Atheism Is/Is Not A Religion!

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This is something that is often mentioned in the debate circuit between Theists and Atheists. And it is something that I have written about before (called out a popular Atheist Youtuber for dishonestly “correcting ” this misunderstanding). But this is also something that deserves its own piece (not written in a tone of annoyance, unlike the one to Dusty), simply because I believe that both sides can be wrong on this.

Let us first start with the word as defined by Merriam Webster:

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods

: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

I chose that source out of convenience, but really, it does not matter what source you choose because all of the dictionary based sources come back with the same result (I checked in previous research on the topic). It is also covered on more secular oriented sites, but they often jump around, and almost never include the last point.  But I will move on to the misunderstandings.

For the theists, I can see this happening mainly because most people find it hard to see the world outside of their own context. They believe in what they know as a “religion”, so therefore this thing called “Atheism” that other people apparently “believe” in must also be a religion.

Which is indeed, an ignorant understanding of Atheism as a philosophy. If I use the old definition then its a statement of disbelief in a god or deity. If I use the newer one, its a “lack of belief” in a god or deity. Either way, the analogy of Atheism to Theism is Apples to Oranges, 2 entirely separate  philosophies.

HOWEVER, we come to “an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group”. When you look at the growth of the Atheist community online (and elsewhere), and the behavior of many within that said group, you can’t help but to note that Atheism in a sense COULD be seen as a category of religion.

This is more or less what I mean when I use the term “mainstream Atheism”. Many Atheists are confused by this and regurgitate the definition (“its a personal philosophy, nothing more!”). Actually, its a minority group within many nations that is continuously growing and becoming more organized. Groups and organizations big and small, online and off, are growing bigger and bigger.
Though it is true that there is no “doctrine” to Atheism, the doctrine that can make this an ideology falls in many Atheists inability to accept someone who refuses to make a decision on belief (the whole, middle of the road “there is no middle ground, your either Atheist or Theist!” thing).
That is relevant here, because it is a conclusion that is quite common within “mainstream Atheism”. Another conclusion that tends to be common, is the very thing I am writing about (this vicious opposition to the religion label).  And of course denial of any “ideology” being associated with Atheism is another common thread.

While none of that is inherently religious in the way that most Atheists obviously view the word, that is changed when the last part is considered. Being an Atheist is certainly very important to many people. It is a defining characteristic for a great many.

Given all of that, it is entirely reasonable  that someone could call Atheism a “religion”. It is still but a philosophy, and entirely possible to follow the philosophy but not be part of the quote “religion” (I consider myself in that way).

I know that religion is a word that many want to avoid, because it is a loaded word in more ways then one. First you have the idiots who will say “HA! Atheism IS a religion”. And of course you have the heinous acts of past and present entities of religion, that provide a further reason to dump the categorization.

But it does not have to be. All it means, is that your one of many like minded people with largely the same goals. The group varies right from one extreme to the next (just like any other group containing many people of different viewpoints), but I think most Atheists generally want the same thing.

In fact, the whole secular community is united in that regard.

Dusty Smith : “Atheism is NOT a Religion!”

Its the 2ed time within a week that I am making an entry based on a facebook post of prominent atheist youtuber Dusty Smith.

Last week it was THIS one, my detailed take on why I disagree with him that children can be trusted to forward their own education without institutionalized schooling using only the internet (among other critiques of the schooling system in general). And this week it is on the topic of religion. Or as it stands, the fact that atheism is NOT a religion.

Dusty

This argument is nothing new. I have heard it from many Atheists (probably every youtube atheist I have watched short of Galen Hallcyon, one of my favorite guests and friend of the Drunken Peasants Podcast). I am not overly bothered by the argument (which is half true). I am more concerned when its delivered in such a condescending manor. Or as in this case, not entirely truthfully due to an omission of data.

Religion 1

Religion 2

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/religion

Its entirely possible that Dusty’s source is missing the last association, so I will check.

Web Rel

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/religion

Nope. It is complete, with the 3ed one as well. Seems mighty intellectually DIShonest for someone that spends so much of their time fighting intellectual dishonesty on the theistic side of the fence.

It is true that Atheism is not inherently an ideology or a religion. Whether using the old definition of “a rejection of belief in a god or gods”  or the more recent “a lack of a belief in a god or gods” (no pesky positive claim), its but a philosophy.

