The problem with calling Atheism a religion…

26 Apr

Sometimes people will try and claim Atheism is a religion during a debate in an attempt to discredit it or move the burden of proof. It also comes of as “See, you’re no better than me!” which is not very flattering to your own cause. Besides the fact that Atheism is as much a religion as “off” is a TV channel, this line of reasoning has some implications that the person using it would not enjoy.

IF Atheism was a religion, then it would be subject to all the same privileges Christianity enjoys. Atheists could build tax-exempt houses of un-worship. All our Atheism related transactions would be tax-exempt. Atheists could get off work and out of school for Atheist holidays. If Atheism was a religion, we could able to demand that people stop attacking out tenants, we could put non-bibles in every hotel room, we’d have politicians begging us and pandering to us for our votes, we’d have statues erected to Atheism, we could even have an un-sabbath. As a religion we could demand unconditional respect be given to us based on our lack of faith.  Basically, if Atheism was a religion we would be entitled to every kickback other religions get. The person saying “Well you’re a religion too!” never takes this into account. They just want us to have all the negative stuff that goes with being a religion, without any of the societal privileges.

8 Responses to “The problem with calling Atheism a religion…”

  1. jonolan April 26, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    No, if Atheism was an established Church, its followers could possibly do those things. That’s separate from- and irrespective of Atheism being a religion or faith.

    In point of fact, I believe the New Atheists are in the process of becoming exactly that in the UK.

    But you’d prefer to ignore the fact that your disbelief is at least as much based upon faith as a Theist’s belief is. You cannot, after all, prove a negative.

  2. godlesspaladin April 26, 2010 at 5:55 pm #

    Correct, I can’t prove a negative, but that doesn’t mean faith and lack of faith are on equal footing. As our knowledge of the world and reality has expanded faith has been disproven over and over again whenever it makes a statement on how the physical world works. While no, the faith itself has not been disproven, just like the existence of invisible faries in your garden can’t be disproven, I at least their constant mistakes to inform my position.

  3. Shamelessly Atheist April 26, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    jonolan, that we can not prove a negative is totally irrelevant. We are not claiming that there are no gods. We don’t have to. All we need to know is that no claim of any god’s existence is sufficiently supported by evidence. It is not up to atheists to disprove your claim. The onus is, however, on you to show that your claim is true. No faith on our part is required. So to say that our belief is based on faith demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of atheism or logic.

  4. jonolan April 26, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Here is where we run into a quandary of sorts. Do you assert that there are no Gods or do you hold yourselves skeptical because it cannot be proven to your satisfaction?

    If it is the former, then the fact you cannot prove a negative is totally relevant since your position is based upon faith without the possibility of proof. If it is the latter, can you really class yourselves – from a linguistic and logical standpoint – as Atheists as opposed to Agnostics?

  5. Shamelessly Atheist April 26, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    It is the latter. Agnosticism, however, is a statement of knowledge about the proposition that gods exist, whereas atheism is a rejection of those propositions based on the paucity of evidence. I thought that was clear. Most atheists are agnostic in terms of their knowledge on the existence of gods. Their belief that there are no gods is completely consistent with this. Belief in a god is not.

    Atheism and theism are not symmetric in who has the burden of proof. If I told you that I believed that pink unicorns pranced on Pluto, would you not ask for evidence in its support before believing me? Would the null hypothesis not be that the proposition for the existence of said unicorns do not exist?

    Note that the rejection of these Plutonian unicorns existing is very specific. We can not generalize from this that unicorns do not exist. Similarly, I am well within rationality to reject any god claim which is lacking for evidence. I can not, however, flatly claim that gods do not exist.

    Depending on the definition of god(s), some gods are indeed completely falsified already. For instance, an omnibenevolent/omnipotent/omnipresent god is logically impossible in the face of the Problem of Evil. A god that answers prayers is also falsified. The STEP and MANTRA studies have shown that intercessory prayer is ineffectual. There are lots of others, too.

    Deist gods that are invented in order to avoid falsification are of very little use (read: none). And again, the onus is on the claimant. If the universe appears exactly as if it originated without a need for a creator god – and it does – is it not more rational to cut away that which is unnecessary? I don’t call that faith at all. I cut away the unnecessary creator god just as I cut away the pink unicorns.

  6. Master Higgins May 19, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    Paladin, perhaps you could clarify what a religion is? I cannot fathom that a religion would only be based upon the physical (and finacial) aspects. Surely there is more to religions than simply the buildings and tax benefits they gain. There is an idea, which is often a problem, that a person or a group of people see is inherent in people, the solution to this problem is what becomes the foundation of the religion. The religious institution, however, is the entity which gains the tax benefits and imposes holidays. Atheism is as type of religion, it sees a problem with humanity, mainly that belief in a god is far more detrimental to humanity than not, and offers a solution, that there is no rational reason to believe in a god. If a religious institution were to develop in atheism then that institution would have all the powers and exemptions that a church, mosque, or temple would.

  7. godlesspaladin May 19, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    Higgins, higgins ,higgins… 🙂

    “I cannot fathom that a religion would only be based upon the physical (and finacial) aspects. Surely there is more to religions than simply the buildings and tax benefits they gain.”

    You are correct in that.

    “There is an idea, which is often a problem, that a person or a group of people see is inherent in people, the solution to this problem is what becomes the foundation of the religion.” Meh, mostly right. From my pov the big 3 (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) would say that the “problem” is that people are sinful and they need to purify themselves before god. (or something along those lines) The religion is then built up around that. (i.e. laws on how to worship and the nature of the god to be believed in)

    With that definition of religion, Atheism is not a religion.

    “Atheism is as type of religion, it sees a problem with humanity, mainly that belief in a god is far more detrimental to humanity than not, and offers a solution, that there is no rational reason to believe in a god.”

    Atheists as a group do not define themselves as seeing any problems with anything. Atheism, as you know, is just the simple lack of theism. Christians on the other hand define themselves as believing in Christ, who is important because he is here to fix the problem of sin and damnation.

    Now yes, there are individual Atheists who believe there is a problem with humanity, and that faith is far more detrimental, but this is a belief held among individuals and is not part of a dogma in the same way a christian believes there is a problem we need saving from.

    Ergo, Atheism is not a religion.

    Miss you guys 🙂

  8. extro1 March 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    I find it funny when people redefine religion to include atheism because there is a subtle implication that being a religion is a bad thing. Of course at the same time its an ignronant attempt at the redefintion game. A Refuted an article that attempted to do that too http://extro1.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/atheism-is-a-religion/

    Keep fightin’ the good fight friend.

    Regards,
    Ex

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