After a discussion that was borderline debate, I decided to do a more in-depth search for an answer on a topic that is popular among Atheists and Christians (maybe more Christians than Atheists). This topic? Atheism as a Religion. This particular debate is so popular that I searched for hours on forums to see people’s viewpoints and reasoning for both sides. I must say, that none of the forums I visited were helpful because it seemed like the arguments (from both sides) being made were irrelevant, inconclusive and sometimes, just plain confusing.
So I decided to just dive in myself, attempting to be non-bias and objective through it all. I must admit, I was hoping that I would come to the conclusion that Atheism could be considered a religion, but the evidence I found suggested otherwise. I want to note that all of my sources will be at the bottom of this post. I hope you find the information helpful in some shape or form.
So there are three primary types of Atheism:
- The doctrine or belief that there is no God
- Disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.
Atheism (different source)
- A disbelief in the existence of deity
- The doctrine that there is no deity
Weak Atheism (Implicit Atheism)
The broadest and more general conception of Atheism: The disbelief in any Gods, sometimes called Agnostic Atheist, because most “weak atheists” lack belief due to agnostic reasoning.
Strong Atheism (Explicit Atheism)
Denying the existence of at least one God, usually multiple Gods and sometimes the possible existence of any Gods.”
You should have the general idea of Atheism now… If not, go ahead and go to my sources and learn more if you need too. Or google the terms I posted.
Here is the definition of religion according to Dictionary.com,
- 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.
- A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.
- The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.”
Now after reading the definitions of both Atheism and Religion most people stop there and draw their conclusions. Since a religion doesn’t have to have a deity, people throw Atheism in the mix because it is a set of beliefs and then claim it’s a religion. I personally made this mistake as well. Looking into the definition of belief we can also jump the gun and conclude Atheism is indeed a religion…
- Something believed; an opinion of conviction
- Confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof
- Confidence; faith; trust”
If you’ve gotten this far in the debate you’ll hear about 80% of Atheists say the following, “It’s not a belief I hold, but the absence (or lack) of belief.” When I encountered this argument I refused to accept it. So here’s what I found regarding this particular defense.
Absence of belief or lack of belief logically does no add up when you declare, “I don’t believe in God.” The lack of belief can only be neutral to an opinion (refer back to the definition of belief) because regardless if you believe or do not believe, it’s an opinion you hold. “God doesn’t exist,” is an opinion and belief, because there is no evidence to disprove God.
So when I hear somebody say, “I lack belief in God” I will now immediately consider him or her agnostic, not atheist. Agnostic is ultimately neutral to God…
Is the view that the truth-values of certain claims – especially claims about the existence or non-existence of any deity – are unknown or unknowable.
1. A person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable.”
Lack of belief is typically defined as a non-intellectual commitment OR non action concerning belief. So if you don’t believe in God and are in one of the Atheistic categories, saying “I lack belief” is contradictory to you actual view point, but we aren’t finished quite yet.
Go ahead and re-read the definition of Religion. Now that you’ve done that here is the most commonly known/used definition in today’s time and era, “Religion; The belief in something greater than human regarding nature, creation and life.” So using the most ‘recent’ definition of religion we can conclude that Atheism is not a religion. Luckily we still have more information to sift through, because we are now getting into conflicting points.
Thanks to Professor Ninian Smart (press sundate, university of Cambridge 1995) we have a list of 7 characteristics that determine something as a religion.
“ 1. The practical and ritual dimension
2. The experiential and emotional dimension (experience of emotions attached
3. The narrative or mythic dimension
4. The doctrine and philosophical dimension
5. The legal or ethical dimension
6. The social and institutional dimension
7. The material dimension (meaning, art, sculptures etc.)”
From general knowledge of Atheists and from personal experiences of being an Atheist, I’ve decided that the general population (while this is my opinion) fit into only three of the seven characteristics. Depending on your view, some would say you need all 7 of the characteristics to be considered a religion, but in my book you would need to have AT LEAST half or more of them. Regardless, this test concludes Atheism is NOT a religion.
So after looking at everything I had so far I decided to view a general “model” of a belief system. Everyone has a belief system, it governs our perception, thoughts, actions and general worldview. My biggest drawback with Atheism is that it is, indeed a belief system. You can have more than one component in your belief system, but each belief contributes to your mindset. Since Atheism is indeed a belief I looked into the three most popular components of a belief system; Religion, Ideology and Philosophy. I’ve decided (my personal opinion) that I would put Atheism under Philosophy due to the characteristics it did have on the religion model.
In conclusion, I have decided that Atheism is NOT a religion. The rest of the pieces in this puzzle are found in the questions below…
- Do Atheists consider themselves as religious? No
- By deeper investigations of terms and definitions can you say Atheist is a religion? No
- Is there any chance Atheism could be considered a religion? For some Atheists, yes, but that particular group is minuscule compared to the entire Atheistic population. The general population exceeds the few exceptions.
I was surprised that I found information that would change my mind on this topic. While some will deny what I’ve shared, some may embrace it, but regardless I have officially made the choice in my personal life. I hope people find enlightenment in the information I shared. Please leave a comment, thoughts or additions to this post in the comments section! Thank you!
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalms 133:1)