Atheism As A Religion: A Phenomenally Ignorant Book

Y’know what? Fuckit. I was going to write a verse for this one, but it honestly doesn’t deserve one. Not even one of mine (which, I guarantee you, take less time and effort than most). See, my aggregator tells me there is a new book out: Athesim As A Religion: An introduction to the world’s least understood faith. By Mike Dobbins. If you follow the link, you can read an excerpt. If you do not follow the link, you can read the same excerpt here, along with my reaction to that excerpt. Honestly, I would rather you not give them the clicks, but if you have doubts, by all means click through and verify.

Unless they are lying, the following quotes are actually an excerpt from the book. I assume Dobbins had some sort of phenomenal intro, but the excerpt dives right in without telling us what chapter this is, what came before, what after… sorry, all I can do is give you what Dobbins gives the Christian Post:

One sacred symbol to atheists is the ‘A’ that symbolizes atheism. Three ‘A’ symbols are prominent in atheism. One ‘A’ symbol was created in 2007 by Atheist Alliance International and has a circle around it. The circle is meant to symbolize the unity of all atheists and the inclusion of all other atheist symbols. As you can tell, not only are these symbols for atheism, there is atheist religious symbolism within them that only atheists or those who study atheism know.

I do know that symbol. Now, although I am an atheist, I did not know what the symbolism of the circle was; the trick with symbols is, they they are… symbolic. I am not a member of the Atheist Alliance International (nor of pretty much any other organization), so I did not recognize their symbol–but hey, I don’t recognize the vast majority of corporate symbols I encounter. Dobbins asserts that the symbol is “sacred” to atheists; Dobbins could not be more mistaken. I assure him I am an atheist, and I invite him to tear up, set fire to, or piss on that particular “A” in my presence, and see if I give a rat’s ass.

A second popular ‘A’ symbol was created by Richard Dawkins and is a red letter ‘A’ on a right leaning slant. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has adopted this symbol to represent it when they set up monuments to atheism. The third sacred ‘A’ symbol was created by the American Atheists and is placed in the middle of an atomic circle. The organization chose this as their symbol in 1963 to demonstrate their faith that science can save and free mankind. The letter ‘A’ stands in the middle of the atomic sign but rather than meaning atheism, it represents the first letter of the country in which the group is located. This obviously leads to problems since ‘A’ could stand for Austria, Algeria, Australia, and so on, but I suppose they weren’t thinking that far ahead. The Atomic A, as it is known, is allowed on gravestones of U.S. military personnel who are atheists. Atheism is so sacred to some atheists that they want the atheist ‘A’ to represent them to the world after their death.

Ok, dude… So if the first “A” was sacred, why do atheists need a second? And a third? (and why is the “third” one, historically, the first?) Are there atheist denominations? But… you are claiming “atheists” as a (one) religion! And, really, are you that blind to the history of “the scarlet letter” as to neglect mention of that influence?

The “A” for American Atheists… you got me–It could be Australia–except that the symbol is the one that is known as that of the American Atheists. Dobbins writes this for the Christian Post, whose symbol is “CP”… which, I suppose, could stand for “Czechoslovakian Politics”, so I suppose they weren’t thinking that far ahead.

As for headstones… at Arlington, there are well over a dozen different Christian crosses–if it is so important to a Christian that they be represented by–not just a cross, but by the right cross, can you blame an atheist for wanting a headstone that explicitly said “I’m not one of these guys!”. And of course, just as one Christian denomination does not have to be memorialized with another denomination’s cross, any given atheist need not choose to be remembered with the American Atheist atomic A. It is, quite simply, not the atheist symbol.

Many atheists demonstrated just how sacred the symbol ‘A’ is to them in the Christmas of 2013. Since my hometown city of Chicago allows a Hanukkah Menorah and Nativity scene to display on government property during the holiday season, the atheists asked to display their own religious symbol so the government wouldn’t give the appearance to be endorsing one religion or the other. The monument the Freedom From Religion Foundation chose was a giant Richard Dawkins letter ‘A’ which stood 8 feet tall and lit up red at night for all to see. Countless atheists showed respect for the ‘A’ by making a pilgrimage to the site where the ‘A’ was displayed and having their picture taken with the ‘A’ which I’m sure will be kept as a cherished keep sake for many. Still, the giant red A was not enough. They also advocated for their atheist faith by erecting a sign that read, “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.”

So visiting a place is “making a pilgrimage”. By this reasoning, of course, any given Hall of Fame (sport, music, acting, etc.) is sacred, as are stadiums, theatres, national parks, zoos, souvenir stands, and the world’s biggest ball of string. Teddy Roosevelt did not want “In God We Trust” on money for fear of making it too common–profane, rather than sacred. Dobbins, in trying to shoehorn atheists into a religion, has just destroyed the entire concept of “sacred”. It used to mean something.