However, the like minded atheist community loves to congregate amongst themselves in groups all over the internet (either playing the debate game or just Re-discussing the same stuff over and over). Which is why it surprised me to see many take offense (and at times not even understand) when made mention of something as seemingly apparent as “Mainstream Atheism”.

It seems it is a completely baffling concept to observe trends within many members of a group, just because the shared characteristic is that of disbelief. Which is idiotic considering how many other groups have many individual interpretations, the majority of which one often labels as “mainstream”. Not every atheist will agree on everything, but most every one DOES agree that agnostic is not a stance. Hence, an example of a mainstream atheist stance.

I have been on both sides of the fence.

In my teen years into early adulthood I was pretty much an atheist in philosophy only. After discovering the online Atheist community (for me, on facebook) I gradually became more aligned with the values of (and conclusions of) the group. But eventually both boredom and an interest in philosophy made me start evaluating (and ultimately drop) my title of “Atheist” (mostly do to the resistance at asking questions). But I have since re-accepted the label after experimenting with a number of alternatives. I am more or less where I was as a teen, a philosophical atheist.
Ide prefer to share my thoughts from a prospective that is NOT tied to any one group or prospective, but its hard to converse with people from a point of ambiguousness (if you do not put yourself into a box, they will often do it for you). So hence I still keep to the philosophy and keep the label, but just to keep the conversation flowing.

I think a lesson that the atheist community needs to learn, is that the simple act of just mentally dumping your religious baggage DOES NOT automatically render your position immune to criticism. I understand that not all criticisms of Atheism are legitimate (like when some idiot pastor somewhere makes the association that Atheism = religion because they can’t see outside their own context). However, just because many (a majority?) of the criticisms leveled at Atheism /Atheists may be lumped into a pile labeled “stupid” or “ignorant”, that does not mean that ALL criticisms are automatically invalid or illegitimate.

 I am not going to flat out say that ideological Atheism is indeed, a religion. Though the definition indeed could fit, ill give the benefit of the doubt. Just be weary of the sometimes very similar nature of the behavior of many within “Mainstream Atheism” to their religious counterparts.

First there is the hanging around in groups of like minded individuals, often discussing little more then low level intellectual talking points (repetitively).  Then there is tendency of many to just default to the definition (and how whatever your proposing is contrary to it, and therefore  false) on question of an aspect of their atheism. And of course, the tendency to just shut out  all criticisms.

When  theists shut out the other party, they usually just continue regurgitating the same religious talking point over and over. With atheists, since they seem to think that embracing “logic” means that their arguments are forever immune to further criticism, they often turn to condescending ad hominem attacks like Dusty’s post above (or THIS ).

No similarity, you say?

Some may read this post as an angry note to the atheist community from an agnostic.

No. I do consider myself a philosophical atheist.

However, I am an atheist that likes to learn and confirm my stances by way of discussion and interaction. You know, in the same way the atheist community likes to interact with the religious community. Only I am not a slave to either sides box, so I can see (and inquire about!) the faults I see on both sides. But I can not do that (nor can I really even consider many mainstream atheists as intellectual equals) if they, for all intents and purposes, behave in the same way as the theists they debate when questioned.

I do not come to the discussion with 100% assurance that I am correct. But it be nice to see some arguments that are not, ideological talking points.

Apistevist – A Clarification

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Back in October, I wrote a piece entitled Apistevist – A Term With Potential in which I talked about a new secular adjective that I had (then) recently discovered, and also its limitations as perceived in my eyes. Just as the word Atheism illustrates one’s lack of belief in a deity (or deities), Apistevism illustrates ones lack of blind faith. However, I felt that there was a limitation as to how far one can truly take the definition as applicable to their real life.

When it comes to belief in a deity (or most anything else in the supernatural realm) then I have no problem with the terminology. But I feel that one can not TRULY say that they are 100% Apistevistic in nature, just as one can not truly say that they are 100% Atheistic in nature. In terms of Atheism, what I mean here is that one can not say for sure that there is nothing, no deity or deities. That is a positive claim that requires evidence, and most logical thinkers understand this and don’t take it that far.

As for Apistevism, the story is more or less the same. It’s the proof that one has. Or as the case is, DOES NOT have.

