Atheism is a religion

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[[Apologist]] frequently accuse [[atheism]] (especially [[strong atheism]]) of being a [[religion]].
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[[Apologist]]s frequently assert that '''atheism is a religion'''. Whether this is true or not depends greatly on what definitions of ''[[atheism]]'' and ''[[religion]]'' are being used. The argument is most effectively made against [[strong atheism]], in which positive assertions are made that no gods exist, but even in that case there are real problems with applying the label of religion to something that is explicitly denying a central belief of almost all religions (and providing no alternative beliefs in its place). Further muddying the issue is the purely [[legal]] notion that, for the purposes of the [[First Amendment]]'s [[free exercise clause]], atheism should be considered a form of religion worthy of protection.
  
 
==Apologetics==
 
==Apologetics==
  
If you truly [[believe]] that there is no [[god]], how is that different from believing that there is a god? It takes just as much [[faith]] to say "there is no god" as it does to say "there is a god".
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If you truly [[believe]] that there is no [[god]], how is that different from believing that there is a god? Both are positions on a fundamentally religious question that must ultimately rest on [[faith]].  Therefore, atheism is just another form of religion.
  
 
==Counter-apologetics==
 
==Counter-apologetics==
  
[http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=religion From dictionary.com], the primary definition of religion is:
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According to [http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=religion dictionary.com], the primary definition of ''religion'' is:
# 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.
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# ''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.''
  
There are a lot of stipulations in those "especially"s and "usually"s.  Does atheism (strong or not) consider the [[universe]] as a [[creation]] of superhuman agency or agencies? Of course not, just the opposite.  Does atheism involve devotional and [[ritual]] observance? No.  Does it prescribe a [[moral]] code?  No, there are atheistic systems of morality, but there is no one system that is automatically suggested by the mere fact that one is an atheist.
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There's a lot of wiggle room in those "especially"s and "usually"s.  Does atheism (strong or not) consider the [[universe]] as a [[creation]] of superhuman agency? Of course not; just the opposite (in that atheists do not believe in such a superhuman agent in the first place).  Does atheism involve devotional and [[ritual]] observance?   No.  Does it prescribe a [[moral]] code?  No.  Of course, there are systems of morality that atheists would be comfortable calling their own (see the article on [[secular morality]]), but atheism in itself does not suggest which moral system one should follow.
  
But more to the point, is atheism a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe?  Not really.  Even strong atheism is one negative belief about one thing: there is no god.  Even assuming strong belief in this point, that doesn't say anything at all about the actual cause, nature or purpose of the universe except in the negative.
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More to the point, is atheism a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe?  No.  Even strong atheism is simply a position on one particular issue: there is no god.  Thus, even assuming strong belief in this point, that doesn't say anything at all about the actual cause, nature or purpose of the universe, except in the negative ("it's not God").
  
To people who think that atheists are all of one mind about the nature of the universe, one word: [[Raelian]]s.
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People who think that atheists are all of one mind about the nature of the universe need only consider the beliefs of [[Raelian]]s to see this is not so.
  
Some people claim that atheism is a religion based on later definitions, such as
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Some people claim that atheism is a religion based on later definitions of the word, such as
:"something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice."
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: ''something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: [for example] to make a religion of fighting prejudice.''
  
Technically atheism could be considered a religion in this sense, but this wanders very far from what theists imply when they call atheism a religion, and can thus be considered [[equivocation]].  As the entry itself mentions, under this definition "fighting prejudice" is a religion.  So are capitalism, football, and Star Trek.  It is surely not much of an insult to be included under such a broad definition.
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Technically, atheism could be considered a religion in this sense, but this wanders very far from what [[theist]]s imply when they call atheism a religion, and can thus be considered [[equivocation]].  As the entry itself mentions, under this definition "fighting prejudice" is a religion.  If this is true, then so are [[wikipedia:capitalism|capitalism]], [[wikipedia:football|football]], and [[wikipedia:Star Trek|Star Trek]].  It is surely not much of an insult to be included under such a broad definition. (On the other hand, many theists would likely be insulted if this were taken to be the ''only'' meaning of the term when applied to ''their own'' religion!)
  
 
==See also==
 
==See also==

Revision as of 16:13, 26 August 2007

Apologists frequently assert that atheism is a religion. Whether this is true or not depends greatly on what definitions of atheism and religion are being used. The argument is most effectively made against strong atheism, in which positive assertions are made that no gods exist, but even in that case there are real problems with applying the label of religion to something that is explicitly denying a central belief of almost all religions (and providing no alternative beliefs in its place). Further muddying the issue is the purely legal notion that, for the purposes of the First Amendment's free exercise clause, atheism should be considered a form of religion worthy of protection.

Contents

Apologetics

If you truly believe that there is no god, how is that different from believing that there is a god? Both are positions on a fundamentally religious question that must ultimately rest on faith. Therefore, atheism is just another form of religion.

Counter-apologetics

According to dictionary.com, the primary definition of religion is:

  1. 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.

There's a lot of wiggle room in those "especially"s and "usually"s. Does atheism (strong or not) consider the universe as a creation of superhuman agency? Of course not; just the opposite (in that atheists do not believe in such a superhuman agent in the first place). Does atheism involve devotional and ritual observance? No. Does it prescribe a moral code? No. Of course, there are systems of morality that atheists would be comfortable calling their own (see the article on secular morality), but atheism in itself does not suggest which moral system one should follow.

More to the point, is atheism a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe? No. Even strong atheism is simply a position on one particular issue: there is no god. Thus, even assuming strong belief in this point, that doesn't say anything at all about the actual cause, nature or purpose of the universe, except in the negative ("it's not God").

People who think that atheists are all of one mind about the nature of the universe need only consider the beliefs of Raelians to see this is not so.

Some people claim that atheism is a religion based on later definitions of the word, such as

something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: [for example] to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

Technically, atheism could be considered a religion in this sense, but this wanders very far from what theists imply when they call atheism a religion, and can thus be considered equivocation. As the entry itself mentions, under this definition "fighting prejudice" is a religion. If this is true, then so are capitalism, football, and Star Trek. It is surely not much of an insult to be included under such a broad definition. (On the other hand, many theists would likely be insulted if this were taken to be the only meaning of the term when applied to their own religion!)

See also

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