Saturday, March 14, 2009

Atheism: A Religion?

Atheism seems to have evolved over the years. Ironically, the first atheists were those who rejected the Greek and Roman pantheon of gods for the monotheistic Judeo-Christian God. Thus, its first use was not in the context of being a non-theist, but a non-polytheist. Later, about the time of the Reformation, atheism was birthed out of a reaction to the injustices of the Church. From this reaction a philosophical atheism was developed largely by Nietzsche and other prominent atheists of his day. . .

This is the first paragraph of an article written for Helium. If you are interest in the rest please click here.

62 comments:

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

If atheism is a religion, then everything is a religion. Nascar, soccer, Disney, knitting, music, politics, government, all these things involve people gathering with some common beliefs.

I'll never understand this need that some theists seem to have of trying to claim atheism is a religion.

Anonymous said...

Bald is a hair color, not collecting stamps is a hobby, etc.

It's just more language/logic abuse from apologists in general and Karla specifically.

Karla said...

Yeah I guess a lot of those things could qualify depending on how people involve themselves with it.

Like I said in the article, such a classification doesn't reflect on the validity of the philosophy. I also said I, as a Christian, understand the desire to separate oneself from being labeled "religious" or as having "religion." So I get it.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

when I was a Christian I had a desire to not be labeled religious, but as an atheist, you can label me what you want. Labeling a Christian religious makes much more sense than trying to slap that label on an atheist.

CyberKitten said...

It can't help but amuse me that a *rejection* of religion and everything it stands for can then be labelled *as* a religion. It's almost too funny for words - it really is... almost... [grin]

CyberKitten said...

Oh... and shouldn't *any* religion have at least a supernatural element? Since Atheists deny the existence of any kind of supernatural it would be difficult to label that particular point of view a religion don't you think?

Anonymous said...

"Yeah I guess a lot of those things could qualify depending on how people involve themselves with it."

Ridiculous. When presented with other examples that clearly aren't religions, in order to hold onto your inaccurate labels you simply innacurately label other things as well.

NAEZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I followed NAEZ's link, and that's one of the stupidest things I've read in a long time. I love all the strawmen and assertions about what true atheists believe, coming from someone who obviously doesn't know any atheists.

So, I decided that I should actually take a look at what you wrote Karla, and let me say that I'm shocked - shocked! - that you would regurgitate the same crapola that you've already been corrected on before. For instance, denying that you have met your burden of proof, leaving me with no reason to believe in your god, is different from a positive belief that there is no god. You, of course, have already been told of this, but as usual, you disregard that which doesn't fit your preconceptions and you simply ignore what actual atheists tell you about what we believe and don't believe, thinking instead that you know better than we what we actually think. Couple this with your insistance that you know god exists, and that you know his attributes, etc. and your insistance that you can not be wrong about these things, and it's shaping up to be a nice little god complex you've got going there. It's ridiculous and pathetic.

NAEZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CyberKitten said...

NAEZ said: Atheism is the belief that god does not exist.

I think they call that *positive* Atheism.

The other version is the *disbelief* in the existence of God, which isn't as 'in your face' as the first statement. They are not the same thing - and yet holders of either belief/disbelief are Atheists. I tend to oscilate between the two depending on how I feel on the day - though mostly I'm in the disbelief camp.

Of course both camps are *miles* away from the sure and certain knowledge that God does not exist. I freely admit that He might - but I *seriously* doubt it.

Atheism is most certainly *not* a religion for all of the previously posted reasons. It may be a belief (or disbelief) system but it's not a world-view, though it can be part of one - usually Naturalism.

Atheism is not illogical nor is it irrational. In fact it is both logical and rational because - certainly as far as I know - there is ZERO evidence to support the idea of the existence of God. The existence of the Universe is *not* proof of God - it is merely proof of the existence of the Universe. Just because we don't know (yet) exactly how it all started doesn't mean that God did it. It just means we don't know (yet). The fact that the vast majority of people believe in various flavours of God is *not* proof of His existence. So-called Testimony is *not* proof of the existence of God. The Bible is *not* proof of the existence of God. Even so-called miracles (even if the exist) are *not* proof of the existence of God.

