Is Atheism a Religion?

In political discourse (if such a thing still exists) one often hears various religious groups claim that atheism is just another religion and therefore the removal of God from the public square is the same as instituting yet another religion, atheism. Though I understand this sentiment, the fact is atheism is anything but a religion.

A religion requires some form of systematic thought concerning a superhuman controlling power complete with observable boundaries in terms of behavior and ritual. The belief in a God is typical in religion but not necessary, and this is where the confusion begins for some people. Just because religion can be Godless does not mean that atheism is therefore a religion.

Far from being a religion, atheism, as a stand-alone term, is not even a worldview, its not even an argument. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in God(s). Atheism is to a worldview what a ball is to a sport. To say that atheism is a religion is like saying “This ball is a sport.” Some sports use balls, but there is no sport called ball. Likewise, atheism is only an element found in certain worldviews, but does not constitute a worldview by itself. Without a worldview, a philosophy, a set of logical inferences based on evidences, without some form of coherent argument, all one has is an assertion.

(As a side note, there is an interesting conclusion from what has been said here. What is true for atheism is also true for theism: theism, as a stand-alone term, simply denotes belief in God(s). By itself theism is not a religion, hence to claim that having belief in God(s) in the public square is the equivalent of government instituting a religion is patently illogical.) 


8 thoughts on “Is Atheism a Religion?

  1. I was actually wanting to reply to your 10 reasons why atheists are wrong paper, but that seems to be a closed topic. i do like this short blog on atheism not being a religion. it is nice to hear a theist who understands that “not skiing” isn’t a “sport”. How would you feel about a government, in the public square, taking a position that there are NO gods or supernatural? If the president ended every speech with “lets take a moment to be glad there are no gods”? When the government of the USA states belief in god – let’s be honest and not play with each other – there is a wink wink, the ‘christian’ god that you mr/ms voter happen to believe in. and that seems to be an endorsement of a religious view. Although, either way, it shouldn’t be the place of the government to take any position at all, and to what useful end has it served that outweighs the horrific history with which it may be charged? What i really did not appreciate in your blog that i wanted to reply to is the given image that ‘the entire army of the new atheist movement has tried to counter my arguments. they had to do them point by point in sub committees – because i’m that freaking brilliant. and, by implication laid out by their absence, they had no traction at all across the board’. Frankly, i was pretty impressed by your list of ten; emotive, wishful, softballs of you defeating your own strawman. you come across superficially as being intellectually honest, but it seems to me that one should have the atheist responses to your suppositions – regardless of if one agrees with it – on the same table if you’re going to bring up that a worldwide congress of atheists was held in response to your unique, new, entirely unchallenged strawman. a single person speaking at what seems to be a sycophantic audience all nodding their heads and patting you on the back is hardly a truth seeking endeavor.

  2. Some thoughts that I think are related to your article, Eric: It is clearly no coincidence that nations of people with different beliefs have different kinds of governments. Society is an apparition that arises from a collection of individuals, like an overall hue that we see when we view a collection of distant indiscernible details and colours. Government is the solidification of the apparition of society, a focal point where peer pressure, collective attitudes, beliefs and preferences solidify into legislation and material force, and come down as a form of consequence upon the collective of individuals. Individuals are not products of their society, as the victim industry and agents of irresponsibility preach. Rather, societies are the product of individuals, and governments are a product of societies, in that order. So we cannot separate government from religion or from beliefs, for beliefs are the drivers of individuals and hence of their nations. And yet, in the west, government should be separate or rather impartial to religion, so as to allow the natural manifesting of a horizontal left-right dimension that Christianity produces in individual western hearts, and subsequently in every western societal institution, and in all western government structures. Democracy as we know it in the west is a direct result of Christianity. The polarisation of the two party system has developed over centuries through stages from King and Country, to church and government, to the two party systems that we have now. It still has a little further to go before we might say it is fully polarised, and it is getting there. Atheism and its allies must ultimately solidify itself at one end of that left-right spectrum. We have seen how atheistic governments treat their people. The USSR demonstrated that last century. So if individuals and western society continue to polarise the way it is going, we may end up with a two option system being atheism or Christianity. Such a spectrum would naturally turn vertical with the atheistic end holding governing power. The USSR and other similar regimes may have been forerunners of a more widespread social condition yet to come.

  3. Interesting analysis crossbow. My only addition would be to identify which atheistic view is dominant. My guess is philosophic materialism.

  4. Yes, combined with a soft psychologically applied form of communism/oppression of freewill/thought, with fake/hollow love/caring as its main push……. political correctness.

  5. I think most people who comment that Atheism is a religion are really referring to a strict firm, unchangeable, belief in something. Many people will say that science has become a religion for the same reason. A basic tenet of Science is to follow the evidence provided by scientific inquiry where ever it leads you without prejudgement. But I think most people today think that science will not accept the result of their inquiry if the result proves the existence of a higher power or something spiritual. I think the same thought is applied to atheist, that they are so fixed in their view that they would not accept a spiritual experience even if it happened directly to them.

  6. Or an idea…

    Nice post, sir. I like the definitions and I agree completely. We atheists aren’t organised under a single banner or message with a single dogma other than “I do not believe”.
    I do dislike the term “atheist”, but unfortunately there is nothing better. Dawkins and Krauss make very good points and entertaining shows, but spend for too much time being rude to believers and proselytising thus making everyone think that “proper” atheists are out there treating everyone like idiots, there’s too many disrespectful arguments. Which is where I think that ‘atheism as religion’ idea has cropped up from. It’s almost as if the new atheists are trying to create a religion type movement for atheism. They would deny it completely, as would I. I’m an atheist, I’m not a joiner….

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