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Raf

Is atheism a religion?

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Of course it is.

Of course it's not.

Theism is a belief that God (or Gods) exists.

A-Theism is an absence of this belief.

Religion is an organized conglomeration of beliefs.

Neither one (Theism or Atheism), in and of itself, constitutes a religion.

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It's all in how you define your terms. The real issue at hand is "what do you mean by 'religion'?" The answer to THAT question determines the answer to the larger question.

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The belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers, regarded as creating and governing the universe.

Atheism is not a religion.

A particular variety of such belief, especially when organized into a system of doctrine and practice.

Atheism is not a religion.

A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.

Atheism is not a religion.

The life or condition of a person in a religious order.

Atheism is not a religion.

A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

Atheism CAN be a religion by this definition, but it's still questionable. Atheists are fond of saying things like "NOT collecting stamps is not a hobby," and "bald is not a hair color." That may be true. But baldness CAN be a hairstyle. If, for example, it requires maintenance (head shaving), etc.

I think atheism is a religion SOLELY in the legal, constitutional sense. That is, you are not allowed to discriminate against someone based on his religion. If atheism doesn't count as a religion, then you can discriminate? No. For that legal purpose, having no religion has to be treated AS a religion. Can we put a monument that says "There Is No God" in a courthouse? No. It endorses a religion -- atheism.

In most ways that matter, atheism is not a religion. There can be religions that are atheistic (humanism, etc), but in those cases, OTHER ELEMENTS make it religious, not the atheism.

Thoughts?

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Another set of definitions:

1.

a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

This is a tough one to grapple with, and it depends a great deal on what is meant by "beliefs." I believe that the Earth travels around the sun, but is that a "belief"? No, it's a reality that I recognize. I'm wearing a maroon shirt right now. That's not a belief. It's a reality I recognize. I have a lot of realities I recognize about the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, along with some gaps, but the facts that I recognize (the Big Bang, the cooling, the age of the sun and earth, etc. are not properly "beliefs" in this context.

On the complicated subject of "First Cause," I have no belief. Literally. I don't know what it was. Does that leave room for God? Only insofar as EVERY gap in knowledge leaves room for God, until the gap is filled and the question is answered.

I have a belief that when we determine what the first cause was, it will be discovered to be natural and in keeping with the laws of physics, etc. Is that a religious belief? I'd argue no: it's a reasonable extrapolation based on what is known now. It could be proven wrong, but I would be surprised. Does a reasonable extrapolation require a religious "leap of faith"? I think not. But that's my opinion. In any event, the second half of this definition CLEARLY does not apply to atheism.

2.

a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:

the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

Atheism is not a religion. There are no beliefs or practices that are agreed upon. There is one answer to one question: Do you believe there is a God? In other words, do you accept or reject the affirmative claim "There is a God"? If your answer is yes, you are a theist. If no, you are an atheist. This is not a KNOWLEDGE claim. It is a belief claim. You can have a high degree of confidence in your position, but most people would agree that they don't have irrefutable proof of their position. So, no, under this definition, it would be VERY difficult to call atheism a religion. You could have religions that are atheistic in content. But it's the OTHER ELEMENTS that make it a religion, not the atheism. Lots of Buddhists are atheists. They don't believe in a God, but they believe in things most other atheists would argue are irrational.

3.

the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:

a world council of religions.

Now there's a definition sufficiently vague to include atheism. Maybe not the "practices" part, but the belief that "there is no God" actually comprises a host of more individual beliefs (there is insufficient evidence for God A, God B, God C, God ABC, God AB, God D... ad infinitum). So it can be a collection of beliefs if you hold it up at a certain angle.

6.

something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience:

to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

Again, it's not the atheism that's a religion here. It's the accompanying beliefs (humanism, for example).

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The claim that atheism is a religion is usually an attempt to counter the allegation that a given religion is irrational and has no evidence to support it. Often found in company with assertions that evolution is "just a theory" (theory being defined by implication as a hare-brained idea not backed up by evidence)

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Of course it is.

Of course it's not.

Is this analogous to the Schrodinger's cat conundrum?

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No.

More like, it depends on how you're defining "religion."

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There is a certain amount of dogma and assumptions associated with atheism.

I disagree.

