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Jan 13 2013

Why we are NOT a religion

As many of you know that I do field questions from religious people. (Email is on the Left). Anything that requires a big and indeed has an answer useful to the community as a whole then gets posted on here.

There is a massive fallacy that atheism is a religion. Oh yes, we have a pithy turn of phrase by saying it’s like “bald is a hair colour” or “not stamp collecting” is a hobby. But many people still buy into it.

Some Atheists share many of the same characteristics found in the so-called ‘religiots’.

To back up my hypothesis, I have compiled a non-exhaustive list as to why I make this statement. Like “religiots” are with their religious views, many Atheists:

Religiots sounds like a pokemon. I would have gone for the faithful or something…

1) Hold the position that they are the sole proprietors and vendors of “the truth” and that if only the world was as they wanted it, everyone and everything would be better off.

This is a fallacy.

No atheist says they know “the truth”, what we do say is we use “SCIENCE” and science answers a lot of questions correctly over and over again.

The Truth remains that in the world of reality science answers the questions. If it cannot answer a question “now” it will probably answer it in the future. Religion claims it has an answer for whatever questions you may have but these are wrapped in faith. You need to have “faith” in order for their truths to be “true”. You have to genuinely believe in “superstition”.

It may insult religious people to hear that their beliefs are superstition but they consider other beliefs to be that. A Christian considers other religions to be superstition while a Muslim feels the same thing about Christianity.

You can pray to cure leprosy or you can indulge in science. Atheists believe in empirical world views and that means science. In order to hold any meaning Religion has to exist in the realm of unknowns and philosophy.

However you don’t need to believe in a god to have philosophy, you can base your entire philosophy on real and tangible things. The meaning of life doesn’t have to be to achieve a fairytale reward. It can be for your friends, your family and for your own experiences.

Why do humans want to jump from the edge of space? Why do humans go on roller coasters? Why do they put themselves through hell to throw a ball hard or run faster or climb mountains?

Because the experience is important. The pain you suffer is nothing compared to the experience you get. Life is it’s own reward for most of us. Many of us make do with what we can but even there, there is happiness. Why do you help someone? Because you want them to be happy in “this life”.

The answers and truth religion flogs is just “not good enough” for those who suffer. We can do better than that.

2) Have the mentality that if another person is not an Atheist, then they are to be shunned, derided and ridiculed mercilessly, until they change their ways. They will gladly gang up on, spur each other on and applaud each other’s endeavors in order to achieve this. Should the religious person then change their ways, they are welcomed into the fold with a pat on the back and a sympathetic arm around the shoulders. (Is this not a “conversion”?)

No really. I don’t roam around yelling at people in real life. HOWEVER if someone says something stupid or dangerous then you should tell them so. I have told atheists who believe in faulty things (Sam Harris for example I feel is a bit too obsessed with firearms and has said some dumb things about racial stereotyping being utilised at airports. Many anti-vax and animal lib are atheists too yet believe in patently faulty world views where vaccines don’t work and humans have the same value as a mouse).

Atheism isn’t monolithic. And we shun idiots. If someone comes up and says the world is genuinely 6000 years old then why should they get a free pass? Or if they try and insert Jesus into whatever space they can find? These “people” being mocked aren’t being mocked because they are religious but because they are trying to apply a world view that is biased an wrong and outright detrimental to our society.

Our de-converts come to us rather more of their own accord. We don’t have answers, you have them. I cannot tell you what the meaning of life is, that’s for you to decide.

Science has done more to shake the foundation of religion than we have. Because science encourages awkward questions. The most important answer in science is “I Don’t Know”. There is no shaming in admission of ignorance, there is however in claiming knowledge when you have none. It’s why science is so insanely powerful. After the unshackling of the material universe from religion science basically grew in leaps and bounds.

It is fitting that the Abrahamic Faiths consider knowledge to be the most dangerous thing on the planet, because it is what kills faith.

