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Author Topic: Atheism: A religion?  (Read 15730 times)
EverFool
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« Reply #15: January 11, 2009, 05:58:14 pm »

well for instance we have the Freedom From Religion Foundation it pretty much acts the way a Evangelical association would act.  They put up bill boards and signs and spread literature on why they are right, and such, they are the ones that put up that controversial sign in the state capital about their being no Gods or anything of that nature.

If Freedom From Religion is a religion, than I guess Green Peace is too.

But even if Freedom from Religion somehow *were* religious?  That doesn't make me religious.  How other atheists act does not affect me in that way.  We aren't the Borg.
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« Reply #16: January 11, 2009, 06:01:19 pm »

well for instance we have the Freedom From Religion Foundation it pretty much acts the way a Evangelical association would act.  They put up bill boards and signs and spread literature on why they are right, and such, they are the ones that put up that controversial sign in the state capital about their being no Gods or anything of that nature.

I am trying to think of congregations but I cant find any at the moment (they are probably in small demand anyway)

okay, so they're being jerks like evangelicals, ergo, they're the same thing?

LOTS of people are jerks.  Go visit a fandom board at some point - like Harry Potter.  You'll see nuts that make religious nuts look CALM.

And I'm pretty sure, no matter what the claims of some, that Harry Potter isn't a religion.
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« Reply #17: January 11, 2009, 06:05:31 pm »

okay, so they're being jerks like evangelicals, ergo, they're the same thing?

LOTS of people are jerks.  Go visit a fandom board at some point - like Harry Potter.  You'll see nuts that make religious nuts look CALM.

And I'm pretty sure, no matter what the claims of some, that Harry Potter isn't a religion.

I never said they where Jerks.

I think I want to clarify that I am trying to see if you guys would agree if Atheism... they way it is structured and followed it pretty much just like a religion without a all powerful deity or something (yes I am aware not all religions view their God or God's as all powerful)  I suppose that my title for this thread is a little... meh iffy.  But atheism seems to me to take on a very religious type of role almost.
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EverFool
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« Reply #18: January 11, 2009, 06:08:30 pm »



To give an idea of why I don't see myself as being religious...

My being an atheist doesn't give me any priorities in life, or any codes.  I form those myself- as indeed do many religious people.  The point being that the atheism isn't telling me what I should do.

Being an atheist doesn't require me to do anything *at all* that I wouldn't be doing anyway.
I don't really need to go to meetings to discuss how there's no god.  It wouldn't be a terribly long discussion.  I've met people who can talk for hours about nothing, and I don't find it interesting.

I have a friend who is atheist - we've known each other since we were about 7.  We don't talk about atheism or religion a lot, unless it's come up in the news, or someone has said something ignorant, etc.  There's not really much *to* discuss.

Where religion has this *stuff*, I don't have any of that *stuff.*  I'm not going to a building to sing about how there is no God/s.  I'm not spending time meditating on the nature of deities that don't exist, etc.

In short, there is an absence of religious activity in my life.  I'm really not sure how I can be called religious when I don't believe in any deities, any 'this is the True Path', or believe that I am called on to do anything in particular.
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« Reply #19: January 11, 2009, 06:09:21 pm »

So pushing a belief on others and/or strongly believing something is the marker of a religion?


Not at all. What I said was that some Atheists are evangelical (a trait which they aher with some religious individuals) and that some approach their atheism with a fervout that is very similar to that shown by some religious individuals. Given these observations, it comes as no great surprise to me that some people mistake fervent evangelical atheism for a religious stance. Hopefully that makes my intent clearer. I am sorry that you had difficulty understanding what I was saying. I will try and be clearer in future.
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« Reply #20: January 11, 2009, 06:14:08 pm »


I don't really need to go to meetings to discuss how there's no god.  It wouldn't be a terribly long discussion.

 Cheesy
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Atheist-Discussion-Group:

Atheist 1: There is no god!
Atheist 2: Yup...
Atheist 3: ......um, what? *puts away newspaper*
Atheist 1: no god
Atheist 3: Oh yes, agreed
Atheist 2: I'm hungry....
All: Ok, let's go.
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« Reply #21: January 11, 2009, 06:17:23 pm »

I suppose the question is "what in the various differences is substantive, and why should it be considered a meaningful point of differentiation between these things (e.g. atheism, capitalism) and a religion?".

This would require a definition of religion, which is the tricky bit.  Cheesy

I'm inclined towards a Wittgensteinian attitude towards definitions in general, and religion is no exception. I do think there are both substantive and structural markers of a religion -- substantive markers include, for example, theism of some sort, devotionalism, an idea of some sort of right conduct in life, etc. while structural markers include, for example, holy texts, places of worship, a clerical institution, etc. Hence Theravada Buddhism in general would qualify as a religion despite being relatively atheistic, because it ticks many other definitional boxes.

There are both substantive and structural differences between religion (in general) and capitalism and atheism (in general). (I note in general because, following a Wittgensteinian attitude to definitions means that it's possible to conceive of belief systems on the cusp of each category, such as a religion that prioritises capitalist acquisition as a means to salvation.)

A substantive difference between capitalism and religion would be, for example, an exclusively materialistic focus in the former compared to the metaphysical emphasis of the latter. This substantive difference reflects itself in structural differences, so that capitalism has places of commerce but religion has places of worship, for example. (This example also highlights how both are interlinked; it's primarily because of substantive differences that we can tell places of commerce apart from places of worship.)