I therefore think that I'm on *very* solid ground when I say that I have very good reasons not to believe in the existence of God.

Unless you know otherwise. I'm always open minded to reasonable debate.....

NAEZ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I didn't follow the link because I really couldn't imagine anything of value with the misused word "wronger" in the title. One who has been wronged, was wronged by their wronger. The weaker of two positions would be more wrong. Forgive me for being a snob.

All that said, I get an "Error 404 - Not Found" at that url.

I think the distinction CK is trying to get across is the difference between one saying "I believe God does not exist" and "God does not exist". Personally, I believe God does not exist. I've called myself an agnostic atheist for clarity in the past, but even theists can be agnostics, so I would not choose that title for myself.

Karla said...

I'm sorry everyone. I didn't meant o irritate anyone by the post. I write for Helium for a variety of topics and I wrote for that one. I thought there may be some interest in the post from my readers here so I posted it here as well.

Causing emotions to fly certainly wasn't my intention. Believe it or not, I try hard not to offend you guys.

Anon, I agreed with Mike that the things he mentioned could be on par with religion on how people relate to them. You see people can have religious devotion to a sports team, or an actor, or a political party. I have met someone who wears all kinds of political campaign material all over his clothes around election time. I have certainly seen people have religious devotion to a band or musician. Anything can become a religion to a person or people group. That is all I meant.

Atheism to some may be passive and not of a religious devotion. But to others it is incredibly important and they unite with others of like mind.

Some Christians, as I have stated also do not want to be referred to as religious or having religion. We are in agreement to not want that label.

Karla said...

NAEZ, welcome to my blog. How'd you find me?

Karla said...

Mike, I'm sure my grammar isn't always that great as I don't take a lot of time to proof read for grammar before I post as I ought, but regarding the use of the . . . I can't call it a word (-: "wronger" such grammar makes me cringe too.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

It would appear that NAEZ has gone poof! I'm still curious about the post he linked to that also went poof.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Wow, just clicked on NAEZ's name to see the profile. One blog is named NAEZ and the only post says "1st post n**ger". The other is about counting cards. Color me less than impressed.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: I have certainly seen people have religious devotion to a band or musician. Anything can become a religion to a person or people group. That is all I meant.

I'm sorry Karla but if you're going to define religion *this* broadly the word becomes meaningless and your post becomes pointless. If *anything* can be a religion then *nothing* is a religion.

If there is no *real* difference between stamp collecting and Christianity where does that leave you? As just another not particularly 'special' interest group and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Indeed CK. Apparently, to Karla, any sort of passion is "religious." If you have season tickets to a sports team, then you are religious. How ridiculous.

Well Karla, I suggest that you get back to your religions of not collecting stamps, not believing in Allah, not believing in FSM, not believing in Thor, not believing in Baal, not believing in leprechauns, etc. You've got a lot of work to do to keep up with all those religions, don't you?

Anonymous said...

"Some Christians, as I have stated also do not want to be referred to as religious or having religion. We are in agreement to not want that label."

It's not about wanting this label or that, it's about accuracy of words. In the case of Xianity, it is highly accurate to use the word "religion" as that is exactly what it describes. I don't care that you mistakenly believe that "religion" somehow carries a negative stereotype (in this country? For real?) because certain words have certain meanings, and like it or not, that word fits.

In the case of atheism, the word simply does not fit. It's not about not wanting to have a religion, it's about the inaccuracy of saying it's a religion to deny religions. This is simply absurd.

Then, we all know where that goes as well, as the apologist inevitably takes the next step to claim that since both "worldviews" are religions, there's no incentive to select one over the other, which is rather untrue and self-defeating for the theist all at the same time (as relativity usually is for the theists, even though you hold to relative morality when it suits you).

