Home > Uncategorized > An Atheist’s Perspective: The Religion Question Pt. 1

An Atheist’s Perspective: The Religion Question Pt. 1

Atheists hear the claim quite frequently, that atheism is a religion just like the very religions the atheists rail against. The claim is made in order to imply that the non-believers are hypocrites. Even worse than that, is that the atheist is ignorant of their own status as a follower of a religion at the very best. At the very worst they are lying but in either case, the hypocrisy accusation is the point. One of the problems with this accusation is that it is made by religious extremists postulating some kind of hidden conspiracy which seeks to destroy Christianity (at least in the U.S. or in any other predominantly Christian country). 

However just because the lunatic fringe is saying something doesn’t make it false. It’s usually a good indicator that something isn’t true but it doesn’t affect the truth of a statement that would be slipping into the fallacy of ad hominem. This accusation though isn’t just made by the lunatics a good indicator would be to do an internet search for the question “is atheism a religion?” and answers from both sides of the answer will come out. Most of the results from Christian blogs and op-ed pieces are those that are desperately trying to make the case that atheism is indeed a religion, just like Christianity. We have, at the very least a debate topic. 

Aside from some clever rejoinders such as, “if atheism is a religion then bald is a hair color” the points that are brought up must at least be addressed. I’m not going to go through every single point that is made, but only the most popular points. I should note that I have not conducted a statistical survey of the top responses, but rather I have perused several sites (and I mean “peruse” in the correct sense) to sift out what they must feel are the strongest points. 

1] “Atheists have faith too…” and “It take faith to believe that there is no god just as much…”

This is the most common accusation. So much so that even without beginning to peruse the websites this claim appeared in the byline beneath the title of the search result. It is so popular that it has to be the number 1, thus the first entry in the series. The claim has a number of issues which it implies. It’s raising several questions that must be addressed.

The first is that all religions require belief without evidence. Is this true? It would appear so. Any belief system categorized as a religion has the aspect of faith attached to it. Even the falsely labelled “atheistic-religion” Buddhism has a belief system that is faith based. Being a Buddhist means believing in reincarnation, such as the Dalai Lama, which is an entirely unverifiable position. One might also wish to claim that the Unitarians are a religion without faith, but modern Unitarianism does posit a god (for most of the people there) it’s just a Deistic god that doesn’t get involved.

The second point they make is based on a logical position. They correctly observe that you cannot prove a negative, thus the atheist is making a claim based purely on belief. The first part is true, you cannot prove a negative–unless that negative is a logical contradiction, but it is misplaced in application. I don’t believe that there is no god, I know that the evidence to support the positive claim “god exists” is insufficient. If the evidence were presented, I would know a god exists, but it isn’t there. While that statement is a bit of a mouthful the problem lies in that most atheists just shorten it down to “there is no god.” Now, sometimes I say it also as a substitution for saying “your religion is false” and I admit that it is my error. I am part of the problem here, but there is no faith based claim on my part. Show me the evidence and I’ll know. 

With the exceptions of some militants who are just trying to piss people off, I know no atheist that makes the definitive claim that god does not exist. He/She/It could exist, there is no logical contradiction and thus the question of existence must be labelled as an improbable possibility. 

The third and final point about faith is when the theists twist the claim into making the accusation that atheists place their faith in scientific principles such as the theory of evolution, big bang, and for some reason that I don’t understand: climate change (it has nothing to do with any religion so someone let me know why this is lumped in). Their accusation is that evolution requires faith. The trouble is that it does not: evidence based science does not require belief, neither does math, or anything for which a proof is offered whether it is based on empirical evidence or some kind of rational proof. This third implication is the weakest because it does not understand the method by which knowledge is obtained and severely misunderstands the scientific method. That I understand how addition works is not based on faith it is based on reason. I know that 1+1=2 I don’t believe it, the dead coming back to life requires belief chemistry does not.

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