Another idiot claims atheism is a religion

Religious people are hilarious. How many times have we been accused of being “just another religion”? I imagine just stating this baseless canard must be a way for them to feel comforted by the idea that atheists base their beliefs on the same dogmatic mechanism they use. Unfortunately for them, it’s ludicrously easy to demonstrate just how wrong this idea is.

I fell upon an article this morning claiming that atheism is a religion (it wakes you up better than coffee). I thought it might be fun to pick apart these 8 pathetic arguments one by one, for your reading pleasure. I also suggest reading the comments, as I’m not the only one who’s done this.

1. They have their own worldview. Materialism (the view that the material world is all there is) is the lens through which atheists view the world. Far from being the open-minded, follow-the-evidence-wherever thinkers they claim to be, they interpret all data ONLY within the very narrow worldview of materialism. They are like a guy wearing dark sunglasses who chides all others for thinking the sun is out.

2. They have their own orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is a set of beliefs acceptable to a faith community. Just as there are orthodox Christian beliefs, there is an atheist orthodoxy as well. In brief, it is that EVERYTHING can be explained as the product of unintentional, undirected, purposeless evolution. No truth claim is acceptable if it cannot be subjected to scientific scrutiny.

3. They have their own brand of apostasy. Apostasy is to abandon one’s former religious faith. Antony Flew was for many years one of the world’s most prominent atheists. And then he did the unthinkable: he changed his mind. You can imagine the response of the “open-minded, tolerant” New Atheist movement. Flew was vilified. Richard Dawkins accused Flew of “tergiversation.” It’s a fancy word for apostasy. By their own admission, then, Flew abandoned their “faith.”

4. They have their own prophets: Nietzsche, Russell, Feuerbach, Lenin, Marx.

5. They have their own messiah: He is, of course, Charles Darwin. Darwin – in their view – drove the definitive stake through the heart of theism by providing a comprehensive explanation of life that never needs God as a cause or explanation. Daniel Dennett has even written a book seeking to define religious faith itself as merely an evolutionary development.

6. They have their own preachers and evangelists. And boy, are they “evangelistic.” Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens (Speaking of which, our prayers goes out to Christopher Hitchens in hopes of a speedy recovery for his cancer, we need more time with him Lord) are NOT out to ask that atheism be given respect.

7. They are seeking converts. They are preaching a “gospel” calling for the end of theism.

8. They have faith. That’s right, faith. They would have you believe the opposite. Their writings ridicule faith, condemn faith. Harris’s book is called The End of Faith. But theirs is a faith-based enterprise. The existence of God cannot be proven or disproven. To deny it takes faith. Evolution has no explanation for why our universe is orderly, predictable, measurable. In fact (atheistic) evolutionary theory has no rational explanation for why there is such a thing as rational explanation. There is no accounting for the things they hope you won’t ask: Why do we have self-awareness? What makes us conscious? From what source is there a universal sense of right and wrong? They just take such unexplained things by … faith

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1. So a world-view constitute a religion now? Religious people “postulate” a world that exists beyond what we can measure. They have the gall to call this imaginary world “supernatural” (as in “above nature). We simply chose to reject a notion that offers nothing in the way of proof. Materialism is simply postulating that everything in the Universe is the result of material interactions. So far, it’s the only explanation that holds any water.

2. If something needs to be subjected to scientific scrutiny, then it’s not orthodoxy. That word is defined as “of, pertaining to, or conforming to the approved form of any doctrine, philosophy, ideology, etc.” By its very definition, Orthodoxy is not open to debate or refinement. All beliefs must conform to previously held dogma. This is the very opposite of the way science work.

3. We’ll admit to being surprised if someone goes from atheism to theist, but that’s mostly because of how utterly rare it is. There’s certainly no punishment for it, and the only thing you lose is respect from fellow intellectuals. Where are the Inquisition and death threats you get from religions?

4. Nietzsche wasn’t an atheist (at least not a self professed one), and if you think Bertrand Russell is a prophet, then I think you’re profoundly confused as to what the word actually means. Prophets conjure messages they claim come from a supernatural entity. Philosophers attempt to use epistemology (the theory of how we know things) when formulating theories. Prophets just make shit up.

