So I just wanted to address this ‘atheism is a religion’ thing

I’ve touched on this many times before, but since it doesn’t look like Joe ‘we all came from magic’ Cienkowski is going to provide us with any insight as to why he thinks ‘evolution is the religion of atheism’, other than to repeatedly cut and paste various misspelled lies for Jesus at people who simply want to give him the space to explain his position better, I thought it might be worth going over some of the basics which have emerged from your comments and feedback to this blog over the past few years on the subjects of faith and belief.

Firstly, we know where the idea that accusing atheism of being a religion without a deity comes from, as this article on proud atheists shows:

The Fox News mentality, that atheism is bad because it’s a non-Christian religion, neatly encapsulates the sort of curricular thinking, “I’m talking so you don’t have to” idiocy we’ve come to expect from the Murdoch press as a whole.

But in fairness, it must be pointed out that the vast majority of Christians do not ram this garbage down anyone’s throat, for that very reason. The ordinary faithful are not oblivious to the counterproductiveness of stating that someone must be mistaken, simply because they religiously adhere to a certain worldview regardless of the facts—which is exactly the point atheism so successfully makes. So pointing this out on our behalf does seem more than a little redundant—and many of the so-called moderate religious are not unaware of this fact and avoid collaborating with the fringe elements in their own religion who fail to understand it.

Indeed very many of what I call practical Christians; those who can’t quite bring themselves to deny all of it—the “there must be something, out there” believers in belief—often make much better arguments in favour of certain aspects of faith, than lazy atheists do in favour of, say, the scientific method and rationalism. For a good example of this, you might want to read Terminus Technicus, myself and others discussing Christian apologetics and the pattern seeking brain.

But contrast these open concessions towards ordinary rationalism, from the theistic end of the religious scale, with stories like this from, on the evangelical mother of six, Brigitte Bedard, who ‘used to be a lesbian atheist’ and you begin to see it’s not all sweetness and light between ostensibly well intentioned theists and their non-religious counterparts.

The pitch is well worn, because it works every time—albeit on an already convinced audience: Find someone with a hedonistic lifestyle, built around drink and drugs and stupid behaviour, fill their head with easy answers as a way out of their bad situation and hey presto, instant overnight proof that the universe was created with Pat Roberson in mind.

“Here I was, a militant feminist lesbian atheist lying on my apartment floor crying my head off imploring God. I wasn’t in my right mind, but I was desperate for help.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but every atheist I know has pretty much one thing in common. So I think it’s fairly safe to say, our friend the lesbian and therefore evil Brigitte Bedard wasn’t exactly an atheist because she’d thought about “it” at any great length. She seems like more of a non-religious by default, to me. And this point is often lost on our Christian attackers, so I’ll underline it one more time.

Not going to church, doesn’t make you an atheist. Not going to church because you assert the fact that there is no evidence of a supernatural aspect to reality, however, does. But since when did proving someone’s thinking is fundamentally flawed by their misinformed opinion ever stop career religionists continuing to think whatever they want to think regardless?

So we need a new tactic with these people that few atheists are keen to explore. We need to stop calling it atheism altogether.

I didn’t lose faith, when I realised gods do not exist, I gained reason. The only way we’re going to win this war of ideas with those who would destroy everything we stand for, in the name of fulfilling biblical prophecy, is by empowering them with critical thinking. If that means spelling out for them the logical flaws in their many tirades against everything from science to small ‘l’ liberalism, so be it. But for as long as we do it in the name of ‘atheism’, we’re setting ourselves up to have more of the same arguments in which they have no hope of understanding our position and we have no hope of understanding the best of theirs.


12 comments on “So I just wanted to address this ‘atheism is a religion’ thing

  1. Not going to church, doesn’t make you an atheist.

    Yet many Christians will claim that. They do so because the idiots at the pulpit tell them. They also think atheists are evil because of their money-driven clergy.