The atheist monument is further proof that atheism is a religion and in direct competition with theist religions for followers. Moreover, they have gone beyond telling people what they stand for and actually attack what others believe in. The FFRF sign is incredibly hateful towards all religions and actively tries to demean God and faith. The FFRF and many secular organizations like them are anti-faith, anti-God, and anti-religion. It is not enough for them to have their symbol and state what they believe in, as the Christian and Jewish symbols do. The FFRF must go one further to state what they dislike about other faiths. I just can’t imagine a Christian nativity scene ever placing a sign next to the nativity stating something cruel and hateful towards other religious faiths. For some reason, atheists at FFRF can still sleep at night doing this. This speaks very poorly of the character of leaders and members of the group. The positive message within atheism must be very weak if they must resort to such hateful, negative tactics.

Just let the irony of that paragraph sink in for a bit. His entire book is an attack on atheism–or rather, on straw-atheism. By his own reasoning, then, his positive message must suck.

An additional religious symbol is the atheist Darwin fish. The fish was traditionally a symbol of Christianity for early Christians to recognize each other and since many of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen who he would transform into ‘fishers of men.’ The atheists have usurped the symbol to declare their belief that Darwin’s theory of evolution proves God doesn’t exist. Since the fish is a creature from the natural world, it made for an easy transition to a symbol for atheism. Atheist’s display the fish with the word ‘Darwin’ across the middle or with feet on the bottom and proudly wear it on t-shirts and bumper stickers. While it may have started as a parody on the Christian fish symbol, it is now an easy way for atheists to recognize each other, mission to non-atheists, and show their gratitude and respect to the person whose scientific work they believe is the foundation for much of their atheist faith, Charles Darwin.

My own preferred fish is, of course, the cuttlefish with quill But I don’t wear it. Looking at what I do wear, I see that some of it has logos. When athletes wear Nike stuff, or that horrendously gaudy Ralph Lauren Polo crap, are those religious symbols too? Oh, and the Christian fish? turn it 90 degrees and see the yonic symbol from which it is derived…

Many more, less popular symbols exist including the empty set symbol of mathematics, the invisible pink unicorn, and the flying spaghetti monster. As the atheist religion continues to fortify itself certain symbols will likely tend to dominate as they work for uniformity and cohesion amongst all atheists.

Uniformity and cohesion amongst all atheists?!? He *really* doesn’t know us, does he? The only thing that unites us is a privative category; we are as similar as, say, flightless things can be.

Atheists are also installing their own religious monuments across the United States. In July of 2013 the American Atheists erected a monument at a Florida courthouse that had allowed the displaying of the Ten Commandments. Ken Loukinen, an American Atheists director of state and regional operations stated “Christianity has had an unfair privilege for at least the last 150 years. We want to level the playing field by stripping them of privilege, and bringing them to equality with all other ideologies.” The group has said they will erect 50 more monuments in other locations where the Ten Commandments sit on government land. As Ken Loukinen admitted, the monuments are an effort for the faith of atheism to compete with the other religious faiths.

That is not a monument, that is a protest. Even American Atheists would far rather have neither chunk of granite there, than both. And please, Dobbins, remember: the Ten Commandments, in that context is not and must not be a “religious monument” as you term it. That would be illegal. The religious liars that put them there now call them “historical”, and the judicial liars who leave them there call them “ceremonial”. The only way they are legal is for believers to deny their sacred nature. Sorta like Dobbins is doing for every sacred element of his own faith.

Peter denied Christ only three times. I guess records are meant to be broken.


  1. Ed says

    It’s just the old line about “whatever a person deeply values is their religion”, which was once intelligently presented by religious existentialists.

    But the flaws of his philosophy became clear because (a) it would be hard to find any non-trivial human activity NOT to be labelled religious, (b) fundamentalist yahoos appropriated it to call anything they disagree with a rival religion, and thus they are free not to have it “forced” on them.

    So mainstream science, philosophy, art, literature, social movements, etc. don’t belong in he public sphere if crucifixes, ten commandments plaques and compulsory prayer don’t.

    It is interesting how some secular activities fill a psychological and social role partly analogous to religion, but it’s absurd to say that any strongly held ideas or feelings, communal activities or use of symbols are necessarily religious.

    If fundamentalists actually believed this, they’d have to give up their conservative political parties, patriotism, conspicuous consumerism , sports, etc. and live simple lives in which their religion itself is the nearly exclusive focus. Feel free, folks. Go become quasi-Amish and leave the culture to us. I banish you by the power of my magical Atheist A talisman, blessed by Pope Richard Dawkins himself!

  2. forestdragon says

    I’m so torn between wanting to facepalm and wanting to headdesk after reading those sub-moronic screeds that I’m completely paralyzed with indecision.

  3. Die Anyway says

    My message to Mike Dobbins:
    If anyone shows disrespect for our most sacred “A” …you guess which of the 3 is most sacred… the FSM will throw them in the trash bin behind the restaurant at the end of the universe to rot for all eternity. Think about it Mr. Dobbins. Are you willing to take that risk?

  4. nothere says

    What about “A+”. Are we still heretics? Will all the people disgusted with Dawkins split off and form a new sect? Theology is becoming so complicated I may resign and become an atheist atheist.