Just the opposite, I'd say...a lack of assumptions and dogma. I think that some atheists' vocal opposition to religion may come across as dogmatic, but there is no central authority - no atheist pope, no atheist's bible no standard (other than non-belief in gods) that all atheists adhere to. Even with that, there's a spectrum of the level of assurance that atheists have in that idea

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"Associated with" is an interesting choice of words.

Atheism means one thing and one thing only: I don't believe in God.

It doesn't make me liberal or conservative.

It does not make me moral or immoral.

It does not make me reasonable or unreasonable.

It does not make me angry or happy.

There are NO assumptions "associated with" atheism. And there is certainly no dogma.

However, because many atheists agree on certain issues, people assume that those issues are part of their atheism. They aren't. It's kind of the other way around. Those issues lead to atheism. They are not assumptions or dogma. Dogma is when something is true because someone says so. "Thus saith the Lord." Atheism doesn't have that. No one gets "because I said so" in atheism.

So, yeah, let me just ask: What assumptions and dogma are "associated with" atheism?

Evolution? Neither an assumption nor dogma.

Naturalism? Neither an assumption nor dogma.

Science? Neither an assumption nor dogma.

Do tell, what assumptions and dogma are associated with atheism? This ought to be fun.

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Now mind you, I'm getting most of this from youtube videos

One is that one can't be a Republican.

People who believe in god can't be rational.

That's just for starters

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"One can't be a Republican."

Ever hear of a guy named Christopher Hitchens?

Ok, how's about... http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/06/16/yes-there-are-republican-atheists-out-there-heres-why-im-one-of-them/

or

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2015/0305/Young-conservative-and-atheist-A-test-for-the-GOP

or

http://thehumanist.com/commentary/wait-youre-an-atheist-and-a-conservative

There are some atheists who are of the OPINION that being Republican is incompatible with being atheist. There are some black people who believe that being Republican is incompatible with being black, and gay people who believe being Republican is incompatible with being gay. Those are opinions, not facts. You can be atheist and Republican. Heck, you can be a gay, black, atheist Republican.

The only thing required of atheism is, when someone asks you whether you believe in the existence of God, you must not answer "yes." That's it. You can be pro-choice or pro-life. You can be a communist or a Reaganomics capitalist. You can favor government spending or be a Rand Paul libertarian. Atheism requires no position on any of those issues.

"People who believe in God can't be rational."

That is, of course, a caricature of what many atheists really do think. But let's be real: theists can be rational. Most theists are. If theists were not capable of being rational, there would be no point in starting threads challenging theists on issues of morality or exploring the fact that scriptures contradict each other. Of COURSE theists can be rational! But the notion that atheists think theists cannot be rational makes an excellent strawman.

Not only do I know that believers can be rational, I'm counting on it. I would not be initiating or participating in dialogue if I did not think believers could be rational.

[added thought: One can also be atheist and bat-crap crazy/ utterly irrational. Atheism doesn't make you rational.]

Edited by Raf

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I should add:

I'm really interested in what you mean by "associated with," because my response is taking it one way, while you may mean something else entirely.

What I read: "Associated with" means if you're atheist, by extension you should also hold these beliefs/positions. THAT is specifically what I'm arguing against. In that regard, there are no dogmas "associated with" atheism in the A therefore B sense.

What you could also mean: "Associated with" means there's a correlation between certain belief/belief systems and atheism. I would not argue with that at all. But a correlation is not an A therefore B proposition.

I'll give some obvious examples. Evolution, abortion and life after death.

There is nothing about being atheist that requires one to accept evolution. Nothing. At all. Throw in Big Bang cosmology (first proposed by a theist, by the way) and heliocentrism (the belief that the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around). Atheism addresses none of these things. You can be an atheist who believes life doesn't evolve, the sun revolves around the earth and the universe has always existed in, pretty much, its present form. On the other hand, you can believe in evolution, the Big Bang and heliocentrism while still believing in God. Heck, some people believe in all those things AND believe in Yahweh! They're not mutually exclusive.

BUT, if you were to tell me you're an atheist, I would bet dollars to donuts that you also believe in evolution et al. There's a correlation there.

Similarly, there is a correlation between being a pro-lifer and being a theist. But would it surprise you to learn that there are pro-life atheists? There are. Many. What is it about atheism that precludes someone from believing that life begins at conception? Or that even if we quibble over the word "life," that a zygote or fetus is worthy of protection? Nothing in atheism says you can't believe an unborn child, whether conceived nine seconds or nine months ago, is worthy of legal protection. Here's one interesting article on it: http://www.lifenews.com/2012/02/28/confessions-of-a-pro-life-atheist-why-i-fight-abortion/

But if you were to tell me you're an atheist, I would sooner predict you are pro-choice than pro-life.