The last piece I wrote got a bit of interaction from opponents to my viewpoint. There were comments from 2 or 3 people as well as a mention on a blog called The Fluffy Atheist. I even searched the term Apistevist in Google out of curiosity if my piece would show up, and I was surprised to see it as link #4. I certainly do not see myself as being ANYWHERE near intellectually on par with someone like Richard Dawkins, but I do thank Google’s algorithm for the ego boost.

Criticism of my work is fine by me. A large number of my (and of really, anyone’s) life lessons come from allowing themselves to be exposed to other viewpoints than just there own. But after taking into consideration the views of my opposition, I still stand with my conclusion of before, which is that the word Apistevist can logically only go as far as the supernatural realm. But I do have a bit of a clarification to make.

In my last post, I had this quote:

Every time you turn on the tap for a drink of water. Every time you open a can of food, or eat out at a restaurant. Life in the modern era is full of scenarios where we all mindlessly roll the dice. This is not necessarily a bad thing either, its just a part of life. A person that is a TRUE apistevist (took the philosophy to heart in all areas of life) could not exist in today’s modern world. One who has absolutely NO blind faith whatsoever, would either be forced into isolation far from consumer civilization, or committed.

Many people interpreted this as to be surrounding the mechanics of the situations described. For example, one does not blindly believe that water will come out of the tap when I put it on, or that food will be in that can or box when I open it to eat it. Past experience is enough to make the assumption of water or food presence in their consecutive containers, allowable in a logical sense.

However, my argument was not as much with the presence of the substances in their containers,  but more with their safety.

For example, today so far I consumed some coffee. Yesterday I consumed some food at my place of work, as well as a bit more at a restaurant, and a bit more here at home.

I had no doubt that water would come out of the tap making my coffee and teas of the day possible. I had no doubt of the presence of food for me to consume both at my workplace, at the restaurant and here at home. And I really had no doubts about the safety of all of it.

My half-filled can of coffee, various teas and various opened food articles here at home have past evidence of their pure nature. In that, I didn’t get sick or die previously.
However, the tap water that was used to make the coffee and the teas. The meals I ate at work. The food I ate at the restaurant. Even the teas I drank both at work and at the restaurant. I am unfamiliar with the origin, processing and otherwise the handling of all said substances.
This is why I use the adage “rolling the dice”. I am not absolutely sure about the safety of, arguably, a great many variables in life. One could even apply it to brand new electronics. I have no evidence that my brand new smartphone will not explode due to some product manufacturing error.

I have had my phone for over a year, so I can now safely assume it will not explode. Same with the various open food containers in this house, coffee and teas included. I have past evidence to back up my claim of their neutral nature.
But I do not yet have any evidence to support such a claim of the other unopened coffee cans stored away in the cupboard.

Deism

Deism

Though I am an Agnostic Atheist by belief, and I have an interest in some Pagan belief systems (mainly Wicca), Deism is one belief system that I have found interesting since I was introduced to it by a friend a few years back. At first I misunderstood it, but now that I have learned more about it, its interesting.

One of the big bias’s that is automatically against it, is it is an acknowledgment that some sort of deity likely DOES exist. Which indeed, puts it on par with the rest of the theistic belief sets that most Atheists are used to tearing down. The difference that many (it seems) miss, is that the “God” (deity) of Deism (unlike theism), is largely irrelevant to mankind (as opposed to our guardian of sorts). In this regard, I think that the maker of the above image, did not have a full understanding of the belief, judging from the caption.

For me, I learned in later years as an atheist that religion and “God”/Deity, are 2 different things. One has the fingerprints of man all over its “holy” literature, one is the ultimate enigma.

One of the big problems I have had with most religions, is there preoccupation with ONLY mankind, with the rest of the world being either irrelevant, or ours for the taking. Religions not only work great for controlling people with there ultimate fear (death), they also are suspiciously “human”.  Not just in God’s seemingly silly trivial bias’s and rules, but in the absolute concentration towards mankind. Its the arrogance of man, seemingly, at its finest.

Which is where Deism is interesting.

Somewhere between Agnosticism and Theism, Deism is a seemingly happy medium.

The deity (or deity’s) of Deism, from my personal understanding, are not biased or favoring of any one organism. They just are there, fine tuners of the universe. For me, the best way I can think of describing it, is the deity is like the many people in the background, that keep your city running smoothly. The people that keep the power flowing, that keep the supplies and water  coming in, that keep the trash and wastes going out. Most of us never see them, but we use reap the benefits of there labors on a daily basis.

