Monday, May 16, 2016
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.