Karla said...

Anon I have said repeatedly regardless of whether atheism could at least in some respects classify as a religion such a thing would not be an argument against it's validity.

Mike, as far as those things go, I don't mean that they are in themselves religions, but some people can become religious about them. And in that regard I am not speaking about community and common belief as I was with atheism, but a religious worshipful devotion. There certainly are fans of some things that are so fanatic or obsessed it is pretty much there religion. That doesn't mean the thing in itself ever qualifies as a religion. But to them they treat it like it is. Do you see the difference? I'm not saying being a fan of a particular team or band makes it a religion, but to some they make it their religion.

Not all atheists would fall into the category of their atheism being a religion of sorts. But I think some would fall into it. But really it's a moot point because it doesn't really make any difference as to whether the belief/disbelief is true.

Karla said...

That's weird about this NAEZ person. I see he deleted his comments.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Oh, I agree that people worship those things, and I'll bet there are some atheists who worship their atheism, but certainly that doesn't make them religions.

Karla said...

Okay.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: I have said repeatedly regardless of whether atheism could at least in some respects classify as a religion such a thing would not be an argument against it's validity.

The 'validity' argument has nothing to do with it. You are making the assertion that Atheism is (at least in some respects) a religion - which it clearly is not.

You are in danger of conflating 'religion' with 'religious-like devotion' which are *completely* different things. If you are attempting to clarify things I'm afraid that you are having the opposite effect.

Karla said...

"You are in danger of conflating 'religion' with 'religious-like devotion' which are *completely* different things. If you are attempting to clarify things I'm afraid that you are having the opposite effect."

Let me try once more to clarify. Football is not a religion, but some can make it like a religion in their life. They can have worship like devotion to the sport. That doesn't make the sport a religion, but it does mean their devotion is kind of religious.

Atheism, I was not using the religious devotion definition regarding religion, but "a community of people gathered around a particular set of beliefs." Sometimes this happens in atheism, sometimes it does not.

But regardless of all that, I am okay not applying the term to you guys or to atheism. I don't want to offend any of you or irritate any of you. I even said that in my article that it wasn't necessary to go around calling atheism a religion whether or not it fit a dictionary definition because there is no purpose to do so. I merely wrote to article to write to an available topic on the website I was writing for. I had no intention of irritating anyone. And I have no cause to continue to belabor the topic.

Please forgive me for the article, as I did not mean any harm.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I'm pretty sure none of us is offended by the label, rather the illogical use of it as applied to atheism.

Anonymous said...

"Anon I have said repeatedly regardless of whether atheism could at least in some respects classify as a religion such a thing would not be an argument against it's validity."

I didn't say anything about that. Where are you getting this from? Unless you are messing up on the definition of "relative" again?

What I said was that you are butchering the language.

Anonymous said...

"Atheism, I was not using the religious devotion definition regarding religion, but "a community of people gathered around a particular set of beliefs.""

We don't have a shared set of beliefs, but rather a shared set of disbeliefs. There is a huge difference there.


Mike,
I went back to try and find that link that NAEZ posted. I believe it went to a site called "Agnostic Debate" as it looks familiar and has some of the same language. Alas, it seems to have been expunged.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: That doesn't make the sport a religion, but it does mean their devotion is kind of religious.

Only in a *very* broad use of the term - which makes its use both meaningless and less than helpful in discussing the topic.

karla said: Atheism, I was not using the religious devotion definition regarding religion, but "a community of people gathered around a particular set of beliefs."

That's certainly as *aspect* of religion, but on its own can apply to many things that have absolutely nothing to do with religion. Again, in this context, its a meaningless and unhelpful statement.

karla said: Please forgive me for the article, as I did not mean any harm.

The only 'harm' you caused was confusion by your seemingly haphazard use of language.

mike said: I'm pretty sure none of us is offended by the label, rather the illogical use of it as applied to atheism.

Indeed.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Yeah, Anon, I even went back and tried searching for it to no avail.

