Fact: I have never understood how someone could think atheism was a religion.
It came up at SMBI once. To begin with, there were several people telling me that atheism was a religion, and I disagreed with them. Slowly more and more people joined the conversation, yet still, no one was on my side.
Once I argued with a pro choice girl, and I didn’t feel like I could make any outstanding points in my favor because I absolutely and completely could not understand how an unborn baby was not a human to her. I had a similar feeling arguing this atheist thing. I couldn’t say exactly the right things, because I just couldn’t understand how they thought atheism was a religion.
Fact: If I was an atheist and some Christian came to me telling me that atheism was a religion, I think I would shake my head in confusion and think, “Christian’s are so lame. I don’t think I want to have anything to do with Christians.”
Finally Zack came into the room, and he agreed with me. Atheism was not a religion. He had listened to some Ray Comfort thing talking about atheists, which led him to this conclusion.
I was relieved, but later I found out that his point really was that atheists don’t exist at all, because everyone, in their heart, believes in God.
I’m not even gonna argue that bit. All I’m gonna say is, I always thought atheism was a word, like monotheism or polytheism, describing how you thought about theos, aka, God. That’s all.
But then yesterday I thought, “I wonder if there is some place where it officially says that atheism is or is not a religion. Like Wikipedia or something.” I mean, no matter how many people say that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion, it’s still officially classified as a religion. So what do people across the board, not necessarily Christian people or atheist people, think atheism is?
I looked up “religion” on Wikipedia. The description of religion they gave in the first few paragraphs, well, you’d have to stretch really really hard to make atheism a religion by those guidelines.
So I googled “Is atheism a religion?” What I found were links and more links to pages where atheists informed people that atheism was most definitely not a religion. Often they gave examples of “stupid” arguments Christians used to prove that atheism was a religion.
I didn’t dig too deeply, but I really didn’t see anything attempting to prove that it was. Honestly, the only real line I’ve ever heard trying to prove that atheism is a religion is, “it’s a belief system.” Which is quickly made to sound ridiculous when an atheist says, “I believe that unicorns do not exist. Is that my religion? It’s my belief system.”
I’m not writing this post in an attempt to say “ha ha I was right all along guys.” I’m trying to say, “why, oh why, do we do this?”
From one simple google search the following conclusions seemed so clear:
- Many Christians say “atheism is not a religion” without doing much in-depth study as to why they think atheism is not a religion. (If there was a lot of in-depth study there would be more of their side showing up in the google search, right?)
- Atheists are shaking their heads in confusion and thinking, “Christian’s are so lame. I don’t think I want to have anything to do with Christians.” (This is the impression I got out of the things I read as a result of the google search)
- Atheists are doing the in-depth study that the Christians didn’t do and writing smart-sounding things about it, making the Christians sort of look like idiots.
Fact: I came to these conclusions out of one google search, where I didn’t read nearly everything that appeared in front of me, just did a quick overview. Thus, my conclusions could possibly be false.
Fact: Maybe it really doesn’t matter whether atheism is or is not a religion, but I do not understand how telling at atheist that atheism is a religion could possibly do the world any good, or lead them any closer to God.
I back you up, esp. on the point that Christians should be the ones with the clear thinking. Belief in/love for God, ultimately, is a matter of the heart, not of logic, but fuzzy ideas and vague generalities won’t endear any atheist to God or His people.
That last paragraph is spot on.
Atheism is not a religion and does not pretend to be. It is a system of thinking that puts logic above feeling or hope. It is clear thinking and does not seek to “convert” or change someone’s opinion.
You asked about Wikipedia, here’s the first sentence from Wikipedia’s definition of religion:
I think that makes it clear that Atheism is a religion. It’s definitely “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe”. Their beliefs:
Cause of universe: All natural
Nature of the universe: All natural
Purpose of the universe: Either none or survival
“especially when considered as the creation of a supernatural agency or agencies” is quite true. They have a very strong belief on that. That’s why they have a reference to God as part of their title: theism. Their belief about “the creation [by] a supernatural agency” is their defining characteristic.
“often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” While we like to tell atheists that they have no absolute moral code, they will always vehemently respond that they have a moral code, which they do. They often have a very well-reasoned moral code. It has no absolutes, but they do have a moral code.
Joyce writes, “It is clear thinking and does not seek to ‘convert’ or change someone’s opinion.”
While that may be true of some atheists, increasingly atheists are out for converts just as much as any other religion. Richard Dawkins, the famous British atheist is, of course, the poster child for this sector of atheism. Here are a few quotes:
There are times when we are sharing the gospel with an atheist, especially when working to break down the intellectual barriers they have erected, that it is useful to show them that the very thing that they accuse followers of Jesus doing–irrational faith and baseless assumptions–they themselves in the religion of atheism are doing. Of course, the idea that atheism is a religion has been used wrongly and clumsily, but there is a place for it, I believe.
Oops, missed a phrase of the Wikipedia definition: “usually involving devotional and ritual observances”
One word: green.
Atheists do not have a common meeting place (church-temple.) Atheists do not meet together to listen to someone tell them what to believe. Atheists do not meet to sing songs together, and atheists do not go door to door to pass out propaganda. Religious people do all those things plus they have a book that preposes to answer life’s problems. I don’t see how anyone can call atheism a religion. Atheists can believe anything they want to. Or not.
North Texas Church of Freethought
First Atheist Church of True Science (FACTS) (founded by famous atheist Michael Newdow)
American Humanist Association (local chapter meetings)
Fellowship of Humanity (this is an example of a local chapter of AHA); Wikipedia writes:
The Atheist Agenda
Freedom from Religion Foundation:
The Reason Project:
No, you just have a whole bunch of books: The Atheist’s Bible, Origin of the Species, The God Delusion, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever.
At least these are some of the top bestsellers on Amazon in the “Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > Atheism” category. (That categorization alone tells you something.)
So I can be an atheist and believe in God? Or is your statement false?
I thought I was just answering a question, not entering into a long involved argument. It seems absurd to equate one or two atheist “churches” to a Christian church on every corner in every little town, and I think your arguments really strain your logic, but never mind, as I am not in the least interested in continuing this discussion.
And Emily, I’m sure your life will be everything you hope. I enjoy your blog.
Athesism as well as environmentalism is a religion. I do not know whether or not that is true as far as being considered a church for tax purposes.
Athesist meand “a theist”. The “a” means “without”. So atheist means without thesism, god. It doesn’t necessarily mean a person does not believe in god but could mean that. It means without god in one’s life.