A form of

Random person on Twitter:

BTW, not believing in any god is a form of religion.

Hm. So everything is a form of religion – believing in any god, and not believing in any god.

So the phrase “a form of religion” doesn’t name anything. It’s just another word for “all the possible options.”

Seems superfluous.


  1. says

    So, driving a car is an activity. Not driving a car is an activity. I can proudly say that not exercising is my favorite form of exercise.

  2. MrFancyPants says

    Most people agree that religions have an eschatology and some kind of moral or life philosophy. Atheism provides neither. How could it?

  3. Claire Ramsey says

    Just today a friend of mine said he didn’t “get it” about people saying they are atheists. It’s exactly like religion.

    Sigh. I think it’s merely a word that suggests something that the speaker identifies with. I am an atheist. I am a Mazda owner. I am a cat lover. Etc.

    Not the same as a “religion.”

  4. cafeeineaddicted says

    Well, you know what’s not a religion? Christianity. It’s a personal relationship with God, ya know?

  5. markr1957 says

    I think I’ll stick with not collecting stamps as my hobby – it’s less expensive than not hunting. Does it matter which god or gods I don’t believe in – I’d hate to cause a schism in atheism.

  6. Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion says

    So does not cooking and eating people make me some form of cannibal?

    And not killing indiscriminately make me some form of murderer?

    I’m sure all the bigots will be glad to hear they’re all “some form of” gay, black, poor, mentally ill and atheist now, won’t they? 😛

  7. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I love how the same people who defend religious faith can think of no stronger objection to atheism than labeling it as a religious faith. It’s as if they know that taking things on faith isn’t really a defensible position, and the tu quoque is the only defense they have left: “Ok, so maybe I’m being unreasonable, but so are you, so STFU!”

    There is nothing you must add to your ontology to “become” an atheist, or, for that matter, a naturalist, a materialist or a physicalist. As I have previously commented elsewhere, a naturalist/materialist/physicalist does not believe in anything that theists don’t believe in. The difference between a naturalist/materialist/physicalist and a non-naturalist/materialist/physicalist isn’t that the former believes in a natural/material/physical universe while the latter does not. The real difference is that the latter believes in something more in addition to this universe. To reject naturalism/materialism/physicalism is therefore not to subtract an assumption, but to add one.

    Double negatives of this sort are exceptionally common among apologists. Nobody wants to be the one holding unjustified beliefs, so true believers have made it into an art form to reframe belief in X as a rejection of non-belief in X. Hence expressions like “I’m skeptical of skepticism” (i.e. “I reject a general rejection of unjustified beliefs”) or “I don’t believe in atheism” (i.e. “I don’t accept non-acceptance of this particular subset of unjustified beliefs”). If you reframe belief in supernatural woo as an absence of philosophical naturalism/materialism/physicalism (i.e. an absence of an absence of another subset of unjustified beliefs), then apparently it becomes “sophisticated philosophy” and will be defended as a perfectly rational position even by many non-believers. To me “naturalism”, “materialism”, “physicalism”, “atheism” etc. are just different words for refusing to add something more to the picture of reality that’s painted by science without a minimum of justification. Any such addition to my ontology has to earn its place, and Occam’s Razor takes care of the rest.

  8. Kimpatsu says

    Obviously, to their mind, not believing in god requires a leap of faith, which is the same as believing in god. They really need schooling, such as reading the God Delusion.
    Do you know, if I got paid every time a theist said “atheism requires faith”, or “atheists have no morals”, or “there are no atheists in foxholes”, I would be able to buy Hawaii by now…

  9. Johnny Oizys says

    Well, you know what’s not a religion? Christianity. It’s a personal relationship with God, ya know?

    Yep, and atheism is a personal relationship with reality.

  10. Random person says

    Please visit her TL to see my argument based on science not religion. You who are so quick to judge should realize my argument was one in which atheists must have faith that certain science is being misinterpreted just like religious zealots do.

  11. Bjarte Foshaug says

    @dr. r./”Random person”

    There is a recent physics paper that shows certain muons act in quantum 1/2 steps as a grid and not continuously, which suggests a computer-like simulation, i.e., a creator. An atheist has faith that this is *definitely* not true. Faith, not science, but faith. Faith in an empty set for religion. Even nothing is something. You picked the wrong person to argue logic with.

    Who the hell are you talking to? You seem to assume that you are, in fact, communicating with someone who really do exist somewhere “out there”, and not just animated characters in a computer simulation? Where’s your evidence of that?