Karla said...

Maybe it's a difference of perspective, or maybe my perspective is skewed. I don't know. I'm willing to agree to disagree on this point, and I am furthermore willing to be incorrect in my equating atheism to religion.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: I am furthermore willing to be incorrect in my equating atheism to religion.

..and that's why I hang around here. I knew there was hope for you. At least you can admit when you're wrong about something.

Karla said...

Truth is more important to me than being right. None of this has ever been about me being right or winning an argument. I'm not interested in either. I'm only interested in truth and sharing what I believe to be truth because I am committed to the truth.

CyberKitten said...

karla said: I'm only interested in truth and sharing what I believe to be truth because I am committed to the truth.

Of course the important question is this:

Is what you believe to be the truth the actual truth & how do you determine whether or not that's the case?

Anonymous said...

"Maybe it's a difference of perspective, or maybe my perspective is skewed."

No, it's not using words correctly.

I'm continually amused at how much you use relativity in your arguments, especially for what you claim is an absolute worldview. It's self-defeating.

"I'm willing to agree to disagree on this point, and I am furthermore willing to be incorrect in my equating atheism to religion."

Which is it? Are we agreeing to disagree or will you admit that you are incorrect? These are NOT the same.

Karla said...

"I'm continually amused at how much you use relativity in your arguments, especially for what you claim is an absolute worldview. It's self-defeating."

I have never claimed that anyone can have an absolute worldview knowing concretely all things about how to correctly see the world. We only know in part. Only God can have an absolute worldview. Not me. Not anyone else.

Anonymous said...

"I have never claimed that anyone can have an absolute worldview knowing concretely all things about how to correctly see the world."

I never claimed you did. You continually fail to understand the terms being used in these discussions.

"We only know in part. Only God can have an absolute worldview. Not me. Not anyone else."

Which reminds me...do we have enough knowledge to claim that god is good or evil or don't we? I'm still waiting on you to even acknowledge that I've questioned you on this.

Anonymous said...

BTW, you missed this part:

"Which is it? Are we agreeing to disagree or will you admit that you are incorrect? These are NOT the same."

You do realize that agreeing to disagree is not the same as you admitting that you were in error, correct? So, which is it? Will you admit that you were in error, or will you continue to assert that you were right and claim that we can simply agree to disagree on a factual matter (relativity rears its ugly head once again).

Karla said...

Anon, I don't know which it is. I'm willing to be wrong. I'm willing to let it go and I am willing to accept that I have used the term wrong. I don't fully know that I have, but I'll accept it nonetheless.

Karla said...

Anon for one who doesn't believe there is an eternal absolute foundation for truth, it is odd how much you seem to despise relativity.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I don't think Anon despises relativity, I think he finds it odd that someone who claims a belief system who's members cry out against relativity would rely so heavily on it.

Anonymous said...

"Anon, I don't know which it is. I'm willing to be wrong. I'm willing to let it go and I am willing to accept that I have used the term wrong. I don't fully know that I have, but I'll accept it nonetheless."

Make up your mind. You're willing to do all this, but you haven't yet? C'mon.

"Anon for one who doesn't believe there is an eternal absolute foundation for truth, it is odd how much you seem to despise relativity."

Nope, just dishonest argumentation and hypocrisy. That YOU claim to eschew it, yet cling to it when it suits you is what I'm pointing out. Alas, I see Mike already beat me to the punch.

Oh, and BTW, you're making a false dichotomy between relativity and "eternal absolute (sic) foundation for truth."

Karla said...

Mike I see relativity as each person or group of people being the author of their own truth. Or a plurality of truths being equally valid while being equally opposing truth claims. I do not ascribe to this in any fashion. If you mean something else by relativity, please explain.

As far as does atheism fall under the term of "religion" that would indeed depend on the use of the word. We seem to disagree on its usage both using dictionary definitions. So I do not know how to resolve that, but I can accept your definition over mine and leave it be for it doesn't really matter to me if it is or is not classified as religion.

