Is atheism a religion?

No.

The moment somebody says anything along the lines of “well, atheism is kind of like a religion anyway. So in a way, your beliefs are based just as much on faith as mine,” I will drop out of a debate. That person is too ridiculous to continue speaking to. I will let them think they have won the debate; that’s fine with me. Instead of ranting and raving, however, I’m just going to have some fun this time with our favorite game of “If atheism is a religion…”

  • If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color.
  • If atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.
  • If atheism is a religion, then “off” is a TV channel.
  • If atheism is a religion, then health is a disease.
  • If atheism is a religion, then unemployment is a job.
  • If atheism is a religion, then “nowhere” is a place.
  • If atheism is a religion, then silence is a volume.
  • If atheism is a religion, then not playing tennis is a sport.

Add more in the comments and I’ll edit them into the post.

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48 thoughts on “Is atheism a religion?

  1. A question.
    Do you and other Atheists hold the belief that god does not exist? Do Atheists in general hold this belief?

    3.The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.

    This is one definition of ‘religion’ in a prominent online dictionary. I posit that religion does not require any aspect whatsoever of the supernatural. Atheism IS a religion. However, it is a purely secular one. More accurately, Atheism is more akin to a cult. It’s a gathering of like-minded individuals with a set standard of beliefs. Do not Atheists have gatherings of like minded individuals at which prominent members of said system of thought give speeches (sermons), in the presence of fellow believers of the movement?
    This very blog itself is a tool used to ‘spread the word’. In the strictest definition of the term religion, what is the difference between a Jehovah’s Witness knocking on doors to spread their belief system and an Atheist knocking on doors to spread their own?
    Atheism is a religion. It’s just a secular one in which the figure of worship is Logic.

    • religion, according to Dictionary.com
      1. a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
      1. b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
      2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
      3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
      4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

      spiritual, according to Dictionary.com
      1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.
      2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul.
      3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific.
      4. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred.
      5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

      atheism, according to Dictionary.com
      1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
      2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.
      ———————–
      religion, according to merriam-webster.com
      1a. the state of a religious [person]
      1b. (1) the service and wosrhip of God or the supernatural
      1b. (2) commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
      2. a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
      3 (archaic). scrupulous conformity
      4. a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

      faith, according to merriam-webster.com
      1a. allegiance to duty or a person
      1b. (1) fidelity to one’s promises
      1b. (2) sincerity of intentions
      2a. (1) belief and trust in and loyalty to God
      2a. (2) belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion
      2b. (1) firm belief in something for which there is no proof
      2b. (2) complete trust
      3. something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially: a system of religious beliefs

      atheism, according to merriam-webster.com
      1 (archaic). ungodliness, wickedness
      2a. a disbelief in the existence of a deity
      2b. the doctrine that there is no deity
      ———————–

      Anybody can take a single definition of a word and twist it to mean whatever they want it to mean. The primary differences between theism and atheism, however, is belief. One is a belief; one is not. Religion is theism. To say atheism is religion is to say atheism is theism. If atheism regarding all gods is a religion, then so would be atheism in regards to every individual god. With that logic, a Christian is atheistic when it comes to the Greek, Norse, and Roman gods. By your definition, a Christian now has four religions (that is not to mention the hundreds of thousands of other gods they don’t believe in).

      Religious people adhere to a tenet outlined by their holy book, scripture, or by their religion. A Christian believes this, this, this, and that; whereas a Muslim believes this, that, that, and this. Atheists, unlike members of a cult or religion, have exactly one thing in common. A disbelief (remember, the key word for a religion is belief) in gods. That’s it.

      And before saying something like “Well, a disbelief in gods is a belief there are no gods; ergo, religion,” just remember that I also disbelieve in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the monster under my bed, and Never Never Land. Whoops, looks like I’ve got four more religions!

      Your definition above mentions a set of beliefs and practices. What set of beliefs do atheists adhere to? What practices do we do?