Finally, life after death. Atheism means you don't believe in gods. That doesn't mean you don't believe in souls or something like them that survive beyond out bodies. You can believe in ghosts, spirits, leprechauns, fairies, Spice Girls and astrology while still being an atheist because you don't believe in gods. Is there something in atheism that precludes someone from believing in reincarnation? Absolutely not. Atheism simply doesn't address any of those issues unless you expand the definition of the term. But once you expand the definition of atheism, you're no longer talking about it. You're talking about atheism AND... Whatever the AND represents.

But if you were to tell me you were an atheist, I would predict you don't believe in ghosts or life after death.

So, a correlation? Yeah, I'd agree with that. But a statement that atheism necessitates certain other beliefs? No. Atheism necessitates one answer to one question. Do you believe in God? If your answer is not "yes," you are an atheist. If your answer is "maybe," you're still an atheist, because your answer wasn't yes, but you might be more comfortable with the term "agnostic." Fine. If that makes you happy.

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You can believe God exists without believing God exists. (That's not a nonsensical statement)

It's a question of what you think God is.

The atheism question more politics to figure out who's team you're on. (Are you on my team, in my division, conference or league or worse?)

Therefore if we are ever at odds I'll know how to argue with or against you, or persuade you, or others around you. Or who I need to stand behind.

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You can believe God exists without believing God exists. (That's not a nonsensical statement)

It's a question of what you think God is.

Well, it's not a nonsensical statement if you're equicovating (that is, changing the definition of "God" and/or "exists" halfway through the sentence). I can believe Thor exists without believing Zeus exists, for example. I can believe Yahweh exists as a historical motivator without believing that he exists objectively in reality. But if I'm not changing the meaning of either word, then yes, it is a nonsensical statement.

I've often said I have no problem with public displays of religion, but I have a serious problem with public displays of religion. If you don't know that I've changed the meaning of "public" in the middle of the sentence, it makes no sense. Public can be the opposite of private. It can also mean government funded/endorsed, etc. I have a problem with the latter, but not the former.

The atheism question more politics to figure out who's team you're on. (Are you on my team, in my division, conference or league or worse?)

That's not a coherent thought. Given your record of coherent expressions of your thoughts, I will ask you to clarify what you're trying to communicate here.

Therefore if we are ever at odds I'll know how to argue with or against you, or persuade you, or others around you. Or who I need to stand behind.

O

K.

I'm sorry, relate that to the topic, please?

Edited by Raf

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Well, it's not a nonsensical statement if you're equicovating (that is, changing the definition of "God" and/or "exists" halfway through the sentence). I can believe Thor exists without believing Zeus exists, for example. I can believe Yahweh exists as a historical motivator without believing that he exists objectively in reality. But if I'm not changing the meaning of either word, then yes, it is a nonsensical statement.

Does the United States exist? What makes anything exist?

God exists because his believers do.

But doesn't absolutely mean he exists.

Is that any clearer?

. .

That's not a coherent thought. Given your record of coherent expressions of your thoughts, I will ask you to clarify what you're trying to communicate here.

Um, our interaction (on GSC) is extremely brief, to my memory.

We all live among those who disagree with us, and will do us harm for having a different opinion. If that is more clear.

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. . .

O

K.

I'm sorry, relate that to the topic, please?

Reviewing the opening post, it is typically a question for baiting, in my experience.

I believe you were discussing being judged based on a label in a previous post, which was what I was hinting at. If I don't connect with your reasoning, sorry. I tried.

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The question is absurd. "Ist's" proclaim against "Ism's": I beleive in something I don't believe.

Rid'n the rick'n fence - don't that make your balls hurt?

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To ascert to non-beleif is a paracox. You become a parasite on those with beleif.

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The question is absurd. "Ist's" proclaim against "Ism's": I beleive in something I don't believe.

I disagree, the question isn't absurd; it's an accusation that is often made against atheists, that it's a "religion"

Who do you imagine believes something that they don't believe? That sounds a bit like Wierwille's nonsensical rant about atheists not being possible

Rid'n the rick'n fence - don't that make your balls hurt?

Who do you imagine is riding a fence?

To ascert to non-beleif is a paracox. You become a parasite on those with beleif.