To me, this is what the deity of deism, looks like. The earth and the universe is its (there?) focus, and the only priority is keeping things on an even keel, keeping the earth systems in check.

Using this hypothesis, one could say that said deity(‘s) have done a pretty good job, over the last billion or so years. This same hypothesis, could also be used to say that, the deity of Deism may not exactly be man-kind friendly. People of theism pray to god, and know that there chosen “god” will keep them safe from global climate change, and whatever else the planet will throw at us. But if one sees the deity of deism as a protector of the planet, you have to know what the biggest threat to the planet is at the moment, us.

Keep in mind, I am (as stated in the beginning), still on the Agnostic Atheist side of the fence. I just like to keep an open mind to different belief sets.

Though its easy to say stuff like “Well thats just SILLY!” to a Theist or Deist, one must not forget that the rules of evidence go BOTH ways. Just as a theist can not prove there position, neither can an atheist. So “There is NO God” is just as positive (and silly) a claim as “God is real, and in all of us”.

Defend your position, but do not become the position that your critiquing.

Correction: 

What is described above, can apparently be more applicable as a form of theism them Deism. I previously only associated theism as being hand in hand with religion, but it seems that the 2 concepts do not always go hand in hand.
For example, some make the argument that babies are born theists, due to the rigidity of the world as perceived from their ignorant viewpoint of their world. Life experience and education in our culture give us context to help us make sense of most aspects of our world.

Babies on the other hand, lack all of that life experience and education. Always a fun argument to use around many atheists, as they tend to state with absolute assurance that babies are born atheist.
Maybe. If the understanding of the concept was not a part of our culture.

But anyway, a “better” understanding of the belief system is below. And when in doubt, as always, use a search engine.

The word “Deism” is derived from the Latin word for God: “Deus.

Deism is a natural religion. Deists believe in the existence of God, on purely rational grounds, without any reliance on revealed religion or religious authority or holy text. Because of this, Deism is quite different from religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The latter are based on revelations from God to prophet(s) who then taught it to humans. We like to call natural religions by the title “bottom-up” faiths and revealed religions as “top-down.”

Many Deists reason that since everything that exists has had a creator, then the universe itself must have been created by God:

http://www.religioustolerance.org/deism.htm

Praying Can’t Hurt

I have heard this said many times by different people, both moderately and very religious. Even as an atheist, I used to agree. Its a nice gesture, no different then saying “you are in my thoughts“.

You hear it all the time, whenever something bad happens somewhere in the world. The religious send their prayers. Both regular and high profile people alike, are in solidarity in their prayers. And its not just for big events. People pray for friends and relatives for all sorts of reasons. In my travels around internet religious debates as an atheist, I have been told “I will pray for you” more times then I can count. And im sure most people have had similar experiences.

For the longest of time, I looked at it as just a kind gesture. Somewhat silly, but none the less harmless.

But is prayer REALLY harmless? Yes. And No.

There is nothing harmful about saying a prayer for personal comfort. The action in itself is not destructive.

But the problem comes in the mindset of the people who make the prayer. It is very easy to become reliant on an answered prayer, or to put to much faith in a prayers usefulness. And of course, there is the issue of the arrogance one can show with their  prayers.

First of all, for prospective, I think prayer is a useless and silly gesture. Just to be clear.

When it comes to the “arrogance” aspect, I reflect back to my forum cruising days. Theists telling me that I was  in their prayers, I used to think of as a nice gesture. But later , I begun to find this as somewhat arrogant, and of course, useless.

Lets consider the reasoning for the prayer.

I live in the western world, I do not have all that many trials and troubles that I can speak of. I have more mental and emotional  baggage then an Air Canada flight to Hawaii, but I am not starving or living life in fear. So apparently, I am just worthy because of my NON faith.

Millions in the world, have much bigger problems, in the NOW. People home and abroad are starving, growing up in bad conditions, or otherwise living lives of personal hell. Do they not seem more worthy of prayer?

Which brings me to the next point, praying for the sick/poor/homeless/victims of a disaster or other disadvantaged people. The common practice is to send prayers out, put faith in the almighty one of there choosing to help the people in need. I can understand this more when it comes to the less fortunate (both because they have less money to give, and they tend to be undereducated or otherwise know nothing else), but not so much for more high stature names. Royals, celebrities, athletes. People that you know rake in the millions and billions.