5. Charles Darwin, the anointed one who died for your sins, people! No doubt we can agree that evolution destroyed the religious argument for design, but that hardly makes Darwin messianic. The idea of evolution wasn’t new by the time Darwin postulated his theory of descent with modification, and isn’t even a hard one to grasp (if your mind isn’t polluted by religious dogma). We may respect him, but we certainly don’t revere him, or consider him our “Lord”.

6 +7. By this guy’s definition, someone trying to spread the word about vaccines and their benefits is “evangelizing”. We don’t use threats of hellfire, damnation, promise of eternal bliss for conversion, or any other tactic that religions use to try and “convert” people. We simply use reasoned arguments and logic to destroy superstitious notions about the world. What people do with that information is up to them.

8. If it required faith to believe in evolution, then it wouldn’t be science. Science is based on testable hypotheses. If you doubt the validity of the idea, you’re free to research it for yourself. Faith is not about questioning anything; it’s the persistent belief in a dogma DESPITE evidence to the contrary. That’s why whenever you have a conversation with a theist, they’ll fall back on this word as though it means something. “You can’t question my faith”. If an evolutionary biologist ever said that concerning a particular pet theory about some evolutionary process, he’d be laughed at.

While it’s true that we have only conjecture about consciousness and the evolution of morality (though still strongly supported by evolutionary mechanisms), this does not mean that religious ideas are therefor correct. They offer nothing in the way of verifiability, and are therefore invalid. The only recourse for believers is to disregard any competing idea in favor of a rigid persistence to maintain their belief structure. We call this process “faith”

Comments (8)

  • avatar

    Will Rodbourne

    Yay, thanks for fixing this so I can read all of it!

    Being a grammar nazi I decided to debate him on a single issue where his post was clearly wrong – the meaning of the word ‘apostasy’. Despite what he would have you believe its meaning is not limited to religious faith. I argued clearly and politely and even gave the benefit of the doubt.

    He showed his true colours with his first response: dismissive, rude, incorrect, prone to baseless accusations and he completely ignored the points I raised – he’s practically trolling his own comments board, lol! Twat.

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Yeah, didn’t realize if i put the “more” option in my wordpress it hides stuff behind the content wall. Guess I learned something new today.

  • avatar

    Tercero

    Loved this new post, this week i kept arguing with an ignorant if atheist was the religon of communism i was like… WTF?

  • avatar

    Brandon

    I think the argument that atheism is a religion is both weak and irrelevant.

  • avatar

    Pluto

    This reminds me of the Don Hirschberg quote: “Calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.”

  • avatar

    HappyHeretic

    It is so ironic that their whole thesis is “look you atheists are really just silly religionists like us too”.

    I think it comes back to the question about why theists are so bothered by atheists.

    I for one don’t mind seeing Darwin as some type of secular saint. A hero of free-thinking and science.

  • avatar

    Nick

    I love what Sam Harris says in “Letter to a Christian Nation” – that the term ‘atheist’ shouldn’t really exist. It is simply the default position. a – theist i.e. not a theist. If anything, theists should be described by a word beginning with an ‘a’ – perhaps arationalists?

    It also amuses me when it is claimed that Athiests have their own messiah – be it Darwin or Dawkins. The difference, of course that while a messiah can do and say no wrong the same is not true for the individuals mentioned. Both Darwin and Dawkins got a lot right, but also both got, or will be shown to have got, a lot wrong. This is scientific progress and inevitable. As Jake said, we respect both but consider neither infallable.

    About point 8 – the only leap of faith I personally have to make is that evidence is the best way to find out how the world works. Seems reasonable to me!

  • avatar

    J.N. Hudson

    If I may…

    “1. They have their own worldview. Materialism”

    To an atheist Materialism is more a fact of life than a worldview,there simply isn’t any evidence to indicate there is anything other than the material world. By that, I mean material in the physics sense, as in matter and energy. As an atheist myself, and every other atheist I know, materialism is but a fraction of their worldview. You can’t reduce a worldview to a single word and you certainly can’t then apply that word to a vast swath of people.

    “2. They have their own orthodoxy.”

