“Atheism is a religion.”

by Luke Muehlhauser on January 7, 2009 in General Atheism

I’m always confused when theists say atheism is just another religion. If they think religion is a good thing, then are they praising atheism for being a religion? Do they want to give it the same privileges as other religions: tax exemption, free cash from “faith-based initiatives,” toleration, and unexamined respect?

But usually I hear it in a tone that suggests they think atheism is dogmatic and intolerant: you know, like “other” religions. Are they then condemning their own religion? They seem to be saying, “Atheism is dogmatic and intolerant, just like us. Boo on atheism.”

So, I don’t get it.

In either case, of course, atheism is not a religion. It is not a worldview or system at all. It does not combine a set of beliefs, traditions, rituals, and community structures like religions do. It is, rather, a single belief about one thing: that there aren’t any gods.

Calling atheism a religion is like saying that “not-stamp-collecting” is a hobby, or that “not-aristocracy” is a system of government.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Aaron January 8, 2009 at 12:48 pm

“Calling atheism a religion is like saying that “not-stamp-collecting” is a hobby, or that “not-aristocracy” is a system of government.”

Bingo! And well said.

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Brad May 9, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Often some commentators will refer to ‘New Atheists’ or other pro-atheist fronts in society’s discourse and cultural direction and call it out for religion-like features. When people refer to atheistic movement and inertia within the masses, some will simply abbreviate “some set of atheists” as “Atheism.” See the warfare is mental, for example.

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cl June 29, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Thanks, Brad. I would say that atheism is just a religion without God, much like Buddhism. I know that upsets many who fancy themselves intellectually superior to the faithful. What to do?

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lukeprog June 29, 2009 at 2:47 pm

It upsets me to hear that “atheism is a religion” because that statement is false and ignorant, cl. How is atheism a religion? It has NONE of the characteristics of a religion. Atheism is no more a religion than theism is a religion. And theism is not a religion at all.

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RA December 9, 2009 at 11:19 am

I’ve always believed that the religious like to refer to atheism as a religion because they are offended by the fact that atheist believe they are more intellectual than Christians and have a more reasoned position.

By saying that atheism requires just as much faith because atheists have faith that there is no God, they can characterize it as a “belief system” which makes the atheist no more intellectually superior than the Christian.

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Bob Boogie April 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

The reason Atheism IS a religion or more correctly a religous belief is because it is absolute. To say God definately exists or definately does not exist would both be relgious positions. Because it is an absolute belief in an unknowable that requires a form of faith. If you were to call yourself agnostic, to say it can’t be known that God exists or not.. then I would say that was a lack of a religious belief.

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lukeprog April 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Bob,

Even Richard Dawkins titled his chapter containing an argument against God ‘Why God almost certainly does not exist.’ Besides, religion has nothing to do with the absoluteness of belief. That’s simply a brand new definition of ‘religion’ you made up just now.

I don’t believe in gods the same way I don’t believe in werewolves. Should I call myself an agnostic about werewolves because I don’t have a 100% decisive disproof against werewolves?

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