  5. jnorris says

    How dare Mr Dobbins defame Her Holiness, the beloved, Invisible Pink Unicorn. May he freeze forever in the slushie bottom of the Snow Cone of Death.

  6. CatMat says

    Well, “fuckit” is right. I hope there’s a way to make this scan:

    The way I am framing my own set of magic
    Is surely the only way it can be done
    For those that believe not, it must just be tragic
    How deep all that symbolic ritual has gone

    There’re symbols and people and places and all those
    Indicative trappings of religious lore
    In “atheist” movement of people who just chose
    To think that the world is what it is, no more

    Demoting the God to an idol at a shrine
    As if common sense were, like, all that it took
    There’s more than just one way to skin this here feline
    I think there’s enough here to make me a book.

  7. Kevin Kehres says

    So, let me get this straight. Symbols, therefore religion.

    Tell that to Nike. I guess we’re all pagans.

  8. raven says

    LOL. We’ve seen this movie before.

    The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. A forgery written to defame the Jews.

    The similarity isn’t perfect but it is there.

    Atheist haters are dime a hundred. Fundie xianity is based on nothing but hate and atheism has to share it with women, gays, nonwhites, nonxians, educated people, science, scientists, Democrats, other xians, and when they run out of groups to hate, themselves.

  9. hexidecima says

    yay, mike dobbins. One more person who intentionally bears false witness. This shows again that TrueChristians do not believe in their own bible or god. The commandments are to be ignored and Romans 3 is also to be ignored, which says that lies told “for” this god are just as bad as any other lie.

  10. raven says

    The No Religions run around 67 million in the USA. If they were a xian subgroup, they would be the second or third largest.

    You would think some of those 67 million would be able to write their own book on the “atheism religion”. Instead of some fundie xian idiot with a brain the size of a walnut.

    As the atheist religion continues to fortify itself certain symbols will likely tend to dominate as they work for uniformity and cohesion amongst all atheists.

    LOL. He’s never heard of the cat herding problem. Atheists make cats look like a school of anchovies.

    Atheists have never been unified and never will be. This is a strength not a weakness. it’s a true from the ground up mass movement.

  11. raven says

    What about “A+”. Are we still heretics?

    ??? No, I think we are the atheist Protestants. The A-oughts are the Catholics.

    There are A–(minuses). I’m not sure where they fit in but they look a lot like fundie xians without the xian part. At any rate, I have as much regard for them as I do for the fundies.

  12. Ped Evans says

    You guys are coming across as defensive as religious nuts, just like the author of this article. I’d go further and describe atheists as extremists.

    Religion is to have belief.

  13. Cuttlefish says

    … and atheism is to lack belief. Once you recognize that the author is misrepresenting us, that might clear up some of the apparent defensiveness. “Quit lying about us” is actually fairly reasonable, when someone is lying about you.

  14. raven says

    Ped Evans:

    I’d go further and describe atheists as extremists.

    Hitchen’s Rule: This is an assertion without proof or data and may be dismissed without proof or data. You are wrong.

    You are coming across as a typical xian religious fanatic, hater, and a typical xian idiot. A boring troll in other words.

  15. John Horstman says

    @Ped Evans #16: Eh, my reaction is to say, “Blah blah willfully-uninformed-or-disingenuous-blah,” while making a jerking-off motion. Is that defensive? It feels more dismissive than defensive. :-P

    I sort of understand how if they only way you’ve been socialized to conceive of human social institutions and relationships is through the lens of religion, then everything looks like religion, but the limits of Dobbins’s worldview (and yours, apparently) don’t somehow automatically/circularly make that view correct. If nothing qualifies as not being religion, then the term is denotatively meaningless – it conveys no information about the subject, just information about the worldview of the speaker (like all ideograms).

  16. says


    Religion is to have belief

    Can I direct you to some wise words from Eliezer Yudkowsky? In particular, the point that if you find yourself arguing over whether something is or isn’t a religion, then you’ve lost track of whatever the real debate, the discussion actually worth having, was about in the first place. In this case, then sure, if you, personally, are using the word ‘religion’ to cover ‘having any beliefs, of whatever nature’, then that’s your prerogative, as long as you always remember to state clearly that that is your definition. But it will not win you any points in discussions with people who are using the word ‘religion’ specifically to differentiate those systems of belief that assert the existence of one or more gods or comparable supernatural phenomena from other beliefs or belief systems that either assert (or provisionally conclude) the non-existence of gods, or that take no position on the question.

    If you think that non-belief in gods is just as unreasonable, just as likely to lead people into needless ignorance, bamboozlement and cruelty, as belief in gods, then by all means present your case. But you cannot make it so simply by redefining a word.

  17. gearloose says

    “turn it 90 degrees and see the yonic symbol from which it is derived…”
    The less-than-three glyph becomes a heart on rotation, or trucknutz if wrong direction.

  18. Kevin Kehres says

    @23…I dunno, I’d like to impose the atheist dogma of universal human rights on everyone.

    Too bad it doesn’t appear that support for universal human rights is atheist dogma.

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