      Do not Atheists have gatherings of like minded individuals at which prominent members of said system of thought give speeches (sermons), in the presence of fellow believers of the movement?
      We do. Just like potential homeowners go to seminars about buying houses, or bibliophiles go to book signings by their favorite authors, who make speeches at the event. Or like students attend class regularly to learn about government, math, or science. Or when thousands of people stand at the foot of the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and listen to Glenn Beck ramble on about human rights. Or when Holly and I go out of our way to attend concerts put on by our favorite bands and musicians?

      Have I told you about the beauty and wonder in Timeshareism? REO Speedwagonism?

      what is the difference between a Jehovah’s Witness knocking on doors to spread their belief system and an Atheist knocking on doors to spread their own?
      When was the last time an atheist knocked on your door and told you to stop believing in gods? I know it’s never happened to me; yet I have been awoken by Jehovah’s Witnesses. This blog has absolutely nothing to do with going door-to-door to spread the word. This blog is not in-your-face. Like every other site on the internet, it is accessed by choice. Also, there is no threat of punishment for disagreeing with the things said on this blog.

      Honestly, the fact that I even have to defend this point is ridiculous. The fact that I’m defending it against another contributor on Atheist Dave is just disappointing. Please tell me you’re just playing Devil’s Advocate.

      • I am (was) sir. My point in that reply was to posit a possible position which was ‘against’ your statement. My goal was to further the discussion of Atheism and Theism and to see your reaction to it.
        How many ‘true believers’ would espouse what I did in my comment? More disturbingly, how many of them would actually believe it?
        Another point I was attempting to make was the ambiguity of language and the manner in which a person can exploit that.
        Dealing with true believers is to deal with sincere and honest conviction. I’ve heard more than once the idiom that ‘faith runs deep’.
        Presenting views which are against Theism is to invite a slew of crackpots that rant and rave. It is also going to invite people that fall back on language.
        It is not my intent to posit that Atheism is Theism veiled. What I wanted, plain and simple, was to see your reaction to the posted opinion. I was curious.
        However, I do regret that it may have seemed childish or pointlessly reactionary.

      • “2. A) any specific system of belief, worship, conduct, ect., often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy [ the christian religion, the buddhist religion, ect.] B) any system of beliefs, practices, ethical values, etc. resembling, suggestive of, or likened to such a system [humanist as a religion] -1976 Websters dictionary
        Atheism is a religion.

        • hu·man·ism
          n. 1. A system of thought that rejects religious beliefs and centers on humans and their values, capacities, and worth.

          a·the·ism
          n. 1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.

          You seem to be of the impression these two words are synonymous. You also seem to be of the impression that “rejects religious beliefs” equals “accepts religious beliefs.”

        • Two points:
          1) Arguments from semantics work best when you look up all the words in your argument. If you take a moment to scroll up, you will see the definitions for *atheism* devoid of belief, worship and conduct or any analogous system.
          2) Arguments from semantics do not impose upon reality any more than newspeak makes government better. Even if you were correct, the only thing this would show is that those of us without religion need to find a new word, not that we do not exist.

    • Atheists don’t believe god doesn’t exist. We KNOW it doesn’t. That’s the difference between ignorantly believing in an invisible man as an explanation to things you can’t understand, and actually understanding the world as it is.

      • What is the difference between knowing and believing you know. I am fairly sure the concept of God is neither provable or disprovable. So you can’t KNOW, epistemologically, that God does or does not exist.

        • So you can’t KNOW, epistemologically, that God does or does not exist.

          I know there are no elves in my house, just I know there are no gods in my environment.

          • Right; it is the same whether you talk about elves or gods. I am just pointing out the difference between actually knowing and believing you know.

            I checked my watch yesterday, no knowing that it had stopped exactly 12 hours before. Thankfully, the time it told me was accurate, 6:55. But did I KNOW it was 6:55, or did I simply believe it was 6:55?

            I trust my eyes, my ears, my watch, to deliver accurate facts to me. But I can’t know How accurate those facts are; I can only trust them and believe that I have built an accurate perception of reality.

