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Atheism is a Religion

Entry 1044, on 2009-07-02 at 20:12:43 (Rating 4, Religion)

Here's the introduction to an interesting entry titled "Atheism is Not a Religion" which I read recently at the Skeptico blog: "This is a refrain Iím hearing a lot from religious apologists - atheism is a religion. Also its equally fallacious siblings, science is a religion and evolution is a religion. Itís a sign of their desperation that the best argument they have is not that atheism is wrong, or that god does exist (supported by evidence of course), but that atheism is a religion too. A strange argument for a religious person to make on the face of it. Is it supposed to strengthen the atheistís position or weaken the theistís one? In reality itís a sign they have run out of arguments."

This is a really interesting point. I often have to listen to that sort of inane drivel, usually when people have run out of other arguments. Their argument goes something like this: evolution isn't true because there are no transitional fossils (I show them hundreds), the Bible has never been shown to be wrong (I show them dozens of errors), there are plenty of historical accounts of Jesus' life (I show that they are fake), so then they come up with the classic "atheism is just another religion".

As the original blog entry suggests, this is a strange thing to say. It seems to be implying that a belief system being a religion makes it weaker. Do they not see that this must weaken their own religious arguments too? Or if they think religious views are valid then atheism as a religion also inherits those strengths.

Of course, this is all meaningless because atheism is not a religion except in an extremely imprecise sense, a sense so imprecise that in has no real meaning at all. Any reasonable meaning of the word religion includes belief in spirituality and/or the supernatural and this is totally contrary to atheism.

For example, this is from Wikipedia: "A religion is an organized approach to human spirituality which usually encompasses a set of narratives, symbols, beliefs and practices, often with a supernatural or transcendent quality, that give meaning to the practitioner's experiences of life through reference to a higher power, God or gods, or ultimate truth."

Atheism is simply the conclusion that its unreasonable to think that a god exists. Most atheists accept this is an interim conclusion and would become believers if the evidence was just good enough. Thinking that god doesn't exist doesn't seem to contain any of the aspects of the definition above: its not an organised approach to spirituality; it has no narratives, symbols or beliefs; it has no supernatural or transcendental quality; and it has no reference to higher powers or ultimate truth.

So the believers should be happy. Atheism clearly isn't a religion and because they rate religion so highly they should accept that as a point against atheism. But they should also stop using the argument that atheism is a religion. You can't have it both ways!

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