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Sep 02 2013

Barton Claims Atheism is a Religion

David Barton hosted Rep. John Fleming, the congressman who submitted the amendment barring the military from appointing humanist chaplains, on his radio show and claimed that atheism is a religion and should be subject to separation of church and state (you know, the one he says doesn’t exist).

The Supreme Court opened the door to all of this. Back in decisions like U.S. vs Seeger and others, the court, in their dislike for traditional religion, they defined religion as whatever someone believes so sincerely and so strongly that it affects the way they act.

Now, if that’s the case, by the court’s definition, atheism and humanism would be religious because they affect the way people act. But if that’s the case, then why don’t we have the separation of church and state with them, if they’re a religion?

Darwinism and evolution is a religion. Why don’t we say ‘hey, we can’t teach Darwinism in school. That affects the way people behave. I demand separation of church and state. Get Darwinism out of the classroom.’

Or why don’t we say ‘hey, I don’t see any prayers going at graduation; that’s atheism! I demand separation of church and state. Atheism has chaplains, they’re a religion. Get atheism out of the schools.’

I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that this is all nonsense. U.S. vs Seeger was the case that said the government could not grant conscientious objector status only to those with religious views. And no, it did not define atheism as a religion. In fact, the third paragraph of the holding says, “There is no issue here of atheistic beliefs, and, accordingly, the decision does not deal with that question.” The conscientious objection in this case was not based on atheism and the court need only determine that the objections were based on something more than “merely personal moral codes.”

And no, a lack of prayer at an event does not make it an “atheistic” event, for crying out loud. Rationality is utterly foreign to Barton.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    Deen

    By that definition, math would be a religion. After all, I have a pretty strong conviction that 1+1=2, and I lead my life accordingly. Would there be anything we could teach anymore?

  2. 2
    DaveL

    The 1st Amendment does prohibit the government from being officially atheistic, or endorsing atheism, etc.

    Of course, a simple lack of religious expression does not make a thing atheistic. Otherwise Barton would find himself flushing atheistic rabbits out of the atheistic bushes while mowing every atheistic blade of grass on his atheistic lawnmower.

  3. 3
    John Pieret

    I don’t see any prayers going at graduation; that’s atheism! I demand separation of church and state

    This is the [cough] fundamental belief of people like Barton. No human activity should be separate from their religious beliefs and their proselytizing of them. That religious people could attend a government meeting, a graduation, be in the military or study science without attempting to foist their beliefs on otheres is a concept simply beyond their ken and, therefore, must be atheism.

  4. 4
    Mr Ed

    …they defined religion as whatever someone believes so sincerely and so strongly that it affects the way they act.
    Now, if that’s the case, by the court’s definition, atheism and humanism would be religious because they affect the way people act.

    I believe people should stop for yellow lights. Therefore as this is a belief that affects the way I act I am seeking tax exempt status for my car and garage. (I also believe people cut their grass too short so as an expression of my faith I’m going to stand outside golf course with signs saying “God hates putting greens.”)

    Seems everything is a religion by this broad deffinition

  5. 5
    francesc

    “The 1st Amendment does prohibit the government from being officially atheistic, or endorsing atheism, etc. ”
    I’m not sure. How would it impede the free exercise of religion? would it meant the establishment of a religion? Which one? Being generous, it may prohibit the government from being officially humanist, as you could claim that’s a philosophy similar to a religious thing. Or maybe even A+, as it holds “values” as a religion does.

  6. 6
    matty1

    Why would personal moral codes be inadequate as a basis for conscientious objector status? What could be more morally binding on a person than their own conscience?

    On another note, imagine graduations if Barton’s argument was taken seriously, if you can’t favour any ‘religion and can’t get round that by favouring none they would run on for years. There would be event schedules with entries like “day 472 sacrifices and prayers to the goddess Nozyongnyu”

  7. 7
    Chiroptera

    But I’m told that Christianity is not a religion: it’s a relationship with Jesus.

  8. 8
    Alverant

    So if not endorsing a religion is endorsing Atheism and if that is wrong, then a school has to endorse a religion. How about if schools start endorsing Buddhism? Will that make Fisher happy?

  9. 9
    Michael Heath

    What would be shocking is David Barton accurately conceding that:
    a) atheism isn’t a religion,
    b) public schools (the government) do not violate the establishment clause by teaching scientific theories since scientific theories are not religious beliefs
    c) that local, state, and federal governmental entities that never engage in religion are properly limiting the exercise of their respective constitutional powers,
    d) that government has the delegated authority and constitutional obligation to protect the religious freedom rights of individuals who are not acting as the government from the government. Including the obligation to protect individuals who are not Christians and even Christians who seek protection of their rights from other Christians attempting to exploit government power to suppress these other Christians’ religious freedom rights.

    That would be shocking.

  10. 10
    dingojack

    Dingo’s Rule of Religious Thumb*:- if it postulates supernatural being(s) then it’s a religion.

    Atheism (by definition) rejects the idea of supernatural entities, therefore it is not a religion and so is unaffected by the 1st Amendment prohibition of ”an established religion’.
    [NB:: IANAL :) ]

    Dingo
    ——-
    * so to speak

  11. 11
    D. C. Sessions

    Of course, a simple lack of religious expression does not make a thing atheistic. Otherwise Barton would find himself flushing

    Stop right there. We really don’t need to consider the worship of the porcelain god.

  12. 12
    dingojack

    D. C. Sessions – This would be OK if it were cast, just as long it’s not carved (then it’d be a no no, vis-a-vis the first commandment).
    ;) Dingo

  13. 13
    brianwestley

    Seeger didn’t address atheism, but Welsh v. United States did. That still didn’t make atheism a religion, and neither did Kaufman v. McCaughtry, though in many cases atheism needs to be treated as if it were a religion. I find it easiest to think of atheism as the absence of a creed — if you can’t discriminate against someone for e.g. being a trinitarian or not being a trinitarian, you likewise can’t discriminate against someone for being a theist or not being a theist.

  14. 14
    iknklast

    The idea that anything that people believe in strongly and that affects the way they act is a religion is clearly ridiculous. For me, that would make both feminism and environmentalism a religion (though some environmentalists do make it sound that way, I am a scientist, and reject all that New Age woo). For some people, football would be a religion. That’s particularly true in the central part of the country; I often say in Nebraska, you’re probably OK not believing in God as long as you believe in the Cornhuskers (I believe in the Cornhuskers; they exist, I’ve seen them. I do not, however, worship the Cornhuskers. I can’t stand them.)

  15. 15
    D. C. Sessions

    The idea that anything that people believe in strongly and that affects the way they act is a religion is clearly ridiculous

    Gravity is, I believe, the canonical counterexample.

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