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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Are there atheist churches?

That there are atheist churches and by default, that atheism is a religion is a strange argument for a religious person to make on the face of it. Is it supposed to strengthen the atheist’s position or weaken the theist’s one? In reality it’s a sign they have run out of arguments.
Still, this argument is widely made, and so it needs to be addressed. Atheism is simply a disbelief in god(s). As someone once said, if atheism is a religion, then not collecting stamps is a hobby. And not playing golf is a sport.
That really ought to end the discussion right there. Clearly, a mere lack of belief in something cannot be a religion. In addition, since atheism has no sacred texts, no tenets, no ceremonies, what exactly is the religious aspect of atheism?  Even theists that are making this argument already know all that.
But yet, they keep making the claim. I don’t know what they mean – I don’t read minds. So, they must be referring to certain activities of atheists – writing books and blogs, financing bus ads, joining atheist groups, etc. They think atheists are “religious in their atheism” – the word “religious” being used here colloquially to mean something felt very strongly, or followed enthusiastically. But this definition of religion is so broad that virtually anything people enjoy doing very much, or follow strongly or obsessively, is a religion. It’s a definition of religion that is so broad that it’s meaningless. In reality, most of the things that people follow enthusiastically, are just hobbies. And ironically, although not collecting stamps is not a hobby, getting involved in atheist activities (writing books and blogs, attending atheist meetings) might well be a hobby for some people. But a hobby is not a religion.

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