with fervor and zeal, then that topic is a religion. This is not true. Atheists don't market their ideas as religions do. I do enjoy debating and with zeal. I don't go around trying to attain sheep for my flock so I can feel safety in numbers.
Re the 'sheep' thing, if the Atheists aren't following a specific doctrine why does the 'sheep' analogy come up so often as well as the sins of Christianity over the millenia, the 'superstition' accusation, and maybe another 25 to 50 words and phrases that are as predictable on these threads as are the fact that the Atheists are drawn to them in numbers close to or exceeding the believers?

And when the Atheists show up on a religion thread arguing their beliefs as fervently as do the Christians et al argue theirs, then yeah, I'm going to take note of and comment on that. And point out how it mimics religion in every way. Could that be because it IS a religion?

And type 'atheists' and 'atheism' into your browser or Google it and see the hundreds of sites devoted to the promotion of, discussion of, and defense of Atheism and then tell me that you don't 'market it'. No religion probably 'markets' their beliefs in the same manner as do Christians because part of the Christian belief is Jesus's commandment to 'go into all the world and make disciples.' But the Atheists are every bit on a par with everybody else as far as displaying and promoting their belief system.
 

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independent_thinker2002 said:
A book is not proof of fact. The DaVinci Code is not fact even though idiots think that it is (it was published as fiction). I have never seen anything with a "Made by God" tag on it. Your threshold for what is "proof" is rather weak. Are you an expert on microbiology or is this another low threshold for what is proof and a possibility.
Why so vindictive towards the Bible? Can you say with 100% certainty that the Bible is false. No. But you can believe it is wrong. Can I say that the Bible is 100% truth? No, but I can believe that it is.

I've read a book on microbiology (Cuz their was nothing else to read). There had to of been an outside manipulative force to get them to evolve.
 

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Donkey1499 said:
Tell me, please. Where did you get your reason and logic from, then? Don't be ashamed. And I don't care that you're an atheist. I just want to know what made you an atheist. Then I'll tell you why I'm a christian, if you care to know.

I'm not an evangelist, like the ones that try to recruit more christians. I'll give you the materials if you want to learn it, but you have to approach me about it. And learning it doesn't mean that you have to believe it, but at least have some info on the "opposition". Atheism is the belief in an unbelief, is there anything more to that?
Don't be ashamed of what? I have always been skeptical due to my intellectual curiosity. I have always asked a lot of questions and when it was contradictory or illogical, I would ask why that was. When I wouldn't get satisfactory answers it would raise a flag in my mind. I have always been curious about how things work, why things happen, and why people do what they do. I don't believe people blindly. I not afraid to ask for proof to back up what they say.

I was raised christian and have studied other religions as well. Tell me, how many religions did you research before you chose to be a christian? I have plenty of info on the "opposition".
 

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Donkey1499 said:
Why so vindictive towards the Bible? Can you say with 100% certainty that the Bible is false. No. But you can believe it is wrong. Can I say that the Bible is 100% truth? No, but I can believe that it is.

I've read a book on microbiology (Cuz their was nothing else to read). There had to of been an outside manipulative force to get them to evolve.
What did I say that was "vindictive" about the bible? Yes, I can say that the book is false. Pick any "leap of faith". I don't follow how a married woman is a virgin, and gets pregnant and her hubby isn't upset (or stoning her death which would have been appropriate).

Yes, radiation, an outside manipulative force causes cells to mutate. Cold, an outside manipulative force, causes animals' fur to thicken. Natural selection is not proof of the supernatural. Tell me, how does mold appear places? Does a deity put it there? Of course not.
 

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independent_thinker2002 said:
I was raised christian and have studied other religions as well. Tell me, how many religions did you research before you chose to be a christian? I have plenty of info on the "opposition".
This wasn't addressed to me but may I answer?

Some years ago I went through my own spiritual journey and spent a good 10+ years intensely studying various religions of the world, including all the various denominations and sects within each, not from a clinical aspect but to understand why they were attractive to people. I was actively looking for any excuse to throw off my own Christian heritage and find something superior even if that something was in fact Atheism.

I learned that there are no religions of the world that have absolutely no merit and all have pieces of the truth. And I came to believe that none have all the truth. But after looking at EVERYTHING for those 10+ years, I finally arrived at points of truths I could neither explain away nor deny.

I am still a Christian.

And I am a person who demands that anything I believe or promote be 100% rational and verifiable.

So there you are. Another person will have a different story to tell. But while I cannot prove to anybody what I have experienced and know without them experiencing the same thing, neither does anybody have the experience or knowledge to prove that my experience and knowledge is invalid.

I recommend the exercise.
 
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