Though I am not against the act of praying, I raise an eyebrow when that is the ONLY action taken from the said individual. Granted, it does depend on how much disposable income you have. But if you have the means, and you want to REALLY help whatever your chosen cause is, don’t just pray.

Prayer does not feed, dress or put the homeless into affordable housing. Prayer does not feed starving people and children, nor does it solve the many injustices perpetrated all over the world. And it certainly WILL NOT solve many of humanity’s big impending problems (climate change, resource depletion in an overpopulated world ect).

It is for this reason, that I do not condone prayer. The act in itself is relatively harmless, assuming it is out of genuine concern (and not arrogance). But the last thing we need as a species right now, is a reliance on an answered prayer to solve all of our problems. Because the only answer we will get, is extinction.

Prayers and thoughts may be comforting, but its actions that move mountains.

Atheist Suicide Bomber Kills Eighteen Agnostics

Atheist Suicide Bomber Kills Eighteen Agnostics

 STOCKHOLM -In a frightening display of rising sectarian violence, an atheist suicide bomber blew himself up on a busy street in Stockholm three days ago; killing eighteen agnostics and wounding over thirty.  Members of the ‘Swedish Atheistic Liberation Front’ (SALF) have claimed responsibility for the bombing. Declaring the attack as revenge against the explosive agnostic riots, which, last week, hospitalized several atheists and terrorized the atheistic community.

Swedish authorities have so far failed stem the rising levels of violence and growing sectarian divide. The prime minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, himself an agnostic, strongly condemned the attack, yet also called for restraint among the broader agnostic community.  In an impromptu speech, the prime minister called on agnostics to not contribute to the violence, or launch vengeful vigilante attacks, saying that the proper authorities would see justice done.

Yet Mr. Reinfeldt’s message seems to be falling on deaf ears, prominent agnostic leaders and bloggers have already began urging retaliatory attacks in what is an ominous sign for the future of sectarian violence in Sweden. Sectarian divisions and violence have been increasing ever since the breakdown in talks between the mostly agnostic Government and the violently separatist SALF.

SALF, and the atheists they claim to represent, believe that there is no god, agnostics believe that there may not be a god. To outsiders, this difference in doctrine seems almost irrelevant; to believers it is a question of life or death. Therefore, such a small difference in doctrine can create such explosive hatreds, divisions and violence.

The spiraling violence has already purged once religiously diverse neighborhoods into homogenous sectarian strongholds of either atheists or agnostics. Strongholds, which, since the latest SALF terrorism, have begun exchanging nightly mortar fire in the escalating conflict that Swedish authorities seem unable to contain.

So far the United Nations response has been limited to broad condemnations of the violence from both sides; while Norway and Finland have been preparing for an influx of refugees and planning for the creation of possible peacekeeping buffer zones within Sweden in case the rising violence transforms into the civil war many expect. The United States, afraid of being embroiled in a long intractable conflict, have confined their involvement to verbal support for moderates on both sides of the sectarian divide. At this point, all one can do is put in concentrated thought that Sweden’s Atheists and Agnostics can reconcile before civil war breaks out and, together, realize the dream of one united Sweden.

Will Thatcher

Senior Editor Of The Lapine

We have all heard of religious violence before today.

Though Islam is likley to pop into the forefront of your mind upon reading that, we must not forget, that it is not the only guilty religion (just the most well known). Even such seemingly “peaceful” religions as Buddhism, have there fanatics.

When it comes to “justification” for religious violence, most of it can be traced to the holy texts and scriptures of the said religion. Either directly stating that nothing is to be tolerated except for the path provided by IT (be it the Bible, Koran, Tarah or other). Or by way of human interpretation. You know, my book says IM right, therefore you are wrong.

Though not right, this “justification” can be dangerous, because of the possible repercussions one can face for simply, not choosing the “God” of someone else’s choice.

What you see above (just after the article quote), is the beginnings of my “response” to this story.

It has come to my attention, however, that I have fallen for the trickery of clever satire. Google tells me that The Lapine, is Canada’s answer to The Onion.

Let that be a lesson. A lesson that I forgot from one of my previous entry’s in fact. Don’t take what people tell you, at face value.

Good job Lapine. Good job.