Atheism=religion? or not?


I’ve heard two claims a lot in the past year, and I’m going to set them out here for your perusal.

1. Atheism is a religion.
2. Look where atheism leads: godless Communism!

The irony of juxtaposing these frequent criticisms is rich. If atheism is a religion, why is the absence of religion to blame when considering the crimes of Stalin? Without a god–any god–to keep society in check, it degenerated into godless atheism…except…they had the “god” of atheism, because that’s a religion, of course…but atheism isn’t a “god” because Stalin’s Russia was godless…etc.

Atheism’s critics should make up their minds and not play on both sides of the critical fence here. The logical conclusion, of course, is to realize that atheism isn’t a religion, but political leader cults and dictatorships often are. In atheism, there are no gods, no dogma, no required beliefs, no rituals–nothing but the absence of one particular belief. This is an absence of belief that atheists can agree on with Muslims when discussing Hinduism, and agree on with Jews when discussing Christianity. It’s simply rejecting belief all gods instead of rejecting all but one as Muslims do. There is nothing in atheism to dictate what you (or Stalin) should do, but religion takes the opposite approach.

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16 Responses to Atheism=religion? or not?

  1. This comes up so often. Atheism most definitely is not a religion, it’s just a load of ridiculous rhetoric from religious people who want to portray atheists as hypocritical.

  2. stenafie says:

    This post is incredibly offensive, bias, and stereotypical. I agree with all the posts that claim Atheism is NOT a religion. Atheists believe in doing good without god. Religion rewards good behavior in exchange for things such as heaven and having virgins at your disposal after death. Atheists do good for the sake of doing good.

  3. A. Dave says:

    I don’t believe in any gods. Is that a religion? If so, then isn’t your disbelief in most gods also a religion? One religion for each god you don’t believe in? So each Christian therefore has thousands of religions. Each Muslim and Jew, too.

    If atheism is a religion, then unemployment is a career.

  4. clemenssuter says:

    The argument that Atheism leads to communism is pretty cheap. After all, Hitler can be and is regarded by many as a Christian. He was baptized, talked an awful lot about the church and was quite chummy with the Vatican.

    • smilingcynic says:

      Communism comes first, then atheism is imposed on the peop,le by the state.
      Hitler remarked to one of his top men that ” that he would always be a catholic”
      I’m anti- commie as well as atheist. Perhaps the sheep are happy to be led into communism or nazism when their IMAGINARY god just doesn’t seem to be helping.

  5. Right on. I understand why Christians make the claim. Atheists have become more organized and unite on matters of human rights, but in no way is it a religion…or even a belief.

    When i became an atheist, I did create a system of beliefs, but these beliefs were based on undoing the ideas of morality I learned from Christianity.

  6. smilingcynic says:

    Christians.
    Christ died on the cross for your sins. How do you repay him? By wearing crosses around your neck. Why would he want to come back to a world where there are a couple of 2 BILLION people sporting a reminder of the worst experience of his life. AMDG

  7. Great post, and spot-on.

    A slightly more convincing argument is that atheism is a faith, by which critics mean, “You can’t prove that God doesn’t exist, thus your belief that He does not exist is not based on evidence—it’s a faith.” This would be true if self-described atheists were 100% certain of the fact that there is no god, but I think one would be hard pressed to find such a person. Most of us are de facto atheists who merely find the existence of God so unlikely that it’s not worth trying to believe.

    Totalitarian governments always take control of religion, either by controlling the official church or by banning religion. This is simply because they don’t want any competition for the hearts & minds of the people. If anything, the self-sacrificial preachings of religion are more conducive to totalitarian rule than atheism.

  8. E. H. says:

    “If Atheism is a religion, then health is a disease.”
    Clark Adams

  9. theguygd says:

    I just can’t understand why religious people say atheism is a religion. Why would they want to equate themselves with that which they oppose? Like when creationists say believing in evolution takes more faith. Isn’t faith a good thing in your eyes? I can’t imagine a scientist ever saying that creationism is more rational than evolution. Seems counter-productive

  10. gislebertus says:

    I don’t think atheism is a religion at all. Religion is ritualistic while atheism is not. Religion is organised while most atheism is not.

    In regard to the second point isn’t atheism a byproduct of communism…not the other way round? Communism leads to dictators who don’t want to share the limelight with a pesky God…

  11. Pingback: Logical Fallacy Thursday | Steel City Skeptics

  12. mikhailovich says:

    Right. I’d agree that you can’t get from a negative to a positive, and that human actions are based on beliefs or ideas, not the absence of beliefs or ideas. In that sense, a simple negation (like atheism or a-tooth-fairy-ism) isn’t going to lead someone to do anything by itself; other beliefs have to come into play to inform an action.

    So naturally, human empathy doesn’t flow from atheism. I’m not sure where you got that idea (maybe because I have empathy and I’m an atheist?). It comes from a brain that is capable of imagining what other entities are feeling or experiencing.

    I’m sorry if you feel like empathy is an “embarrassingly vague” concept. Perhaps this definition from Wikipedia will help: “Empathy is the capacity to recognize or understand another’s state of mind or emotion.” Read more.

  13. T Tennent says:

    I am largely in agreement with this posting. As you, quite correctly, pointed out… “there is nothing in atheism to dictate what you (or Stalin) should do.” It looks like even the embarrassingly vague notion of universal human “empathy” which was espoused a few weeks ago must find its source somewhere else… in Islam, perhaps, or in Christianity, but apparently not in atheism. As “dave” said in the previous comment… How then can it (atheism) lead people to anything? It is a question which deserves a full reply.

  14. dave says:

    Just out of interest .Stalin had some bad religious influences within his childhood . http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Stalin#Childhood_and_education.2C_1878.E2.80.931899

    Quote. “One teacher in particular—Father Abashidze, whom Stalin nicknamed “the Black Spot”—harassed the rebel students through student informers, nightly patrols and surprise dormitory raids.”

    Wasnt a nice experience ,nastiness often causes nastiness .

    Before the religious go pointing bones they should think of these things .Early childhood effects people .

    And as you say atheism has no teachings to follow.How then can it lead people to anything .

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