I'm really not so dogmatic as some of you like to think I am.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

I don't think you are dogmatic on every issue, that's why I ask questions to find out.

Anonymous said...

Karla,
"As far as does atheism fall under the term of "religion" that would indeed depend on the use of the word. We seem to disagree on its usage both using dictionary definitions."

The "dictionary definition" that you want to use is not what you are implying by your writings, meaning you are conflating. For the purposes of what you are proposing, the definition in question is one that simply does not fit atheism. But, I see how willing you are to actually admit as much now.

"So I do not know how to resolve that, but I can accept your definition over mine and leave it be for it doesn't really matter to me if it is or is not classified as religion."

You resolve it by realizing that you are conflating definitions. If you simply want to say that some people are passionate about atheism as others are passionate about sports teams, or whatever, so what? Why does this even need to be written? The only reason to write that atheism is a religion is to compare it to other religions, like Xianity. In that sense, there is no comparison and you are conflating passion with religion in the sense of worldview, dogma, beliefs, etc. This attitude of placating us while still thinking you are right is worse than anything else. Don't condescend to us. Don't act like we are little children that you can placate with nice words while turning around and claiming you are still right on this issue when you are clearly not.

Karla said...

Thank you Mike for giving me the benefit of the doubt and for your questions.

I see no reason to continue discussion on this topic and I will leave it be at this point.

Anon, I'm sorry I've upset you so thoroughly.

Anonymous said...

Oh, you're sorry, but you aren't actually willing to admit that you are dead wrong. Typical. You're like a politician that apologizes "if anyone has taken offense."

BTW, I'm not offended, I'm not mad, I'm simply pointing out your issues. It's seems rather bizarre that you can't even admit that you are wrong about this, even when confronted with it by multiple people. I have ideas about why this is (you really do think you are infallible in some respect and admitting error in this respect would mean that god is not behind you in all things!)

cl said...

My .02 cents:

Karla, although we could definitely quibble over the way in which you're handling this (for example don't downgrade the argument to religious devotion), you don't need to apologize to anyone. That atheism operates much like a religion is your view of the world, and it is a perfectly reasonable view IMO.

What Color Is Your Hair?

Theism is not an intrinsic aspect of religion, evidenced by the fact that non-theistic religions have existed for thousands of years. Buddhism comes to mind. Jnana comes to mind. So if Buddhism and Jnana are bona fide religions which lack belief in God, why can't atheism which also lacks belief in God be a bona fide religion?

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"Theism is not an intrinsic aspect of religion,"

Perhaps not, but belief in the supernatural is. and atheism in general lacks that, but not always.

CyberKitten said...

I've heard arguments put forward that Bhuddism isn't actually a religion.... [grin]

But as Mike said religions tend to have at least some supernatural elements. Atheism does not.

cl - can you say in what way it is reasonable to label Atheism as a religion? What critera are you using?

Karla said...

um I wasn't really looking to revisit this topic.

CL, I wasn't talking about religious devotion in context of atheism, but in the context of some people making sports or a band a kind of religion to them. For atheists I used the definition of a community of people maintaining a set of beliefs.

However, I see that atheists see Religion as defined primarily as having supernatural aspects whether those aspects be theistic or otherwise. So by that definition they are not a religion. I, do see religion more broadly than that definition and do not see it as having to have supernatural aspects to be religion. Just the same, I have no desire to label anyone anything they do not wish to be labeled and I understand the desire not to be labeled especially something that they seek to disassociate themselves with. I even said this in my article for the article was not intended to push the label, but to discuss the matter and in conclusion I said it was unnecessary to associate the two terms.


CL, I did feel that I owed them an apology even though they have told me I didn't offend them. I still wanted to back down for I am not here to win arguments or irritate people. Whether or not, I did that, I still feel I went too far on this matter and I apologize for that.

cl said...