Similarly, while structurally you could say atheism and religion were similar in having 'congregations' or 'temples' or 'a position on the existence of a god', it's generally a metaphor that's only sustainable as long as you ignore substantive differences. The big one being that, while it's true atheism and most religions share something in common in having a position on the existence of god, this structural similarity shouldn't obscure the substantive difference that those positions are often diametric opposites. And of course, atheism in general not only lacks but often directly opposes other substantive markers of religion such as devotionalism.

To this you could object that atheist 'congregations' and 'temples' have functional similarities to a religious congregation or temple, e.g. being a place to meet people of like mind about religion, psychologically bolster belief in a doctrine, etc. But this again dismisses the substantive differences, namely that atheists of like mind will still be quite unlike religious believers, or that the doctrine in atheism is opposed to the doctrine in most religions, etc.

Is there a reason to emphasise the substantive differences between religion and capitalism/atheism, or that the substantive differences should influence the way we look at any structural or functional similarities? Yes, I think so, and the reason is that religion, capitalism, and atheism are belief systems. Beliefs are primarily distinguished by their content or substance, so ultimately differentiating belief systems rests more on substantive rather than other kinds of analysis. If we were looking at different kinds of living room furniture, for example, a functional analysis might be more dominant, simply because the way you tell chairs and tables apart is seldom by the substance they're made of, but what they're used for.

Of course, YMMV.  Wink

EDIT: P.S. I don't have any real grounding in these matters so I have no idea what a philosopher of religion, for example, would say. Just my two cents.
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« Reply #22: January 11, 2009, 06:20:03 pm »

Cheesy
Now I have this picture in my head.
Atheist-Discussion-Group:

Atheist 1: There is no god!
Atheist 2: Yup...
Atheist 3: ......um, what? *puts away newspaper*
Atheist 1: no god
Atheist 3: Oh yes, agreed
Atheist 2: I'm hungry....
All: Ok, let's go.

I think you kinda capture the issue here.  With a philosophy or religion like Buddhism, you can ask 'in this situation, what is the right thing to do?' or 'what does an enlightened person look like?' etc.  In Christianity you can talk about the nature of God, the role of forgiveness, free will, etc.  Religion generally has an answer, or at least a base to begin reasoning from. With atheism, all there is is 'no god', and you have to go to other parts of your life to start figuring out an answer.
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« Reply #23: January 11, 2009, 09:44:47 pm »

Well...there's really only one core belief: there is no god/ there are no gods.  That's all the definition involves.  When you're talking about buildings and congregations, are you talking about humanists?  They're really the only group that are springing to mind.


In our area, there are the Ethical Society folks.  They do incorporate a lot of secular humanist philosophy, but I don't know they would label themselves humanists.  They are an atheist group that focuses on ethical and moral behavior outside of God, and they are very similar in structure to most churches.  They are also treated as a religion by our state.  They have tax exempt status and are permitted to legally marry couples.

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« Reply #24: January 11, 2009, 09:57:15 pm »

I do not believe that to have something as a religion you must believe in a God or God's.... for instance their are plenty to religions out their that mainly focus on spirits or something.  What do you guys think?

I do not think that atheism is a religion, and calling it that (in the States) is the root of some real messes.  If one treats atheism as a religion, then removing religion from the public sphere is seen as atheists pushing their beliefs on others.

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« Reply #25: January 11, 2009, 10:02:22 pm »

If one treats atheism as a religion, then removing religion from the public sphere is seen as atheists pushing their beliefs on others.

There is a fairly strong argument for that being the case regardless of the status of atheism as a religion, or otherwise. When separation of the Church and State equals a state that proceeds from the assumption that there is no deity you effectively end up with public decisions made on the basis of atheist's belief rather than theist's belief.
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« Reply #26: January 12, 2009, 04:47:06 am »

There is a fairly strong argument for that being the case regardless of the status of atheism as a religion, or otherwise. When separation of the Church and State equals a state that proceeds from the assumption that there is no deity you effectively end up with public decisions made on the basis of atheist's belief rather than theist's belief.

Would you prefer government policy be based on the existence of a particular deity or group of deities?
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« Reply #27: January 12, 2009, 06:14:45 am »

Would you prefer government policy be based on the existence of a particular deity or group of deities?

I suspect this issue also involves quite a bit of difference in national viewpoints. The US has a very different accommodation on this issue than France does, and both are different again from, say, Norway. And one's particular national history will probably lead one to see a particular church/state relationship as being necessary and a different relationship as being not just impossible but dangerous.
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« Reply #28: January 12, 2009, 07:00:42 am »

There is a fairly strong argument for that being the case regardless of the status of atheism as a religion, or otherwise. When separation of the Church and State equals a state that proceeds from the assumption that there is no deity you effectively end up with public decisions made on the basis of atheist's belief rather than theist's belief.

I have to disagree. The atheist's belief (excluding 'strong' atheism which declares that it's impossible for gods to exist) is an omission to believe, while the theist's belief is an extraordinary claim requiring proof. In the absence of proof it's more rational to not believe than it is to believe, so I think a state is justified in proceeding along those lines.
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« Reply #29: January 12, 2009, 09:32:09 am »

There is a fairly strong argument for that being the case regardless of the status of atheism as a religion, or otherwise. When separation of the Church and State equals a state that proceeds from the assumption that there is no deity you effectively end up with public decisions made on the basis of atheist's belief rather than theist's belief.

Maybe if I give an example it would help.  In 1957, "In God We Trust" began to be printed on American money.  A lot of people would like to have that removed because they see it as uncalled for mixing of religion with state matters, a sort of proselytization by the government.  A fair number of religious people would like it removed because it is fairly offensive to mix God and money like that.  However, every time the change back is proposed, you get a big outcry from the religious right claiming that the atheist religion is being pushed. 

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