3) Have formed global groups such as http://www.atheistalliance.org/ to help support the spread of Atheism. Here, I use “the spread of Atheism” in the sense of the drive to support the increase in the Atheist demographic, as per AAI’s president. (AAI curiously lists “Freedom from discrimination” as item number 5 under their list of values, but also states that part of its “mission and vision” is to confront religious faith. The dictionary definition of confront is to “Meet (someone) face to face with hostile or argumentative intent”. Once again, it speaks of the mindset that their movement proclaims freedom from discrimination, defined as the “unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things”, as long as you are on their side, see #2 above.)

If you look at the front lines of current battles for equality of the GLBT, for access to medical care for women and for the continuation of a secular public sphere you will notice that on the side of liberalisation and equality you find more atheists. The religious people tend to be against these things and do campaign regularly against the rights of GLBT, Obs/Gynae care and try to insert their faith into education. In addition many atheists face exclusion, hate and even death for their lack of belief.

We live in a world where little girls get shot for wanting to read, doctors and nurses are threatened because people don’t understand their science, where people are desperately trying to teach the fact that the world is just 6000 years old rather than closer to 6 billion, where people want to kill homosexuals/jews/idol worshippers/unbelievers/witches…

And the reason that world isn’t close to us in the west is because science, skeptics and secularists have fought tooth and nail to create the society we live in.

4) Follow the teachings of other better-read and more famous Atheists almost blindly and all-too willingly will regurgitate and follow their instructions. An example of this is the increase in the hostility which Atheists have been showing towards the religious after being instructed to, as for example per #3 above. Dawkins also famously instructs this at nearly every opportunity he gets. 

It’s hardly hostile to correct blatant mistakes.

If someone were to demand to teach your children that T-Rex was a vegetarian, you would be fully in your rights to call him stupid and stop him from teaching your children nonsense.

It’s not an attack to call out incorrect, harmful and superstitious beliefs. Are we to forget the trope of ignorant savages praying to things that they don’t understand? Of Cargo Cults? Are we to consider the Thug sect of the second Indiana Jones to be faux but the Holy Grail and Ark of the Covenant to be real relics of a god that need to be respected?

Why was it acceptable to mock superstition when it was in the hands of people who weren’t Judeo/Christians?

5) Hold and attend rallies in order to “advance secularism (in the broadest sense of the word) in society” (taken from the ironically named http://reasonrally.org/about/ [by the way, their website reads like it is Mighty Men for Atheists!] )

Because in the USA there is a massive trend of inserting Jesus into everything. From (relatively) harmless things like billboards to science classrooms, the law and women’s uteruses.

Secularism isn’t atheism, there are secularists who are religious. Secularism means that no religion is given an undue advantage due to state legislation UNLESS the religion is detrimental to society in some way or breaks existing overarching laws.

You can practice your faith in your own home and your church. You just cannot do anything in the name of your faith and force it on others. Hindus cannot ban the Big Mac and Christians cannot throw rocks at homosexuals.

And Reason Rally is primarily a skeptic shindig and skeptics are based on reason, there are atheists who believe in some awfully stupid things such as 9/11 truthers or anti-big pharma or alt. medicine. Reason Rally deals with them ALL, not just your gods

6) Perform charitable works not because of altruism, but in the name of Atheism (www.atheistvolunteers.org for example states right at the very top of their website “doing good in the name of atheism”).

Because if you ever ask someone religious they will often say that atheists don’t do any charity. Hell after the Sandy Hook shooting there were questions as to “Where were the Atheists?”, so groups like Atheist Volunteers do a good job in maintaining an open Atheist Presence to counter the claims we don’t do organised charity.

There are massive secular charities out there such as the Red Cross, UNHCR, WHO, MSF who are all based on the principles of secular humanism who are often responsible for millions of lives saved. Maybe even a billion… But they don’t outright express their secular nature and so secular atheists still languish under the notion that they don’t do charity.

7) Will revert to name calling and off-the-ball tactics to illicit a response from the religious, for nothing else but entertainment value. 

 Sometimes a guy gets lonely.

We are tired of being called sinners or being told we are what makes the world worse or being held responsible for natural disasters. We are tired of double standards and hypocrisy. We are also tired of how often religion makes things a lot worse and is given a free pass for it’s behaviour.