Karla,

Whether or not atheism is a religion is pretty much a useless question, because it all boils down to personal interpretations of the word religion. So I don't say anyone is really right or wrong in these sorts of discussions, and that was the motive behind my "no need to apologize" remarks. Of course, this is your own blog and you can and should do what your heart moves you to do. I was just offering my opinion, because, well, that's what comment threads are for.

Regarding my "religious devotion" remark, the first paragraph in your reply was exactly what I was getting at - both definitions are too broad. As someone else suggested, to use such a broad definition of religion is to effectively render it useless. Same with, "A community that shares a set of beliefs," which is closer to culture than religion in my book. Skateboarders are a community that shares a set of beliefs; is skateboarding a religion?

Monolith,

What particular tenet of Jnana would you say pays homage to the "supernatural" and what do you mean when you use that word? And even if I grant your statement that atheism lacks belief in the supernatural, still, that is a single point of difference overshadowed by many points of commonality.

CyberKitten,

You asked in what way it is reasonable to label atheism as analogous to religion. Here's part of the definition Wikipedia uses for religion, "...a set of stories, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural quality, that give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life through reference to an ultimate power or reality."

You said, "...religions tend to have at least some supernatural elements." If your definition of religion mandates God or gods or whatever you mean when you use the word "supernatural," then atheism cannot be 100% religion. However, as I said to Mike, this is perhaps the only point of difference when the points of commonality are many. Like religion, atheism has its symbols: The Scarlet A, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Darwin fish. Like religion, atheism also has a set of beliefs, and atheists can and do defend these beliefs as dogmatically, and irrationally, as their religious counterparts. And although they are not necessarily ritualistic practices, atheists have practices, too. Atheists preach to congregations, atheists proselytize to their own unsaved, atheists collect money for their causes, atheists lobby the government for their causes, atheists have their disciples and apostles, and atheists fellowship with one another.

Atheism also shares many of religion's negative qualities. Like religion, atheism has its dogmas. As with religion, there are certainly closed-minded, bigoted and intolerant atheists. Albeit certainly with more valid ground to stand on than many, like religionists, atheists whine about their persecution. Like religion, atheists also seek to have their symbols in government buildings, yet in the basest hypocrisy, they take special privilege by actually insulting all the other symbols in the government building. Imagine the outcry if a Christian nativity scene tastelessly lambasted a Jewish menorah!

Anyways, I don't want to put too much into this. I still think the most appropriate analogy is that atheism is 9/10 religion, or that atheism is religion without God, but that's my opinion.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

All I found on Jnana was that it came out of Hinduism and most of what I found referenced Hindu gods and the Ultimate Truth.

I mean supernatural in the way it is commonly used, that which is beyond the natural.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"atheism has its dogmas."

I guess I didn't get my handbook. What are my dogmas?

Anonymous said...

"I guess I didn't get my handbook. What are my dogmas?"

No doubt right? I'll send you the secret handbook that we all share that outlines our plans for world domination!

And, I have to say, that I never thought of it like this before. I mean, wow, atheists do actions and are actual people, so therefore it's a religion! What a joke. Now, I have to go attend to my hobby of not collecting stamps and telling bald people that they have a hair color. Ha ha ha.

CyberKitten said...

cl said: I still think the most appropriate analogy is that atheism is 9/10 religion, or that atheism is religion without God, but that's my opinion.

[laughs]

That's like saying that men are actually women. I mean, we have *so* much in common and only *one* real difference... [rotflmao]

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

"I'll send you the secret handbook that we all share that outlines our plans for world domination!"

Thanks! I moved last year, so my copy probably got lost in the mail.

cl said...

Hi Karla,

Quick technical question - I replied to this post last night from a different computer, and still don't see the response. Any idea what's going on? Do you have some sort of IP sniffing that disallows such?

Karla said...

cl, I have no idea, must have gotten lost in cyberspace. I don't have any restrictions set on comments.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Never on this blog, but occasionally on others, I've had posts disappear into the ether. Sometimes it's related to me posting through a firewall, I think.