Monday, May 16, 2016

Turning Atheism Into a Religion


It is perhaps the worst kind of insult that a Christian can inflict upon an atheist to say that his atheism is a religion.  You hear it all the time, like here and here.  "Atheism is just as much a religion as Christianity."  "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist," they say.

What makes theists so anxious to characterize atheists as being religious?  It certainly isn't a desire to make us sound noble or virtuous.  Their objective is the opposite of that.  What they are trying to do is to make it sound as if we are irrational and unreasonable, and they do it by telling us we are just the same as them.  They are really making an admission that religion is dogmatic and based on authoritarian dictates.  They are declaring that faith really is belief not based in evidence.  And by accusing atheists of these things, they accuse us of intellectual transgressions, just like the ones that they live by.

This article from Creation Ministries describes seven dimensions of religion (narrative, experiential, social, ethical, doctrinal, ritual and material), and attempts to force-fit atheism into the mold.  I think the author is really stretching on some of these things.  Evolution is the narrative of atheism - like the story of Jesus and his resurrection?  Because we get this just-so story from the holy book of Darwinism, with no supporting evidence to substantiate it, right?  The experience of atheism is said to be a feeling of freedom, like the religious experience of God that theists claim to have.  I suppose it feels good not to be burdened with the guilt and fear that religions lay on their followers, but I don't know if I'd call it a religious experience.  The social aspect of atheism is, of course, to create a Marxist utopia for the proletariat, while the elite scientists are at the top of the social hierarchy.  Even if it's not what we believe, there's just no escape for atheists from the inevitable reference to communist ideology, is there?  The Humanist Manifesto is the doctrine of atheism - just like the doctrine of the trinity?  Christians go to church to have their doctrine drilled into them.  Where do atheists go?  Moral relativism is our code of ethics.  And that leads to "the Columbine Massacre, the Jokela School Shooting in Finland, and on a much larger scale, the Nazis."  Now hold on a minute.  Of those atrocities, only one perpetrator (Auvinen) ever claimed to be an atheist.  Please don't try to pin the atrocities of the Christian Nazis on atheism.  Commemoration of the anniversary of Darwin’s birth is the ritual of atheism?  Give me a break.  And finally, the natural world is the material aspect of atheism, in the same manner as churches and holy places are to the theist?  This is justified by the notion that natural resources are there to be exploited by the fittest.  Uh, whatever.  One thing notably absent from these seven dimensions is deity as an object of worship.  Well that's right, because that can't be what a religion is based on, if you want to define atheism as a religion.

Here is another one at Debunking Atheists that calls out seven points of similarity between atheism and religion (worldview, orthodoxy, apostasy, prophets, messiah, evangelists, faith).  So materialism is the worldview of atheists, except that not all atheists subscribe to it.  (I'm surprised secular humanism wasn't mentioned.)  Evolution and science constitute the atheist orthodoxy.  This one might come closest to being true.  Antony Flew is the poster child for atheist apostasy.  But atheists don't have rules or laws against it, and we don't engage in shunning, the way many Christians do.  Nietzsche, Russell, Feuerbach, Lenin, Marx are the prophets.  Really?  I disagree with Nietzsche's nihilism, and the communist ideology of Lenin and Marx, and I never heard of Feuerbach before reading this article.  What about Hume?  Darwin is supposed to be the messiah, but I never thought of him as a savior - just a great scientist.  The four horsemen of New Atheism are said to be the preachers of atheism.  But I never felt obligated to attend one of their sermons, the way Christians have to sit through the rantings of their own preachers.  And of course, our faith is in the power of science - you know, because it has nothing to do with evidence.  Again, there is a denial that belief in a deity has anything to do with defining a religion.

These two examples have very little in common.  What they do share is a denial that the single most obvious aspect of religious belief - the claim of a deity - has anything to do with defining a religion, because if they admitted that, then they couldn't claim that atheism is a religion.  Aside from that, they are both grasping at straws to get atheism to fit their criteria for what it means to be a religion.  But who says any of this is supposed to make sense?  After all, we are talking about religion, and this is how they want to make atheists sound ridiculous and irrational.  It's not supposed to make sense.

Well, at last I have something that I can agree with theists about.  Religion is ridiculous and irrational.  But their efforts to make atheism out to be a religion are no less ridiculous than their own religious beliefs.  I just wish they would stop trying to drag atheists down to their level.