    To address his comment, Evolutionary theory and atheism are not even remotely related, much less inextricably tied to each other. Atheism in to required to accept evolution, nor does one need to accept evolutionary theory the lack belief in a deity. There were atheist long, long before there was evolutionary theory. Moreover, NO ONE who understands even the basics of evolutionary theory thinks that “everything” is explainded by it,much less by your strawman “unintentional, undirected, purposeless” evolution.

    “3. They have their own brand of apostasy.”

    So just because Dawkins, or any other atheist for that matter, that is therefore the opinion that every other atheist will hold? That’s patently ridiculous, the author is simply attempting to equate disagreement with apostasy.

    “4. They have their own prophets: Nietzsche, Russell, Feuerbach, Lenin, Marx.”

    I’ve never read Russell and Feuerbach, and have profound, fundamental and irresolvable disagreements with Nietzsche, Marx, and Lenin, yet I am still and atheist, and I came to that conclusion on my own, not because I read it in a philosophy book. Further more, I doubt anyone considers any of these authors to be “prophets”, it seems more like a cheap tactic to equate atheism with Marxism/Leninism, communism, and nihilism.

    “5. They have their own messiah: He is, of course, Charles Darwin”

    Atheism IS NOT Evolution theory. There have been atheists as long as there has been religion.

    “Darwin – in their view – drove the definitive stake through the heart of theism by providing a comprehensive explanation of life that never needs God as a cause or explanation.”

    Neither Darwin nor his theory makes any claims on the matter. Atheist don’t need Darwin to “drive a stake in the heart of theism”, Religion does that just fine itself by not being able to bring any actual evidence to the table. The author seems to actually believe that evolutionary theory is not only the basis for atheism, but also an intractable tenet of atheism. Unfortunetly for him atheism is nothing more than a descriptor for someone who answers “No” to the question “Do you believe in a god or gods?”

    “6. They have their own preachers and evangelists.”

    Oh please. This is tantamount to claiming that EVERYONE who advocates for a position is a preacher or evangelist. It’s simply absurd. Are people who advocate lower taxes now evangelists for the lox tax religion?

    “7. They are seeking converts. They are preaching a “gospel” calling for the end of theism.”

    Bullshit. Who is calling for an “end” of theism? Name them, quote them, provide some evidence to back up your claims other than self aggrandizing assertions of fact.

    “8. They have faith. That’s right, faith.”

    It doesn;t take faith to not believe in something. Do you have “faith” that Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster do not exist?

    “The existence of God cannot be proven or disproven. To deny it takes faith.”

    Disbelief is not the same thing as denial, look it up.

    “Evolution has no explanation for why our universe is orderly, predictable, measurable. ”

    Again with this shit. First, evolution and atheism are not the same thing.

    Second, Evolution does not claim or attempt to explain anything outside of it’s purview which is explaining the diversity of life by means of descent with modification by means of natural selection. It’s like claiming that mathematics is false because it can’t explain why grass is green.

    Third, Religion doesn’t explain it either. Religion just says “God did it”. That is not an explination, it’s an assertion of ignorence.

    “In fact (atheistic) evolutionary theory has no rational explanation for why there is such a thing as rational explanation.”

    If evolutionary theory is atheistic, as you assert, then by all means point to the part of evolutionary theory that makes any claim whatsoever concerning the existence or lack thereof of any deity. Once again you are asking evolutionary theory to explain something outside it’s purview and then acting as if it is therefore invalid. Evolutionary theory cannot explain why 2+2=4 either because that is mathematics and logic, just like math, is not meant to be explained by evolution.

    “There is no accounting for the things they hope you won’t ask: Why do we have self-awareness? What makes us conscious? From what source is there a universal sense of right and wrong? They just take such unexplained things by … faith”

    Things such as conciousness and self awareness can irrefutably be demonstrated to exist and therefore do not need to be taken on faith. The fact that we might not have an explination for something does not mean it cannot or will never be explained, nor does it mean that it can only be explained by the existence your particular deity.

    As for your assertion that there is a “universal sense of right and wrong”, there is an incredibly amount of evidence to the contrary. The fact is that both concepts are exteremely subjective. Not all religions or societies hold the same idea’s of what is right or wrong. In fact what is considered right or wrong in christianity alone has varied greatly over the years with actions that were once commonplace and accepted are now considered unthinkable and vise versa (i.e. Slavery, suffering witches to live, divorce, tolerating heresy and apostasy, etc.)

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