Atheists worship materialism
Atheism and materialism are responses to different philosophical questions; either view can be held independent of the other. Therefore, atheism and materialism are not mutually inclusive ideas that stand hand in hand as a single ideological position. Being an atheist does not necessitate being a materialist, and being a materialist does not necessitate being an atheist.
An 'atheist', in the broadest sense, is a person who lacks belief in any form of deity; To 'worship' is to show reverence and adoration for (a deity) or to honor with religious rites; and 'Materialism' can mean one of the following:
- 1) a tendency to consider material possessions and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values,
- 2) the doctrine that nothing exists except matter, and that everything in existence depends on material processes acting on this matter, or the doctrine that consciousness and will are wholly due to material agency (philosophical materialism).
Using these definitions, the expression 'atheists worship materialism' is clearly ill-conceived, as the terms 'atheism', 'worship' and 'materialism' have meanings that do not together construct a coherent claim. 'Atheism', being the simple absence of a belief in a deity, generally excludes the practice of worship. As a philosophical position, materialism is not well-suited as a recipient of worship, since worship is a practice directed toward deities, not philosophies. Materialism has multiple meanings, and serves as both an economic and metaphysical construct.
Atheism and materialism
It is true that atheists are often, though not always, sympathetic to the materialistic worldview. This likely is because immaterial phenomena are not demonstrable, and therefore are unsupported by available evidence. Some atheists may pragmatically accept only material explanations because to invoke immaterial explanations has been an epistemological dead end. Such atheists are likely to remain agnostic on whether there exists immaterial aspects to the universe. Others may commit to the philosophical position that matter is all that exists in the universe, because to exist requires the property of materiality. Such atheists are expressing a more positive claim by committing to metaphysical materialism. These are two different conceptions of materialism, neither of which lends itself to worship.
Many atheists reject materialistic explanations for the nature of the universe. This is wholly consistent, as atheism and materialism are not philosophically dependent on one another, and an individual can advocate for one without the other. For example, Thomas Nagel, the academic philosopher and author of Mind and Cosmos, is both an atheist and an anti-materialist.