43 comments:

  1. you turn science into a religion, But really new atheism as it appears on the net fits my definition of religion. Religions do three things:

    (1) define the human problematic (the basic set of problems at the heart of being human--sin, imbalance with nature, whatever)

    (2) provides an ultimate transformative experience that dramatically changes life for the better (salvation, enlightenment whatever)

    (3)mediates between the two (rituals, ceremony, initiation)


    atheism has these

    (1) the human problematic for atheism is religion

    (2) the transformative experience is freedom from religious thinking

    (3) mocking and ridiculing Christians

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    1. That blood curdling scream you hear is logic as Joe Hinman tortures it.

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    2. (1) the human problematic for atheism is religion

      - I think the "human problematic" for atheists is uncritical thinking. And to the extent that faith is uncritical thinking, you may be right. But there are also other kinds of uncritical thinking than religion.

      (2) the transformative experience is freedom from religious thinking
      - This mirrors the first of the examples I gave. It does feel good to be free from the burdens (especially guilt) that religion places on its followers. It's kind of like after three pints when you have to go, really, really bad. And then when you do, it just feels like such a relief. But transformative? I wouldn't exactly call it that.

      (3) mocking and ridiculing Christians
      - So you admit that mocking and ridiculing people is something that religious people do (like Dawkins, for example). Atheists are more likely to mock and ridicule the bad ideas and beliefs that people have.

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    3. Joe, it's really simple:

      Atheism is a religion just like not playing baseball is a sport.

      Atheism is a religion just like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

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    4. what's illogical? can you name the rule it violates/ Most of the time when atheists speak of logic they mean: I don['t like this."

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    5. I think the "human problematic" for atheists is uncritical thinking. And to the extent that faith is uncritical thinking, you may be right. But there are also other kinds of uncritical thinking than religion.

      faith is not uncritical thinking, that's atheist propaganda but you really just admitted what I said. you dressed it up more fancy but it still amounts to religion is the problem,

      (2) the transformative experience is freedom from religious thinking
      - This mirrors the first of the examples I gave. It does feel good to be free from the burdens (especially guilt) that religion places on its followers. It's kind of like after three pints when you have to go, really, really bad. And then when you do, it just feels like such a relief. But transformative? I wouldn't exactly call it that.

      is there a denial there? so far you've admitted to and 2

      (3) mocking and ridiculing Christians
      - So you admit that mocking and ridiculing people is something that religious people do (like Dawkins, for example).

      Interesting rejoinder. It's something that people who adhere to false religions do. ;-)

      Atheists are more likely to mock and ridicule the bad ideas and beliefs that people have.


      that is bull shit, but I will admit you re one of the well meaning ones, you are not a mocker ,

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    6. Joe Hinman

      "what's illogical? can you name the rule it violates/ Most of the time when atheists speak of logic they mean: I don['t like this.""

      Did you even read the OP?

      Instead of defining religion you moved the goal posts and started blathering about "what religions do".

      https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/129/Moving_the_Goalposts

      And your sweeping statement implying that atheists are incapable of wielding logic "most of the time" is a hasty generalization.

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    7. Instead of defining religion you moved the goal posts and started blathering about "what religions do".

      sorry that's pretty dense. that is my definition of reigi what they do is a function odf what tghey are.,

      atheist propaganda always denies it's organized and has an ideology that so obvious that is and it does,

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    8. "...that is my definition of reigi what they do is a function odf what tghey are..."

      I'm trying to decipher that. You should take a little more time with your posts and use spell check. It's easy and fun. LOL

      No, you don't get to create a personal definition of religion that excises the primary component found in nearly every standard definition.
      Not if you want to be taken seriously.

      "....atheist propaganda always denies it's organized and has an ideology that so obvious that is and it does.."

      Holy Koresh, how you mangle grammar and common sense.

      Atheism isn't organized. Never has been and probably never will be.
      And no, atheism isn't an ideology. Many have attempted to graft it onto various ideologies but it remains what is is without damage.

      Arguments from "obviousness" always fail.

      https://corkskeptics.org/2011/05/03/the-common-sense-fallacy/

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  2. Religions are best equipped to protect themselves from other religions. They have, since time immemorial, had to defend their particular grab-bag of beliefs and concomitant dogmas from competing and often equally aggressive grab-bags of beliefs and dogmas, a rival belief system that is always, invariably anathema to their favoured system of habituated superstitions.