            • There is a substantial difference between what time it is and positing the existence of an unseen entity. In the latter, the burden of proof rests (and must do so) on the affirmative. In the former, we already have reason to believe that it is some time or other already, the watch merely discriminates between which time. While it is a potentially interesting problem whether or not a broken watch can bestow knowledge in this fashion, the problem it would be analogous to is the problem of deciding which god to worship if we had already decided to believe in one. If you want the watch analogy that applies to atheism, we must ask whether the broken watch provides evidence of the existence of time itself.

    • Atheism is a religion. It’s just a secular one in which the figure of worship is Logic.

      You found the definition of “religion” and tried to apply it to atheism….but yet when you find a definition of “atheism” it will not be defined as a religion, will it?
      No!

      The god of logic helped me discover that! 😆

  2. First, as a Christian I would never use this line of reasoning with an atheist. I am inclined to say that the _run_of_the_mill_atheist is not practicing a *religion* however with some qualification one could put forth the argument that some atheists are *religious* about their atheism but that is fundamentally a different premise. Some people are *religious* about their sports, drinking, on and on ad infinitum.

    What I would wonder is does atheism as a way of viewing the world provide an intellectually satisfying system that provides for a complete worldview? While I understand that Christians are making a *positive* claim about God, and atheism basically reduces to the denial of that premise atheist are not completely *off-the-hook*. Without a God of any kind, the thinking atheist should still grapple with the Socratic maxim to examine one’s life. What are the axioms of atheism that provide the answers to questions of metaphysics, epistemology, and ontology?

    This is a much better starting place for a discussion than simply asserting that atheism has a faith commitment.

    • You might as well be asking me what my lack of belief in the Tooth Fairy teaches me about the world – about metaphysics, epistemology, and ontology.

      Atheism has exactly one axiom: there are no gods.

  3. That’s overly simplistic and is another way of saying “I haven’t thought through these issues”. It’s one thing to reject the notion of a God or gods it is quite another to build a coherent worldview that addresses the issues I raised.

    The difficulty with atheism is that when pressed, there are no satisfying answers to the issues I raised.

      • In other words your not interested in really examining what you believe about the nature of reality; and by the way their are atheist philosophers who have worked out their worldview even though I disagree with their conclusions, I respect them for at least addressing these issues.

        It seems like you are either unable or unwilling to engage in a dialogue on the subject.

        • I’m not a philosopher nor will I pretend to be one. I just happen to see no reason whatsoever to believe in any gods. I guess I don’t really understand what you’re asking of me.

    • The difficulty with atheism is that when pressed, there are no satisfying answers to the issues I raised.

      How satisfying is it to believe that some skydaddy “created everything”?
      Do you think Santa brings you gifts every Dec. 25th also?
      Only the feeble-minded would believe such tales.

  4. A. Dave,

    Thank you for your honesty. By the way, I am sincerely interested in interacting with you on this topic. I don’t believe that we have to be advesarial and I am not easily offended so you are welcome to take your best shots (this your blog afterall). As long as there is sincere interest in knowing one another’s position and it does not simply deteriorate into ad hominems.

    Now on to the business at hand; everyone is a philosopher in a sense, though I suspect what you are asserting is that you are not a professional philosopher. That doesn’t really matter though as professional philosophers don’t have all the answers nor do they agree with one another most of the time.

    You mentioned that you see no reason to believe in God. I see lots of reasons. Perhaps that is where many theists-atheists part company. Unfortunately, many Christians subscribe to a fideistic faith that is nothing more (to them) than a leap of faith in the dark. In other words, many Christians do not know why they believe nor do they know what they believe.

    In my case, suffice it to say that I have a very skeptical nature. This has caused me to investigate my faith in a way that some Christians do not. I wanted to know if Christianity was irrational and if faith was divorced from reason.

    The reason why I believe is because other worldviews do not provide the sufficient preconditions for an intelligble worldview. For now suffice it to say that Christianity over against other worldviews provides a foundation for a coherent view of reality and my experience as a human existent.

