Saturday, January 15, 2011

Atheism is a Religion!

When I'm arguing with theists, almost inevitably, the theists try to equate atheism with the religion that they associate with.  Their argument goes something like, "Well, you're just as dogmatic as me because you assert that there are no gods.  You atheists get together in groups and worship the fact that you believe in no gods.  You even have religious texts!  You atheists worship the God Delusion, God is not Great, and the Origin of the Species.  In addition, atheists take their position that there are no gods on faith, just like the other members of my religion who take the existence of god/gods on faith."  If you think I am making a strawman please inform me, but based on my small sample set of theists, these are the arguments I have encountered.  I believe that the reason theists use this argument is to put atheists and theists on the same ground in an attempt to shut the atheism up by saying, "Well, according to your logic, atheists are just as religious as us, so you can have your religious beliefs and I can have mine."  I would like to begin my counter-apologetic by pointing out that atheism is not a religion in the same way that theism is not a religion.  A religion is a common world view held between people with dogma, tenets, doctrine, and rites/customs that usually has a creation story and a claim to morality due to their perceived knowledge of a higher being or power.  Neither atheism nor theism are true "-isms", that is, a collection of ideas.  Secular Humanism, Taoism (an atheistic religion), Buddhism (another atheistic religion), Jainism, etc. all have tenets and are a set of beliefs.  However, atheism and theism are statements about a single position; one does not a system make.  For example, veganism is not a religion because it covers a single issue, a refusal to consume any animal products.  It is impossible to tell any other beliefs of a vegan other than the one characteristic they all share, which is a refusal to consume any animal products.  However, I would argue that ethical veganism is approaching towards a religion because it becomes a more specific example of a vegan; much the same way as Christianity is a more specific example of theism.  Now you might be wondering why strong and weak atheism, subdivisions of atheism, are not closer to religions.  The reason is that you cannot form a system of beliefs around non-beliefs.  A Christian may say, "I don't believe that abortions should be legal" and this would be part of a belief system because the statement could be phrased, "I believe that abortions should be illegal" which has the same meaning as the former statement.  In contrast, "I believe that no gods exists" is NOT the same as "I lack a belief in a god or gods" (the definition of atheism).  Despite this, "strong atheism" is the position that says "I believe that no gods exist".  While a definition of a religion is more closely related to strong atheism than weak atheism, I would still say that strong atheism couldn't be defined as a religion because it is still a single belief.  In the abortion example, a branch of Christianity that has the belief that abortion should be illegal would have a plethora of other beliefs to complement their beliefs on abortion.

The apologetic claim that atheists worship the God Delusion, God is not Great, or the Origin of the Species is asinine.  Atheists may or may not enjoy these books, but in no way do we worship them.  Even more importantly, we do not hold them as infallible.  Sorry to inform everyone, but there are things that I don't think Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Charles Darwin got right.  In fact, the field of evolutionary biology has grown way past the ideas of Charles Darwin even though his Origin of the Species was very instrumental in the formation of the field.  Here's another shocker for theists; remember when I said the only characteristic that atheists share is the lack of belief in a god or gods?  Well there is no qualification for atheism that says you have to accept evolutionary theory.  Even though there is a correlation between atheism and the acceptance of evolutionary theory, it is not necessary for an atheist to accept the theory.  However, the theory of evolution is an established fact in science.  The word theory is referring to the exact processes in which evolution follows, but the fact is that it occurs and accounts for the diversity and speciation of life. 

Another claim that theists try to use to equate atheism with a religion is that atheists sometimes form groups.  This observation is absolutely correct.  Atheists do create groups, however this does not make atheists closer to religionists in the same way a sewing circle doesn't make the sewers part of a religion.  Humans are social animals and, on the whole, seek interaction with others of our species.  Group interaction between people with the same passion for something, although consistent with religion, doesn't automatically make any group a religion.  Finally, atheists, at least in the lack of belief in a god or gods, do not take anything on faith.  Faith is the acceptance of a claim without evidence and you cannot have faith if you are rejecting a claim on the basis that there is a lack of evidence.

There is a lot of undefined terms and terms that I have arbitrarily defined based on common usages.  I fully realize this, so please comment below if you disagree with my definitions or disagree with my arguments in general!  Also, I would be happy to elaborate on any analogies I have made if they are confusing to you.  Have a great day!                  

1 comment:

  1. You are extremely intelligent, and I completely agree with you. (: