Tired Christian claim #1: atheism is a religion


I thought I might slowly start making a list of tired claims Christians perpetually make about us atheists. Think of it as a huge FAQ that helps you answer some annoying claims people make about atheism without actually understanding it.

First off, you might have heard this gem floating around; atheism is some kind of religion, since not believing in god is a type of faith. For instance, if I claim life arose from non-life, my inability to absolutely prove this statement is comparable to the belief that an all powerful being willed it into existence.

What is so interesting about this tired Christian claim is it essentially compares all beliefs to a religion; if I believe the Earth revolves around the sun but have never witnessed this event, I am apparently accepting this based entirely on faith.

It sounds almost plausible; after all, not all of us have studied evolution, but most of us would agree it’s nevertheless true. Is this a type of faith? Faith is a misleading word. We tend to confuse the word with belief, even though the two are not necessarily equal. Faith can more easily be understood if we think of the word ‘trust’. Christians trust that their God is Omnipotent, Omniscient and OmniBenevolent. They may trust this for multiple reasons. Most grow up being told this is true by people in authority, and many also come to trust that the Bible is the infallible word of God. This type of trust does not require anything more than willful surrender of one’s critical faculties, even in the face of glaring contradictory or improbable elements (like a virgin birth, or a resurrection).

Strangely enough, I have never met a Christian who thought there was any real evidence that contradicted them. Once a person commits to a rigid way of thinking (like the belief the Bible is infallible), they will find whatever evidence, no matter how flimsy, to support their predetermined conclusions. This is called ‘confirmation bias’. No matter how strong your evidence may be their claims are untrue, it will either be ignored or attacked. How many Christians ignore the fact human beings share 96% of our DNA with chimpanzees, or outright claim such testing fails to prove we share a common ancestor? They would rather believe God designed us to be different from other animals; that we are special somehow. As far as they are concerned, they know the truth, and it is we who are blind.

Now as an atheist I too trust information given to me by people of authority. The difference, of course, lies in the methodology of how such information is gathered, and the degree of scrutiny I can apply to it. Yes, I trust evolution is true, but unlike most of the improvable claims of religion, scientific theories are constantly being revised. Any individual is free to analyze and even disprove them. Science is a process of refinement; our understanding of the universe is strengthened because scientific theories are corroborative efforts made by independent thinkers. We have been able to uncover many of the secrets of nature from the simple process of observation, hypothesis, and testing. As you can see, this is not a process that involves dogma. Over time, even the most cherished theories will collapse if they are shown to be incomplete or wrong.

For the most part, the vast majority of us do not blindly trust others without at least some proof. If I’m trying to sell you a flying car, you’ll no doubt want to take it for a test drive before buying it. We rarely take anyone’s ‘word’ for it, because we know blindly trusting others is a bad idea. Trust has to be earned, not given. The same should be true about what we believe, and who we chose to believe. If the methods of arriving at a conclusion are shrouded in mystery (the whole God in the gap argument comes to mind), we haven’t gained any real knowledge, and we would be wise not to blindly trust any belief that demands the surrender of our critical faculties. Being an atheist doesn’t require me to believe in anything without evidence. Can any Christian truly make the same claim?

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Comments (68)

  • avatar

    Mark

    With all due respect, Christians do not believe their God is “Omnibenevolent” (is that even a word?). No such word in the Bible. I have never seen Omnipotent in the Bible either.

    Christianity holds God is JUST God. A merciful God. A loving FATHER. But I don’t read anywhere in my Bible where it says he is a “benevolent” God. Perhaps his overall PLAN has a benevolent END, but it’s fair to say many of his recorded actions were not benevolent (at least on the surface, in so far as we walnut-minded humans perceive benevolence).

    As Christians, we consider God our Father. He governs with a Father’s love. Loving, healthy-minded fathers spank their children out of disciplinary love. The father knows this act is benevolent, but the child naturally thinks it is evil. Why? Because the child does not yet understand that a father’s love is not always warm and fuzzy (i.e. benevolent as the child understands the meaning of love at such a young age). It is only later in life the child thanks the father for the butt-whoopin’s.. when he comes to understand why they were necessary. So goes the spiritual walk.

    Regardless, we (Christians) lean not to our own understanding, so yes, we must have FAITH to fill in the voids. But, come one, it’s not like the voids can be filled by science or philosophy either. Name a single philosopher worth his salt who figured it all out from A to Z. None did. None will. So somewhere FAITH has to come into play.. right?

    My FAITH is that my God has the answers somewhere and he’ll reveal them to me in time. That is also my HOPE. My longing. My passion as a Christian man. For I have read as deeply as you all the philosophy and science I can get my eyes and hands on and I am utterly dissatisfied with the results. Only in the Bible have I found what my conscience considers TRUTH. Only the Bible has satisfied my search for truth.

    But you must also have some sort of faith right? You must have faith in the stability of the universe, else you wouldn’t go outside and walk under the stars at night without an armored tank to protect you from stray meteorites. You must have faith in the stability of the oxygen to go jogging or walking without an oxygen tank, else how could you exist? Of course you have TRUST in something out there, you just don’t have a name for it. I do. That’s the only difference between us… isn’t it?

    Sincerely,

    Mark

  • avatar

    F0ul

    I have no time for religion but I understand enough about life to know that you can’t specify that anything is absolute. They may not be a God, but to say that there is no God is too judgemental for me. However, it makes no difference to me whatever the answer may be.

    An Atheist is someone who has decided that there is no God. That is their belief. A belief with no facts behind it is the basis of a religion!

  • avatar

    Objective

    Wow, this article was less than convincing, but debate in the comments section was definitely worth the read. After making my way through all of it, I have come to the same conclusion I held prior to reading. Atheists and Christians are of equal ignorance. Both hold subjective opinions and neither are open to the possibility that they are wrong.
    “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance” Confucius. Unfortunately, not many here are aware of their own.

  • avatar

    Helen

    Yes you can argue that all opinions are subjective, that every thought is a belief. That a belief in scientific evidence on the basis of data is as naive as the trust required to believe the text written in holy scriptures.

    However, this simply isn’t the case. Some of these internal conclusions happen to reflect reality.

    If this was not the case there would be no medicine, no computers, no cars. We wouldn’t have a hope above the level of chance of making everything work. Now of course non of these things work perfectly, computers crash sometimes, cars fail to start, medicine doesn’t always prevent/cure illness. That’s because science starts on the basis of knowing nothing and moving forward bit by bit, building on old knowledge by testing very precise hypotheses, and sometimes refuting old knowledge as innacurate. But medicine and technologies (that are currently available, and these are continuously evolving and developing all the time) work a lot of the time. Certainly above the level of chance. This is why people are living longer, communication is easier (like you reading this right now. Without science this would never have been possible). For all of these things to work there needs to patterns of phenomena occurring that are measurable in some way that makes them predictable. That is how science works. This is scientific thinking.

    Now a large percentage of people educated to a high level, particularly within the sciences,(http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/2111174/Intelligent-people-less-likely-to-believe-in-God.html) are atheist. No, that doesn’t automatically make atheism it right, but it is arguable that people who have been taught to think in a scientific and critical manner have reached the conclusion that atheism is the logical starting point. That in order for us to claim something to be real there needs to be quantifiable data that shows it’s existence beyond it happening by accident.

    So really the challenge should be on people who believe in religion that their view is an accurate portrayal of reality, that their god and that god’s influence actually exists, rather than the people who believe in nothing.

    This is why atheism is not a religion.

    And incase my argument hasn’t convinced you, here are some further points…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3RO9RkvHN4l

  • avatar

    Devin

    I like your post, and it’s very valid. I think you may have misunderstood this “Tired Christian Claim” though, whether because you misunderstood or the Christians who made the claim misunderstood what they were saying.

    The core of this claim comes from atheism’s assertion that “God does not exist.” (I’m going to limit this to Christianity’s God for the sake of brevity). God is non falsifiable – there is no way to disprove He exists. We have no way of sensing Him (if He exists).

    So in that sense, to assert that God definitively does not exist is to say something unproven that is accepted on faith. That’s why I think of atheism as a religion.

    The only purely logical view as far as I can tell is agnosticism. If I were interested in being logical, I’d be an agnostic. But, as someone above me said, atheists and Christians alike are ignorant and petty. I think it’s good that everyone’s trying to do the right thing, though, right? Most people that are invested in their religion (or worldview) are doing it because they believe it’s going to make them a better person. I can be sad that you guys don’t have God on your side, but at least you’re doing good stuff. I just want to hug someone now gosh.

  • avatar

    bob

    evolution CANNOT be backed up with any evidence at all, because fairy tale story, that’s why atheist is a religion. besides, world moral is collapsing and the governments will form one world government to enforce everyone to have a chip in their hands and foreheads just as the bible says.

  • avatar

    Lee

    No, not believing in god is not a religion.

    I don’t believe in god in the way the concept has been presented by most human beings. That’s it. That’s the way I’ve always been and only a few years ago discovered that there was a word for people like me… technically I guess I’m more agnostic.

    It’s stupid to even call it anything. I’m a non-believer. Is that better? Does that carry with it less of a label?

    I’m not part of some organization, I don’t make plans to meet with other people like myself and praise those of the science community and other such things that people who are religious tend to do.

    What the hell sort of qualifications are there to whether something is a religion or not? Why does it matter?

  • avatar

    Faith

    I am religious, actually – not Christian, Jewish or Islam (and holy shitballs, not Wiccan, thank all that’s good and sweet!), but religious all the same if you can call it that. But, being religions, I’ve heard from other people of faith that they also deem Atheism to be a religion – why? Not because you have faith in something without proof – let’s be frank most religious people don’t even have that, so having any kind of faith doesn’t qualify in my book as religious. It’s because many Atheists (be honest, now) push their beliefs like religious fanatics.

    No, not all Atheists, but almost all that I’ve met. You have no idea how many times I’ve had someone ask me if I’m religious just so they could start in on a rant about Atheism. I mean, I have no beef with Atheists, and agree with most of what they believe, but if you don’t want to be seen as religious zealots or fanatics, for Darwin’s sake, stop shoving your ideas down people’s throats. That’s one of the biggest issues I’ve got with the major world religions – the missionary work. Maybe Jungle Baby doesn’t give two shits about Jesus or Odin or Darwin?

    What I’m about to say (or any of this, even) isn’t directed at anyone here or the author, so please bare with me. It’s my opinion based on my own run-ins with Atheists: Atheism is a smart way to go, science is – whatcha call it? Oh yeah, proof. But it’s one thing to hold beliefs, that just makes you of a certain mindset. It’s a whole other to decide that people who don’t share those beliefs are beneath you and must be brought up to speed by any means necessary – that makes you a Christian.

  • avatar

    fred johnson

    I think I turning this around will be useful here’s a concept.

    If a religious person can’t prove their god exists in a court of law
    then no claims about said god can be made in public. Any claims such as god hates homosexuals should be charged as incitement to hatred and the peron jailed until such time they can prove their god exsits.

    The point is until it is established that YOUR CLAIMED god exists, criticizing Atheists is stupid, disingenuous and a position that ignores the FACT there is NO EVIDENCE for any god claim made by any religion.

    As soon any any evidence even suggested that a particular god may actually exist a whole new field of science would open overnight.

    I’m sick or religious dicks twisting the facts and insulting Atheists
    essentially trying to bully their religion on others. Get over the first hurdle of proving your claim god exists then you will actually start to have some credibility instead of looking like a stupid asshole.

  • avatar

    Crumlish

    I don’t think that any of you understand what atheism is. Atheism is not about belief. If you are an atheist it means that you know God does not exist, There is nothing about belief in that statement. In that sense most people who claim to be atheist are probably not. Rather they are probably agnostics. Agnosticism is about belief. Also you do not have to believe in God to be religious. You can believe in God or a higher power without following a set religion. So maybe you should all brush up on your definitions before you start to argue about something that you clearly don’t understand.

  • avatar

    creationist

    you Atheists defend Atheism as well as the Muslims defend Islam…

    (obviously not killing people, but you kill peoples careers)

  • avatar

    Iggy Fuzz

    A very interesting thread indeed… Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that everyone of us has a PERSONAL belief. No matter who you are. No two christians, nor atheists understand god or the lack of it, in the same way. My beef with religions don’t lie in the PERSONAL points of view that any individual might have. That’s yours, keep it to yourself. No, for me the issue is the effect these PERSONAL views may have in the society as a whole. People being mutilated, abused, segregated, murdered in the name of ancient beliefs is just… inhuman. I don’t care about proving or disproving the existence of god, santa or the tooth fairy; Everyone has to figure that out by themselves. Now, removing the influence and impact that those very PERSONAL views have on non-spiritual matters(legal, economical and otherwise) is a cause that I will preach and crusade for. And if you think that makes me religious, well that’s just your PERSONAL point of view.

  • avatar

    max benser

    “Atheism is a Religion”
    Who say this, is a stupid person! ( Max Benser )

  • avatar

    Rob

    I wouldn’t say it is a “religion”, but I would say it takes infinitely more faith to believe we’re all a cosmic freak accident. So, I commend you on your off-the-charts faith.

  • avatar

    Marie

    I agree about atheism (having been an atheist), but I do have a question – what about naturalism? The conviction that all that exists can be explained by natural means.

    No matter how many times that claim is tested by science, it will always be declared true, because science rejects anything that isn’t natural. If a natural answer can’t be found, the explanation is “we just don’t know yet”.

    You could argue that naturalism is a position taken on faith that can’t be disproved by science because it is a base assumption of science (which means that whenever science confirms it, the confirmation is based on circular logic).

    Saying that things we don’t understand work based on natural processes could potentially be referred to as “naturalism of the gaps”, and “we don’t know yet, but there is a natural explanation… we’ll probably find it with more research, or it might be too complicated for us to understand but it IS NATURAL” is somewhat akin to “the lord moves in mysterious ways… we’ll understand someday in heaven, but even if we don’t GOD STILL DID IT”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of science, but thinking it’s the end all and be all, the ultimate explanation, describing everything in the universe naturally – that seems like faith, or at the very least (if you choose to distinguish) unfounded, unprovable belief. But then doesn’t everyone, in honest, have to accept that science is based on several unprovable assumptions that might be described as logical fallicies? Like the idea that when things are repeatable, it proves they always happen. In fact, all conclusion based on induction is a bit shaky… it has very important practical purposes, but it’s hardly proof.

    Anyway, Naturalism=faith? Thoughts?

  • avatar

    KasiSE

    Marie, what is an example of something that isn’t nature?

  • avatar

    spells for love

    Did you heard what Rob Matts said about that?

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