For the last time, Atheism is not a religion
Religious people just don’t get it, do they? They think when we talk about the belief in God we are in fact acknowledging ‘his’ existence, and that our own struggle against the brutalizing influence of religion is itself a kind of faith. It’s enough to make your head want to burst. Especially frustrating are these kind of lazy atheist hit pieces; brave articles that refuse to allow a comment section out of fear that the Internet will rip them a new a-hole.
The latest trashy piece of non-writing is entitled Atheism is a religion, too, a kind of ‘rubber-meets-glue’ trope that has been floating around for quite some time, and shows no sign of letting up.
Atheists are, in fact, some of the most religious people. First, they have a functioning God under whom they are subservient (normally it’s science or rationality, but mainly themselves), and that idea of God informs the way they live and interpret their lives. It informs their biases and determines their values, and governs any sense of morality or ethics they adhere too, or ignore.
I find myself wondering what kind of argument would work on such a confused mind. Should I start by trying to understand if this is an insult or a compliment in their eyes? Isn’t faith a good thing, and if so, why do they ‘accuse’ us of faith if they think that shit is awesome? Should I even bother to explain the difference between a belief supported by evidence and one ‘supported’ by the complete lack of it?
Instead of just ignoring God, or the idea of God, atheist preachers feel somehow compelled to rid the Earth of him; so they argue endlessly that theists can’t prove God exists without confessing that they can’t prove he doesn’t either.
You won’t find a serious atheist who doesn’t wish everyone COULD keep their opinions to themselves, especially when it comes to beliefs about the nature of reality; but the truth is that beliefs – as Sam Harris pointed out – do matter. They influence not just how you see the world and others, but how you treat them as well. When you think the vast majority of the world is doomed to hell-fire, it tends to skew your judgement a little. What I still find fascinating/annoying is just how shocked some religionists are when you tell them their objections on homosexuality, reproductive rights, and women’s role in society is destructive, not just offensive. Aren’t I entitled to my own opinion, they ask? Sure, but only if it means I don’t have to live by it. Such a compromise, however, is not in the cards.
It’s also irritating how religious people have never really understood the idea that anyone making an extraordinary claim is required to provide extraordinary evidence for that claim in the first place. Putting the burden of disproving an idea makes no sense: no one is required to disprove trolls, fairies, or unicorns. They can be dismissed outright even though we can never be 100% sure they don’t exist, because no evidence has ever been presented to prove the idea is true to begin with.
For C.S. Lewis, the iconic British scholar, was himself a convert from the religion of the atheism to the religion of Christianity because, as he later said: “atheism turns out to be too simple.”
The famous Christian philosopher Tertullian made a similar claim; that it was precisely the absurdity of Christianity which led him to believe it must be true. This kind of tortured logic and the desperate need to cling to elaborate myth betrays the poor thinking at work here. Atheism may have seemed too simple for Lewis, but it certainly isn’t a valid argument against it. “Water is wet” may be a simple concept, but it doesn’t mean the physical laws involved aren’t insanely elaborate, complex, and at times, maybe a bit weird. As the mathematician Laplace is said to have answered Napoleon when asked why God was not included in his master work “there is no need for such a hypothesis, Sir.” I echo his statement here.
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