Friday, September 13, 2013

Is Atheism a Religion?

I’ve said for many years now – If you carefully observe the practices, behaviors, expressions, writings and even traditions of Atheists – that their groups have all the trappings of ‘Religion’.

Whoever said that atheists aren’t religious? There books; or shall I say bibles (“bible” is from the Greek word biblos and is translated as “book”) — are indicators that atheism is a faith that has its own set of scriptures.

Would Richard Dawkins ever acknowledge that his rabid atheism is actually a religious view?

Atheism is the belief that there is no god. According to the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

“Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

Some atheists say - “Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color”

However, atheists make such claims so Atheism can avoid legal imperatives placed on religions in many countries, and can avoid some of the ideological hang-ups people have about “religion”. Here in the United States; atheists and their groups argue they are not a ‘religion’ so that they will not end up forced from the open market place of public expression (see freedom of speech and press in the U.S. Constitution), This way they can try to silence people of faith – their biggest critics; and still have their own freedoms to express their world view. It also creates a false dichotomy between science (which they claim must be naturalistic and secular) and religion.

At the end of the day – Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Atheism, etc.; are ‘Worldviews’ – the lens that someone sees the world through. A worldview in and of its self is not a religion. A religion; as defined with a certain criteria:

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.
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.
3. The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:

Based on the correctly understood definition of the word ‘Religion’ – it is safe to say that Atheism is a religion.

Atheism, as defined in the contemporary western sense: is not just the lack of belief in a god, but the assertion about the non-existence of any gods, spirits, or divine or supernatural beings. Atheists in this sense are metaphysical naturalists, and as such, they DO follow a religion.

A better way to determine whether a worldview is a religion is to look for certain characteristics that religions have in common. The framework set forth by Ninian Smart, commonly known as the Seven Dimensions of Religion, is widely accepted by anthropologists and researchers of religion as broadly covering the various aspects of religion, without focusing on things unique to specific religions.

The seven dimensions proposed by Smart are narrative, experiential, social, ethical, doctrinal, ritual and material. Not every religion has every dimension, nor are they all equally important within an individual religion. Smart even argues that the “secularization” of western society is actually a shift of focus from the doctrinal and ritual to the experiential.

This world beats to the rhythm of religion in a thousand ways, and folks who follow these patterns are religious -- including atheists.

Religion certainly includes an idea of a God under whom man is inherently subservient, but religion also governs the belief system undergirding the way people think about, and live, their lives.It tells them who their authority is and it informs their values and behavior. It gives them their sense of morality and goodwill, and it guides them in the way they treat themselves and others. A religion does nothing less than construct one’s view of the world. Atheism is a ‘World View’ with all of the seven dimensions stated by Smart – and therefor is certainly a religion.

Atheists are, in fact, some of the most religious people.

First, they have a functioning God under whom they are subservient (normally its 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.

Once that’s all settled all that’s left is the preaching. And they preach all the time!

If you pay close attention to practicing Atheists; the activities of their groups and organizations – it is safe and fair to say they are ‘Practicing a Religion’.

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