    So it is no surprise at all to amusingly observe how atheism is apologetically contrived as a religion. Christian apologetics has no intellectual or scholarly modus operandi for dealing with atheism. As Coloradan judge and social reformer, Benjamin Barr Lindsey, "The churches [religion] used to win their arguments against atheism, agnosticism, and other burning issues by burning the ismists, which is fine proof that there is a devil but hardly evidence that there is a God" . Today, religions have no defences against atheism unless and until it has undergone theological transmogrification and rebranded as just another competing religion against which in this case, christians, hope to train all the might of their triumphal trumpets with the wish of blowing it out of the water. Such a category error simply underscores, and is symptomatic of, the intellectual poverty and epistemological paucity of religious thought in both understanding what atheism is and the evidential drivers that sustain it.

    At bottom, which the community is slowly coming to understand, is that religion is the social practice of mythology.

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    1. To me, it sounds like a childishti quoque response to their critics.

      Like this.

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    2. So it is no surprise at all to amusingly observe how atheism is apologetically contrived as a religion

      atheism is shaped in contradistinction to religion. It exists attack religion. It's the other bookend, It's the anit-communist to our "communism,".: it's tails to our heads,

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    3. To me, it sounds like a childishti quoque response to their critics.

      The origin al analysis of the nature of religion is by Dr. Neal McFarland Perkins school of theology Major seminary UMC. serious comparative religionist. It's hard for you guys to get how academically respected liberal theology is., but it is. McFarland is very liberal

      But I'm adapting it to atheism myself. That's not mcFarland.,..I'm doing it mainly to piss you off., but not out of animosity just for fun,

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    4. "The churches [religion] used to win their arguments against atheism, agnosticism, and other burning issues by burning the ismists, which is fine proof that there is a devil but hardly evidence that there is a God" .

      that is utter bull shit, no one was burned at the stake because the church couldn't answer their arguments,

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    5. "...that is utter bull shit, no one was burned at the stake because the church couldn't answer their arguments,"

      {"her·e·sy :
      ˈherəsē/Submit
      noun
      belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious (especially Christian) doctrine."}

      Burning heretics isn't answering an argument.

      Manicheans (Dualists-certainly a matter of argument) and heretics (burning was the principle punishment from 1238 to 1804) were burned in large numbers.

      Don't kid yourself.
      Christians always try to win arguments by burning their opponents when they have the power to do so.


      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_by_burning#Christian_States

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    6. you guys have got to start reading your own drivel. someone above said they were burned because the church could not answer their arguments, I said that[s not why, anyone one guy was burned,

      one guy burned for scientific work, There were witch trials but those executions were by the state. The church always allowed exorcism of witches, if it got into secular court that was death.

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    7. another thing which you are massively ignorant, The witch trails were by Christians, in the enlightenment.

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    8. " someone above said they were burned because the church could not answer their arguments, I said that[s not why, anyone one guy was burned..."

      Sorry, you are parsing definitions.
      Burning a "heretic" is a de facto default to a "might makes right" position.

      "...one guy burned for scientific work..."

      Science is not the only opposing position to christianity.
      You attempt to move the goal posts.


      "There were witch trials but those executions were by the state."

      They would not have happened, I assume you're referring to Salem, without the entrenchment of religious superstition. Not in Salem or in any of the other thousands of instances-including those happening in Kenya and Uganda right now.

      "The church always allowed exorcism of witches, if it got into secular court that was death."

      Complete BS, son.
      Allowing something doesn't mean preventing summary execution.
      And show me where secular law says "suffer not a witch to live" without any influence from religious clap trap.

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    9. Joe Hinman

      "another thing which you are massively ignorant, The witch trails were by Christians, in the enlightenment."

      Hilarious.
      Yes, you historian, you, the enlightenment affected all people everywhere at the same time and shifted all responsibility for miscarriages of justice from the religious to the non-religious.

      I certainly recall Abigail Barker quoting Hobbes, Locke, Voltaire, and Rousseau in the transcripts of the trials. Don't we all.
      (sarcasm)

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  3. off topic but I am challenging atheists to debate, Historical Jesus



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    1. seriously atheism is a substitute for religion, It's only function is to counter belief, religion is an instinct. it's not just a cultural artifact it's part of our pwsycholgicasl make up. if we lose belief im god base oit om something else.

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    2. Joe,

      How can you debate historicity when your opponent has no respect for historical evidence? You take the obviously made-up and clearly revised bible as if it were gospel, and you ignore everything else that exists (or doesn't exist) in the historical record.

