Atheists Need to Make Up their Collective Mind

A topic that has been bounced around this blog over the years is the question of whether atheism is a religion. I, for one, have set out my reasoning for saying that it absolutely is a religion in a post entitled Why I Believe Atheism is a Religion. Needless to say, my opinion was not well received by the atheists who (at that time) were readers of the blog. They objected that atheism is not a religion for several reasons.

This morning, however, I read an article in the newspaper that led me to conclude that not all atheists share the beliefs of the readers of this blog. The article entitled, Army group says there ARE atheists in foxholes, describes a group of atheist soldiers (who in an incredibly poor rip-off are calling themselves Military Atheists and Secular Humanists, i.e., MASH) who have formed a group to advocate to meet as a group on base at Fort Bragg.

Personally, I think that they should be allowed to meet on the base. I mean, I don't know what they would meet about. It is kind of like a group of people who don't like baseball meeting to discuss that they don't like baseball. I suppose that they can all share accounts of how they violated God's law without worrying about the consequences, but that seems kinda' shallow. But I suspect it is merely the fellowship that all believers get from meeting in groups. Regardless, I think that the military is simply being silly if it is blocking them from meeting.

Here, however, is the rub for those of you who claim atheism is not a religion: The basis for the claimed right to meet on base is that atheism is a religion.

For now, the group meets regularly in homes and bars outside of Fort Bragg, one of the biggest military bases in the country. But it is going through the long bureaucratic process to win official recognition from the Army as a distinct "faith" group.

Okay, so now the atheists, free-thinkers, or whatever they want to call themselves are a distinct faith group? But I thought that atheists don't have faith -- they have reason (or so they claim).

Is it the case that the atheists get to choose their label depending upon what suits them? Are they not a religion when they want to attack religion but a "faith group" and hence a religion when they want something?

Really, atheists (being the so-much-smarter people, or so they claim) really need to work this out. Are you a faith group or not? In my view, you are clearly a faith group.


Good to see you bloging again BK. I don't think atheism is a religion. I think there's another sociological category, not official, that is a substitute for religion. Sociologists don't use that designation. The closest sociological designation (or term) I can think of would be "cult" but that would confuse it with the sort of the cult the media talks about like the Moonies, that's not what I mean eitehr.

Perhaps another more acute term would be "support group." It fills the void in their lives left by religion when they got rid of religion as a belief system.
Jason Pratt said…
I don't think atheism per se is a support group either. But obviously there could be atheistic support groups for atheists.

Similarly, I can understand the claim that some atheists make what amounts to a religion out of atheism (particularly obvious at the state-enforced level, as atheists themselves have often complained about, especially when assuring other people that they aren't like those atheists. Those atheists would probably be willing to agree that state-enforced atheism tends to have a lot of cultic features, too, including a central cultic figure to revere.)

But the concept that "atheism" per se is a religion, is foreign to me. It's like saying that "theism" per se is a religion. Um... no.

Anonymous said…
I don't think atheism is a religion either.

But what bothers me is this (something that, if memory serves right, Dinesh D'Souza pointed out in one of his debates with an atheist that was to the effect of) : If a group of atheists wants to erect a statue of some central atheist figure (let's say, Bertrand Russell) in the public square, that's good and dandy, but if Christians want to erect a statue of say, Paul the Apostle in the public square, then: " Separation of Church and State!! "

Dinesh's point, and a very good one at that, is that we don't have a protection against secularism crossing a certain line, that mirrors the utterly exagerated limitation on religion crossing a certain line.

And since atheists can just cite "in the name of secularism", they have a serious potential of getting away with things that if atheism were recognized as a religion, they might only dream of.

So I am conerned with how atheism's not- a -religion status can be exploited.
My point is not that it's only a support group but that it functions as a religion even if it's not one technically.

All of these are good points.

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