  12. sailor1031 says

    @random peron: another doG of the gaps argument? The paper you cite explores the hypothesis, for which there is as yet no direct evidence, that we are objects in a simulation being executed by our remote descendants (not by some extra-universal deity). The conclusion of the writers is that there probably will exist, at some point in the future, enough evidence to make such a simulation a possibility and that, as such, if it is a simulation the simulated may be able to detect the simulaters. BTW there is nothing new in the idea that space-time is discrete not continuous………

  13. dr.r. says

    @bjarte, You clearly didn’t read the whole timeline because i gave evidence.

    @sailor1031: you didn’t read the whole paper. I know the idea of discrete vs. continuous very well, far better than you i would guess. The paper gives actual measured evidence for muons moving in a non-continuous manner, not just a hypothesis (although that’s what the abstract would lead you to believe).

    I’ll just leave with one thought to you all:

    When you cross over the line from not believing to actively believing in nothing, you are now promoting a type of religion. There is a difference between those two activities, whether you want to agree with that or not. Given the zeal of actively believing in nothing and trying to explain away certain evidence (although there is clearly more evidence of, say, evolution than creationism) that does not conform to your belief that no creator/supreme being exists, you are guilty of activity very similar to those you rail against. (This is clearly directed only to those strong atheists.) You won’t change me from agnostic to atheist. Logically, only agnostic is consistent with all evidence. Any other stance has faith that something is true because there is evidence that both seemingly confirms and seemingly contradicts it.

    (I don’t even like talking about religion; my original statement was one purely borne of logic. But, I will call people out who jump onto my Twitter timeline with “No. Not true.” and then just run away.)

  14. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    People who say things like that obviously don’t even understand the dictionary definition of “atheism”.

    Quite clearly, they don’t understand what religion is, either.

  15. sailor1031 says

    I know the idea of discrete vs. continuous very well, far better than you i would guess

    dr.r: this is known as the ‘courtier’s reply’, in this case mixed in with a little argument from authority. I guess we didn’t read the same paper or you didn’t make it all the way to the conclusions. Perhaps you merely substituted your own. It is clear that the simulation hypothesis is just that – a hypothesis. One unsupported to date by evidence. So if you posit a ‘designer’ that is merely your belief.

  16. Omar Puhleez says


    I’ll rephrase that:

    I think I’ll have a cupof tea now, and a good lie down.

  17. says

    Are you trying for Chopra-lite?
    Your entire post is nonsense.

    Religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to the supernatural, and to spirituality. [note 1] Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that are intended to create meaning to life or traditionally to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, they tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.

    What is the cultural system of atheism?
    What is the organized collection of beliefs?
    Given the rejection of supernatural deities, atheists use their non belief to relate to nonexistent supernatural deities?

    If you feel singled out, dont be. As an atheist I do not believe any of the 4200 myths are accurate reflections of reality. I also firmly believe that fairies, trolls, world trees, serpents encircling the earth, magic apples bestowing immortality, satyrs, centaurs, dragons, and giants exist in the same realm of the imagination as talking snakes, angels, demons and Jesus’ genocidal baby killing “father”.
    Also, the agnostic position is a ridiculous stance to take.

    Are you agnostic about invisible pink unicorn feces?
    Or do you go about your life as if you will not step in invisible pink unicorn poop?

    Based upon observable reality, there are beliefs that are not reasonable to hold. As no gods have ever been proven to exist, it is silly to act as if any do. It is reasonable to say–
    “Based upon all available evidence, there is no reason to believe any supernatural creature or deity exists. In the event that new info is discovered, I will adjust my beliefs accordingly.”

  18. Bjarte Foshaug says

    You clearly didn’t read the whole timeline

    I have no intention to go back and read everything you have ever written to find this supposed evidence. Again, what’s your evidence that you are communicating with anyone at all and not just animated characters in a simulation? Hell, what’s your evidence that anything outside your own consciousness – including that article of yours – exists? Two can play that game, you know…

    I cannot evaluate the contents of the article itself, but I know enough about the scientific process to know that it takes more than just one article to establish a claim as true in science, especially when the claim is as extraordinary as this. No claim is so silly that you cannot find the occasional article to defend it, but that doesn’t make it science. After all, most new claims don’t stand up to close scrutiny. When the results have been independently tested and replicated from all possible angles by different scientist in reputable peer-reviewed journals, every critical question has been answered to most scientist’s satisfaction, and every (less extraordinary) alternative explanation ruled out, then we can start talking about the implications (if any) of your article for atheism. Until then a single/ a few obscure article(s) from the internet don’t mean anything.

    Re. atheism being a faith position I think I answered that in comment #12, but to get back to the whole atheism vs. agnosticism debate (puke!), I think we need to distinguish between weak and strong agnosticism:
    * In its weak form agnosticism is compatible with anything from 99.9999…% certainty that God exists to 99.9999…% certainty that God doesn’t exist as long as you don’t claim to “know” this in the technical sense of the word.
    * In its strong form agnosticism says that unless you know for sure that God does/does not exist, the only defensible position is complete neutrality (i.e. unless the probability is 0 or 1, any probability estimates of any kind are unjustified).