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    3. "...atheism is a substitute for religion, It's only function is to counter belief, religion is an instinct. it's not just a cultural artifact it's part of our pwsycholgicasl make up. if we lose belief im god base oit om something else."

      Complete nonsense.
      Atheism isn't a positive claim and your assertion assumes there is only one true religion.

      Religion is an artifact of human infancy that we have outlived our need for.

      Deal with it.

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    4. LOL

      Debate the historicity of jesus with someone who actually just claimed that the catholic church never burned a single heretic?

      No thanks.

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    5. "...I'm doing it mainly to piss you off., but not out of animosity just for fun,"

      And you wonder why noone will debate you as you troll?

      Please, fool.

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  4. Skep: "To me, it sounds like a childish ti[sic] quoque response to their critics."

    Yep. Religionist: "Your atheism is just as fallacious as my religion." ;o)

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  5. LOL ... someone who actually just claimed that the [C]atholic [C]hurch never burned a single heretic

    Merrill,

    Laugh all you want, but Joe is absolutely right on this one. The Catholic Church has never once in 2000 years executed anyone, by burning or by any other means. Not a single person.

    Now to their everlasting shame, there have been Catholics (such as members of the Inquisition) who have turned over people to the State for execution, but the fact remains that all the (totally unjustifiable, no argument there) executions were done by the State - not by the Church.

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    1. Yes. Tried by the church and then turned over to the state for execution. Of course, that doesn't take into account the many who were killed (by the church) in the process of torturing them, before they ever had a chance to execute them.

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    2. Plank measurer

      That's kind of funny, dude.
      There were times when the church and the state were one and the same, IIRC.

      And I think you just tried to sneak a "no true scotsman" past us.
      Since when weren't the perpetrators of the various inquisitions real catholics?

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    3. And yes, not capitalizing 'catholic' or 'church' was an intentional slur.
      You're kind of touchy, dude.

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    4. there were only two trials against scientists, I don't know if Bruno was burned by the stature or the church but there was not an organized effort to stop science; the other trials of course Galileo who was not burned.

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    5. LOL

      Phd in the history of ideas?
      Really?

      Then you should know there wasn't even such a term as "scientist" until
      the catholics had been burning "heretics' for more than a thousand years.

      Shameful parsing and sophistry for someone who claims to have a Phd.

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  6. The minions of the Catholic Church learned well from Pontius Pilate. After two thousand years they still are washing their hands of any responsibility.

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    1. "also I'm not a catholic"

      Irrelevant.

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    2. why is it irrelevant genius? your inane little argument is about blaming the Catholic, I am not a Catholic,. my guy didn't do it so You have no argument against my Christianity,

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    3. It's irrelevant because you leapt to the defense of catholicism, fool.

      If we discuss your christianity I'm willing to bet I'll have many arguments against it.

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  7. responsibility for what? your grasp on history is childish

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    1. "... your grasp on history is childish"

      Uhm, no. That would be your grasp of the English language.
      The distinction between being martyred by catholics themselves as opposed to being martyred by the civil authorities who were catholics too is meaningless.

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  8. Thee is an obvious distinction . That is a totally vacuous argument. The reason is already stated, because the church would have let them off the hook.

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    1. "... the church would have let them off the hook."

      That right there....that is some bullshit.

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  9. There are two things that come to my mind when theists claim atheism is a religion, or that atheists have faith just like theists:

    1. As mentioned, it seems like a tu quoque charge.
    2. A sort of presupposition of the claims about atheism is that being a religion or being faithful is bad in some way, either morally or epistemically.

    I focus on point # 2. The theists I have encountered making the claims in the OP definitely seem to imply that being faithful or being a religion violates some epistemic standards so atheism is no better off than theism. But that doesn't help theists since it implies that both parties are failing some epistemic standard.

    Ultimately the claims aren't true anyway. Atheism is just not believing in God or anything like God. It doesn't require any views on ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, or anything else. As a result, it isn't religion. Whether or not a positive atheist is faithful is completely dependent on exactly the epistemic circumstances of that atheist anyway, so positive atheism cannot imply being faithful.

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    1. As I see it, they can't seem to distinguish between the views and beliefs that atheists do have (typically materialism, etc. - which are not necessarily shared by all atheists) from the beliefs and views that atheists don't have (belief in God, specifically - which is the only thing that all atheists share).

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