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  8. I am curious as to how you came to this conclusion in a rational way. For people who live in Christian societies, it is very difficult to examine Christianity in a detached manner because presuppositions are difficult to shed. What aspects of Christianity are rational? Is sin a real thing, or is it a taught offense against God through your actions? What is it that we need to be redeemed from? Why does humanity need a scapegoat, who was God sacrificing himself to in our favor? Why would he have waited so long to do this with so many not having the chance to be redeemed? Why did he rely on a small set of apostles who were limited to the Mediterranean region for nearly 400 years when it started to spread through Europe? How did you dispassionately examine other worldviews? How did you compare Christianity to other monotheistic religions?

    These are only some of the questions that occur to me when someone rational as yourself says that you have dispassionately examined your religion and found it intellectually satisfactory.

    Atheism is, in itself, not a complete worldview. It is complemented by naturalism and humanism to provide “meaning” to our lives. Also, for most atheists, we find meaning in many ways that you mostly share; art, love, family, nature, work, politics, and so forth. It is myopic to assume that only religion provides meaning, because you assume that the meaning that religion provides is something that all people seek. To most people it is but one potential add-on to life that many people don’t need.

  9. Hi Mike,

    This thread is a bit old however I noticed your comment this morning.

    You said:
    I am curious as to how you came to this conclusion in a rational way. For people who live in Christian societies, it is very difficult to examine Christianity in a detached manner because presuppositions are difficult to shed.

    A presupposition is not something that should be *shed* [whatever that means] a presupposition must be evaluated as an architect evaluates the foundation to ensure that it will bear the weight of what is being built.
    Arguing at the presuppositional level is quite rational as you are looking for contradictions; a worldview that contains contradictions reduces to absurdity.

    -I would have no idea what you mean by a “Christian Society” you would have to proffer a definition as I am fairly confident that this does not apply to me, nor do I believe this applies to most Christians. As a counterfactual, I spend alot more time interacting with atheists than I do interacting with other believers.

    – You provide a laundry list of questions. I suspect this is nothing more than a red herring. I would be happy to cycle through the questions but unless convinced otherwise I believe this would waste my time.

    -Finally you mention *meaning* and attempt to refute an argument that I did not offer. My argument was that atheism fails to provide the preconditions of intelligibility. The epistemic committments of atheism [whether one embraces naturalism, existentialism, or physicalism] does not provide for an adequate foundation for knowledge. If I were to offer an argument from meaning, I assure you my primary concern would be whether meaning in the atheistic worldview is meaningful. There is a substantial difference in this argument and the one that you so easily refuted above.

    Cheers,

    BBG.

    • I am curious as to your assertion that atheism does not provide for an adequate foundation for knowledge. How do you arrive at that conclusion, or is it one of those suppositions that one should not “shed” because without it you have no case? It begs a question.

      • HI Mike,

        No, my assertion is that when one presupposes atheism [whether that is mechanistic, materialist, or naturalistic framework] they do not have the necessary framework for knowledge. This is not an example of begging the question. This is due to the fact that knowledge can never rise above the level of one’s own subjective experience. Additionally, laws of logic do not comport with a worldview where knowledge is gained by experience. The uniformity of nature is an irrational concept if the atheist would acknowledge his/her presuppositions.

        Best,

        BBG

    • As far as a Christian Society, I am referring to societies in which Christianity is the predominant religious “worldview..” I am not sure if you are in the United t States, but there is very little to contradict the observation that the country is swimming in Christianity. It is inescapable, and people make the assumption upon first meeting someone (if there are no countercues) that the other is at least nominally Christian.

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  11. Are there many Atheists that do not have a humanistic moral philosophy or a materialistic natural philosophy? It is my assumption that most “Atheists” would count not only Christians as “others” but also some a-theistic religious groups, like Scientology.

    It seems like a package deal, or at least there is a high degree of coincidence. Perhaps there would be greater enlightenment if the discussion moved away from Atheism/Theism and toward Humanism/Christism (made that term up, “Christianism” is probably more correct).

  12. Atheists faith in Science and tests is not blind like that of a religious fundamentalist. Science adjusts its views based on whats observed, Faith is the denial of observations so that beliefs can be preserved.

    • That sounds somewhat like a false dillemma. You say faith in science isn’t blind, but also say it is the denial of observations.