8) Will gladly part with wads of their hard-earned cash to buy merchandise from vendors supporting the Atheist cause. (http://www.atheistalliance.org/store ,http://www.thearrogantatheist.com/ ,http://www.rationalresponders.com/buy_amazon_through_these_links_support_online_atheismhttp://evolvefish.com/ a quick Google search yields many more).

Yes, but we aren’t offering salvation if they do. We aren’t claiming it’s their duty to donate or purchase from us. We aren’t holding a gun to their heads. From what I have seen, my readers donate to me because they “Want” to. Not because they are compelled by some set of arbitrary rules to do so.

Likewise most of the merchandise purchased generally are purchased because people want to buy those things. There is no tithe, just support.

I hope that covers all 8 points as to why people think we are a religion. We aren’t, our entire premise is based on skepticism and science. We build on our faith that the universe operates through natural process and are rewarded with scientific development.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Sastra

    Why is the writer comparing atheism to a religion — when most of his points would apply equally well to politics? Why isn’t ‘atheism’ being compared to a ‘political party?’ Or, for that matter, a ‘science theory?’

    I think it’s because the real problem is supposed to be that atheists are trying to convince other people to change their minds. They’re treating religious claims as if there was a true or false, a right and wrong — and the person who wrote the list thinks you should not do that. Not in religion, where one’s faith is supposed to be opinion — personal, private, and sacred. You do not challenge belief, for all opinions are on equal footing.

    Both atheists and fundamentalists challenge belief and tell people “your religion is wrong.” This is supposed to be outside of civil discourse, and elevating what should be level. So they are the same.

    In politics, however, it’s okay to try to argue your position and try to change the mind of other people. Same with science. Not all views have equal standing as “opinion,” no one better than another. It’s not “bullying” to tell someone they’re mistaken on a fact claim.

    The person who wrote the email is evaluating atheism under the wrong standards.

    Of course, they’re also building a giant strawman, but you’ve done a splendid job deconstructing that one.

  2. 2
    Pitchguest

    No, atheism most certainly is not a religion.

    And then Atheism Plus was formed.

  3. 3
    Cas

    Because in the USA there is a massive trend of inserting Jesus into everything. From (relatively) harmless things like billboards to science classrooms, the law and women’s uteruses.

    Ewwwww I don’t want Jesus in my uterus. Ick!

    *ahem* Really good post, thank you. Have been trying to explain to some of my friends for years how atheism is not a religion. Next time they start I shall point them in this direction! :D

  4. 4
    R Johnston

    For some people atheism most certainly is a religion. We call the most prominent group of such people “libertarians.” They have an ill-considered anti-skeptical rejection of authority as the basis of their belief system, and their rejection of all authority, including their rejection of traditional religious authorities, is very much an act of religious faith unmoored from reality. They may even learn to mouth some of the rational arguments against theism, but their hostile rejection of skepticism is incompatible with actually believing and understanding those arguments. They are religious fanatics.

    Rational skepticism implies atheism, but atheism does not, in any way, imply rational skepticism. Atheism can be just as unreasoning and faith-based as any religion.

  5. 5
    hjhornbeck

    No, atheism most certainly is not a religion.

    And then Atheism Plus was formed.

    Point me to the temples, the holy texts, the priests, the usage of blasphemy, and I’ll believe you. Until then, you’re trolling.

  6. 6
    Sassafras

    @5 – Add to that list an actual belief in the supernatural and gods.

  7. 7
    Stacy

    @4

    Follow the teachings of other better-read and more famous Atheists almost blindly and all-too willingly will regurgitate and follow their instructions.

    We follow the “teachings” of (for example) Harris and Hitchens blindly? lol. Nobody who knows jack about atheists could buy this one.

    @7

    Will revert to name calling and off-the-ball tactics to illicit a response from the religious, for nothing else but entertainment value.

    This a religious thing?

  8. 8
    Satinder

    Atheism, by definition, cannot be a religion. Similarly, theism itself is not a religion.

  9. 9
    Angel

    ..Meron PO akunG boy friend Peru we are not same religion uk Lang PO ba yon

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