    In my experience people who insist we should call ourselves “agnostics” rather than “atheists” tend to switch back and forth between weak and strong agnosticism within the scope of the same argument:
    * The first step is to argue that since we cannot “know” for sure that no “god” of any kind* exists, the only defensible position is (weak) agnosticism.
    * The second step is to argue that since “agnosticism” is the only defensible position (switching to strong agnosticism) anything other than complete neutrality is unjustified.

    So If I really do have an opinion on the matter – that there almost certainly are no gods – but admit, for the sake of intellectual honesty, that this doesn’t technically qualify as “knowledge” (and good luck finding anything that does!), what am I allowed to call myself? I say screw that shit. I’m an atheist, meaning: I’m as confident as you can reasonably be about anything that there’s no such thing as a god (or ghosts, or hobgoblins, or the Midgard Serpent, or…). I’m also an agnostic in the sense that I don’t claim to to “know” this (or anything else) in a way that would satisfy “philosophically sophisticated” pedants. It doesn’t mean I’m more certain of anything else.
    * Unless we have a common definition of “God” that’s both specific and unambiguous enough to give us something to argue for or against, a statement like “God exists” falls into the category “not even wrong”.

  19. Bjarte Foshaug says

    @Omar Puhleez #22


    I’ll rephrase that:

    I think I’ll have a cupof tea now, and a good lie down.

    Better kneel down and worship the absence of God as was written in The Imaginary Gospel of the Empty Set, chapter 0, verse 0.

  20. says


    Random impressions:

    1) They should totally make statues of people who don’t conquer Europe. Seriously, that kind of behaviour should be more generally encouraged.

    2) The very corny* Canadian circa-70s comedy duo Wayne and Shuster had this parody of the Zorro character who called himself ‘Zero’. He’s this black-garbed guy in a mask, like Zorro, but he used to run around chalking zeroes on things, instead of slashing Zeds (they’re Canadian; those are Zeds) into them…

    … at one point he is asked, dramatically, of his symbol: ‘But what does it mean?!!!’




    (*/Princes of philosophy, pretty much, mind, against what’s on offer in the treatise that touched off this post, y’ask me.)

  21. says

    … and probably more seriously than it deserves (and does the web or the world in generally really need another of these essays? No, but that never stopped me before) …

    Effectively harnessing solipsism in defense of religion has always struck me as one of the sillier gambits of an already incredibly silly bunch. That it keeps coming back, each ‘discoverer’ imaging their dodge somehow profound, I don’t know quite what to ascribe to…

    Desperation comes to mind, tho’.

    I find myself thinking I’d like to see it used, perhaps, during an interview, in the investigation of the murder investigation. The detective interviewing the suspect asks once more for evidence, some kind of corroboration of an alibi, and the suspect blithely responds: ‘How could I possibly provide such a thing? How can anyone prove where I was? You don’t know we’re not both living in the Matrix…’

    The trial would be likewise as amusing, I expect.

    The point, for the epistemogically challenged, is: in the real world, we assess evidence for quality, coherence, so on, on a relative scale; we do not expect anything absolutely ‘proved’ in the mathematical/pure deductive logical sense outside the nice concrete rules fully-defined systems like math based on Abelian groups provide. This is no great mystery, nor anything profound. And if you’re attempting to save whatever claim you might be making of world-creating leprechauns or what have you by appealing to such games, all you’re really saying is: technically, since there can be no such absolute proof, I could still be correct in any claim I make (or any claim not internally contradictory). The god could be there, whichever iron age text I follow could be correct in some part of its substance, though, sure, perhaps it would have to be by accident… You’re not providing evidence you’re right; you’re just saying you technically could still be even with no evidence whatsoever, or even evidence to the contrary, which, by the way, a lot of that traditional stuff kinda is actually, when you consider how transparently human and frequently pettily provincial and peculiar to their times (if not actually suggestive of deliberate fraud or deception on the part of the founder) the canons of religions generally are.

    It all gets you as much nothing as the zero in the joke above. And it is unusual amongst arguments in that it is, in fact, meaningfully reducible to absurdity. You technically could defend any belief, however bizarre, with the same thrust. Elvis alive and living on Pluto? Technically possible. What faith you have that you don’t believe it yourself.

    The shorter and simpler rejoinder is: this is a typical misuse of the word ‘faith’. Refusal to accept a claim (my god made the world) on the absence of decent evidence for the same isn’t itself belief without evidence. It’s pointing, rather, simply, to the generally dreadful quality of the evidence on offer. And eventually, this is how it needs to be decided, anyway, games about what is and is not faith or what is and is not a religion, notwithstanding.

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