  2. I think it probably does come from the pulpit, Mark, yes. But it also increasingly comes from lay-workers in certain kinds of very insular church communities, who’ve taken it upon themselves to preach armchair theocracy, without having any understanding of the many counterclaims to their sweeping assertions.

    Hence the @JoeCienkowski and @JuanitaBerguson of this world. They quite legitimately do not realise just how wrong it is possible to prove beyond doubt they really are on a great many subjects. But they don’t do themselves any favours, when they refuse to engage in an honest open debate, where everyone can see their ideas laid out in the open. Because once they hit that publish button, they know there’s no way they can back-peddle away from what they really think.

    We see this in the blogosphere a lot. I’ve yet to find a blog advocating peace, understanding and rationalism with moderated comments and sign-up only post enabled. On the anti-science, pro-theocracy side, it’s positively par-for-the-course that anything you might want to say, to point out the mistakes in some of their thinking, will be either screened before they allow it to appear, or censored out altogether.

  3. Atheism is so boring, I can’t believe anyone still cares to categorize it at all.

    I mean, believing a man was crucified so you could enter Heaven is at least something that provokes conversation. NOT believing that? Who…the fuck…cares?

    My only problem with atheists is any self-delusion that disbelief marks a person as interesting or intelligent. Don’t let the christians fool you: atheism is a yawn.

  4. I couldn’t agree more, MattSeven. But it’s not the atheists who are foisting anti-science on people and threatening eternal torture for the sin of thinking clearly, so I’m afraid you’re stuck with us for the time being.

    If all the religious believed was that a man died on a cross three days before rising from the dead, they wouldn’t be any kind of threat. You’d either agree with them or you wouldn’t. But they don’t stop there. They think believing in things that aren’t true somehow makes you virtuous—especially if you can get other people to believe it too—and they won’t stop until they’ve done everything they can to bring that about.

    So forgive me if I don’t lay down and die so they can go on preaching their falsehoods under the mistaken impression it does no-one any harm. If everyone thought like that there would never have been a human rights movement, there would be no such thing as the universal declaration of human rights and we would all live in Iranian style theocracy—which, by the way, is exactly the sort of country people like Joe Cienkowski wish for America to become. And if you think that sounds far fetched, don’t take it from me, just go and read some of what this guy actually says.

  5. Pingback: An open challenge to Joe Cienkowski « How good is that?

  6. Well…if you want to get really, really technical, you can’t say that atheism is a religion. That’s like saying that the absence of food is a kind of food, or the absence of water is a kind of water. The absence of religious belief is not a kind of religious belief – it is, by definition, not religious belief.

    So basically what I’m saying here is that atheism is a philosophy, not a religion. They are two very different things.

  7. Dartigen, I think the difference between philosophy and religion is what Mr. Gardner is trying to highlight, even though I may not completely agree with your nomenclature. The idea being that by categorizing it as a religion, we’re emphasizing the belief in non-existence of the fundamental basis of the traditional religion, eg. Christianity. In the form of a philosophy, or a similar (more apt) form, the focus has to be on rationality as a permanent tool in putting things in perspective.

    Mr. Gardner, I couldn’t agree more with how you put it – I did not lose faith, but gained reason.

  8. Dartigen, I’ve put it like this before, but I’m not entirely happy with it. Perhaps we could hammer out a more succinct definition between us.

    Atheism is the factual assertion that religious beliefs are not evidence of a supernatural aspect to reality.

  9. A-theism is an opposition to theism and theism is monotheism, polytheism or pantheism.

    The idea that atheism is scientific does science a disservice. Science is the improvement of our model of the world by the use of feedback from experiments. It is fundamental to science that the model is not 100% accurate or complete.

    You say “there is no evidence of a supernatural aspect to reality”. This is a statement that the universe is causally closed ie: there are no causes that are not part of the universe or multiverse. If we include God or gods as part of the multiverse then the statement must be true by definition but then theism is possible but not supernatural. See Materialists should read this first.

  10. Pingback: All about Joe Cienkowski « How good is that?

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