      Faith is simply how a human invests in one thing or another. It cannot be contrasted with science. The opposite of faith is doubt. When someone asks to borrow your car for the weekend do you have faith (hope/trust/expectation) that they will bring it back, or do you have doubt in their ability?

      Science, or the scientific method, is a method by which facts are retreived. You can have faith in that method, as you said. But, as many times as you may mix blue and yellow paint and get green, it still takes faith (trust/hope/expectation) to predict it will happen again.

      Getting back to the original post, faith in science or “in the Bible” does not make a religion. Dave provided a couple definitions of “religion” that included the word itself. I’d say religion is the joining of a perception of reality with moral obligation. Atheism is not a religion, but it can be a component of one.

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  14. I read this post, and still do not see how atheism isn’t a religion.

    Atheism is (as you defined it above) the “disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.” However, there is no proof of the lack of existence of Gods, so to be an atheist is to have faith in a belief that can’t be explained. Moreover, atheists act on this faith: just as Christians act with respect to what they are told in the bible, atheists act with respect to what they observe and logically deduce.

    One point you raised above is that, since atheism is nothing more than the lack of belief in Gods, if atheism is a religion the lack of belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn and the monster under your bed would be religions as well. I don’t think this point stands because if the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn and the monster under your bed were frequently addressed by religions atheism would argue that they did not exist either. A better way to put this would be that, no, atheism ISN’T just the lack of belief in God, but the lack of belief in the supernatural, or, in other words, what cannot be logically explained, or, at least, expected, or, at very least, observed.

    A disclaimer: While I do believe what I’ve written, I’m not just arguing with you for the sake of arguing. Please respond. 😛

    • I meant to put this at the end of the second paragraph:

      “And, again, logic and observation are things one cannot prove accurate, and can only have faith in, just like a religion.”

    • I read this post, and still do not see how atheism isn’t a religion.

      Is “theism” a religion? No!
      Does atheism have a collective doctrine? No!
      Now you have your answer!

    • Your argument is that atheism is a faith, yet you admit that atheism is disbelief a god exists.
      By definition, disbelief is an absence of faith.
      Disbelief is not a declaration that something is certainly not true (which would require faith or supporting evidence), it is just a stance of being without belief.
      There is an example below I left on this page for another commenter making the same claim that disbelief is a faith.

  15. By your own definitions from Merriam-Webster of Atheism, Faith, Religion you prove that Atheism IS a religion.
    Atheism 2a. a disbelief in the existence of a diety (or a belief in a non-existence of a diety)

    Faith 2b. (1) a firm belief in something for which there is no proof (you can not prove the non- existence of a diety)

    Religion 4. a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

    To have a belief in Atheism, you must have faith in the belief that there is no diety because you sure can’t prove that no diety exists. Therefore, you point that Atheism is not a religion is moot.

    • Really??? With this type of circular reasoning we can easily conclude that all people of faith are atheist. Christians don’t believe in Islam…therefore they are religiously practicing atheism against Islam. Therefore all Christians are atheist.

    • When someone has disbelief it is not based on faith- that is precisely the definition- it is a lack of faith, an absence of faith.
      Atheism is the lack / absence of faith / belief a god exists.

      Furthermore, for your information, a specific deity can be disproved- “I believe in a god that will hurl a lightning bolt at people that think about cats”- I just thought about cats and I’m still typing, therefore, that god cannot exist.

      In the event the deity is infallible, disbelief remains a lack of faith.

      Demonstration of disbelief and faith:
      1. Do invisible pink unicorns exist? I’m without belief / faith invisible pink unicorns exist.
      2. Do invisible pink unicorns exist? A) Absolutely not, I have faith. B) Absolutely not, I have evidence they don’t.
      3. Do invisible pink unicorns exist? A) Absolutely, I have faith. B) Absolutely, I rode on one yesterday.

  16. You ever notice that people who claim that atheism is a religion also think NASCAR is a sport? And yet, if I point out that NASCAR is not as a sport, they don’t accuse me of being an athlete…

    It’s very strange.

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