I assume you mean paradox...how so? How do you figure those who do not believe are parasitic upon those who believe?

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To ascert to non-beleif is a paradox. You become a parasite on those with beleif.

True and false. There is no paradox.. If not for theism, there would be no need to define atheism. Similarly, there is no need to label those who do not believe in fairies, goblins, wizardry and astrology. However, using the word "parasite" is misleading. Are non-Muslims parasites feeding off Islam? Are non-Bigfootists parasites off believers in Sasquatch?

Theism is a belief in a god or gods. Atheism is the absence of that belief (in someone with the capacity to believe it). It is not a system of beliefs. It merely answers one question: "do you believe in god/gods?" And that answer is no.

Bolshevik, I'll answer more of your comments later, but just because we have barely interacted does not mean I have not read your posts directed at other people. I find you generally likable and coherent. My comments were not intended to be antagonistic and I apologize if, in my clumsiness, they came off that way.

Edited by Raf

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Does the United States exist? What makes anything exist?

God exists because his believers do.

But doesn't absolutely mean he exists.

Is that any clearer?

It's abundantly clear. Thank you. And as I said, this is equivocating on what it means to "exist." The existence of believers establishes that the concept of God exists, but it doesn't establish that he objectively exists. Similarly, the existence of my 4-year-old establishes that the concept of Santa Claus and the Sandman exist, but it doesn't mean Santa Claus and the Sandman objectively exist.

Um, our interaction (on GSC) is extremely brief, to my memory.

We all live among those who disagree with us, and will do us harm for having a different opinion. If that is more clear.

I addressed the first part. As for the second, I have no intention of burning anyone at the stake for disagreeing with me.

Reviewing the opening post, it is typically a question for baiting, in my experience.

There is no "baiting" going on here. Just a frequently asked question that I elected to make into a thread.

I believe you were discussing being judged based on a label in a previous post, which was what I was hinting at. If I don't connect with your reasoning, sorry. I tried.

I would like for my positions and arguments to be judged on their merits, not because they're coming from an atheist. SIT and the presence of errors in the Bible can be explored honestly without necessitating the conclusion that there is no God.

Bolshevik originally wrote: "The atheism question more politics to figure out who's team you're on. (Are you on my team, in my division, conference or league or worse?)"

I didn't understand what that meant, and I called the comment incoherent. After reading the explanation, I think it's just missing a punctuation mark or another word.

"The atheism question: More politics to figure out who's team you're on. (Are you on my team, in my division, conference or league or worse?)"

OR

"The atheism question is more politics to figure out who's team you're on. (Are you on my team, in my division, conference or league or worse?)"

I think I would have understood your point better had you done that. Just a suggestion.

Raf

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Raf, I think we're getting a little closer to understanding one another. I wasn't thinking you'd be burning anyone at the stake. From a practical standpoint, depending on our situations out here in the real world, other people judge by labels.

Other people might put all atheists into one group, and call that a religion. The individual atheists might not see themselves as a cohesive group with one another, but if a vast majority of non-atheist do, it's a reality to deal with. If atheism is a religion to others it might as well be to you, as an atheist, practically speaking.

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause" - I was also thinking of that this morning, it is a good analogy. But maybe money is a better analogy? It's also backed by faith, is conceptual, and there are those who'd rather ignore it.

(I'll try to pick it up on my grammar, thanks for the suggestion.)

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When someone says "atheism is a religion," I find that the best follow-up question is, "what do you mean by that?"

The answer to that question allows for an exploration of what ideas are truly being asserted.

By itself, atheism is not a religion. As I've noted, it is one answer to one question.

But atheism is rarely by itself. There are correlated ideas that frequently accompany it, and there are those who sincerely believe those ideas are "religious." I contend that they are not, that they merely answer some of the same questions that were once the exclusive domain of religion. Why are we here? Atheists' answer: There is no "reason." We just are. How did we get here? Atheists' answer: It's a long story. Sit down for a bit. This is going to take a while. What is the meaning of life? Atheists' answer: There is none, but there is lots of meaning in life.

The trick is to recognize what I've stated in the previous paragraph as possible answers of atheists, but they are not answered by atheism itself. You can be an atheist and a socialist, communist or capitalist. You can be atheist and gay or straight. You can be atheist and be humanist or nihilist. The sky's the limit. The only thing you can't be as an atheist is theist.

Edited by Raf

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