Sunday, October 09, 2005

Is Atheism a Religion?

Yesterday's post about the spurred me into further investigation of the question of whether atheism is a form of religious belief. As I discussed yesterday,
"If belief in a Higher Power is considered a religious faith, then an equally powerful argument can be made that the non-belief in a Higher Power is also a religion. To put it another way, a religious person believes in a Higher Power. An atheist does not. Neither position can be proven with facts or science; each requires faith in an idea."
A Google search of the title of this post reveals many relevant links to this discussion. Many of those who consider themselves atheists bristle at the charge that atheism is a religion. Many of these people have a very simple adherence to atheism that they don't believe in any Higher Power, no After-Life, no Supreme Being, nothing.

There is also a very large segment of the atheist population who very actively seeks to abolish any references to any form of religious faith in any public forum, governmental agency, or public schools, or any organization or activity open to the general public. I would characterize this group of atheists as "activists", and suspect that many of them would also characterize themselves as politically liberal.

The latter group is the more vocal 'face' of atheism, and are usually the ones filing lawsuits to remove religious symbols from public buildings, schools, etc. These activist atheists zealously and ruthlessly pursue their non-believer goals—which seem to this writer as ultimately the elimination of all religious activity anywhere except possibly in the privacy of one's home. One such zealot sued to remove the Cross atop Mt. Soledad, and another sued to stop public schools from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and its reference to "under God".

In researching this question, however, I discovered a recent United State Appellate Court ruling that held that atheism is indeed areligiouss belief. The August, 2005 decision by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has spurred furious debate between those of religious faith and atheists, and even among atheists themselves.

Since the federal courts have now affirmed that , my argument that the San Diego judge who ruled that the public vote to transfer the land under the Cross on Mt. Soledad to private hands was an unconstitutional promotion of religion, was by her ruling violating the constitution by promoting atheism. Atheists want the Cross removed because their religion (atheism) says such symbols are opposed to their religion. If you are anti-religion, then you are pro-atheism. Therefore the removal of religion and religious symbols from public property is the promotion of atheism. The promotion of atheism is the promotion of a religion. The promotion of a religion by government is unconstitutional, therefore the order to removereligiouss symbols and practices from government property and institutions is, in fact, the unconstitutional promotion of a particular religious faith over others.

The Supreme Court has held (the ) that to beincompletelye with the1stt amendment, government must be secular in nature, must neither promote nor inhibit religious activity, and must not excessively entangle government and religion.

The ruling on the Mt. Soledad Cross, given the above, is in clear violation of the Lemon Test in that it promotes atheism, inhibits Christianity, and, through its promotion of atheism, excessively entangles government and religion.


Anonymous said...

By itself, atheism is no more a religion than theism is. Both can be part of religions, but they aren't religions on their own.

The absence of symbols promoting Christianity cannot be construed as a promotion of atheism. If there is an absence of symbols promoting Hinduism, is that a promotion of Judaism? Of Scientology? Of atheism? What nonsense. The government promotes atheism if it tells people in some way that atheism is preferable to theism, but the government isn't doing that by not promoting some religion.

"If you are anti-religion, then you are pro-atheism."

First you say that atheism is a religion, then you say that anti-religion is pro-atheism. Thus, anti-atheism is pro-atheism. Black is white, up is down, and night is day.

The fact is, some religions are atheistic (some forms of Buddhism, some forms of Hinduism, Raelians, Ethical Culture, etc.). Are these atheists "anti-religion"? Of course not.

The WorldNetDaily article you reference is dishonest, by the way.

So, your entire post proceeds from a serious of false premises and bad inferences, leading to an absurd conclusion. Congrats.

James Z. Smith said...

Thanks for your comments, and the excellent links. Perhaps I could have been clearer, if it bothers you so much.

If I had written, "If you are anti-[traditional] religion, then you are pro-atheism." As I made clear in my post, however, I mainly refer to those activist atheists who seek the removal of all references to religion on public property or by government officials or entities. To those atheists who simply have no faith in a Higher Power and don't care about the subject beyond that, I say 'go in peace'.

I'd also like to comment on your assertion that the WND article was "dishonest."

The whole point of my post, and the point of the article you reference is that for purposes of 1st Amendment issues, atheism IS a religion. The example of the Cross in San Diego is a perfect illustration: An admitted atheist wants the removal of Christian symbols from public property, and is opposed even to the transfer of the property to private hands. This is a first amendment issue, and therefore the relgious standing of atheism is part of the equation. The courts have held that atheism, for the purposes of 1st amendment issues, IS a religion. Therefore no not take into account the symbols of atheism—the lack of symbols—is wrong, and if enforced, "excessively entangles" government in religion, that religion being atheism.

Kip said...

Of course Atheism is a religion. It expounds what it believes is true and derides what it considers false, regarding metaphysical and supernatural matters.

And the idea that 'not believing' a proposition is a grand and noteworthy difference from 'believing it is not', is preposterous hairsplitting -- incorporating an assumption that only the adherents of one's own faith have an appreciation of subtle philosophical distinctions. That adherents of traditional religions are like a zombie army with one lock-step belief.

What piffle. Christians come in many different shades and hues, in terms of what we have experienced, believe and understand. The laughable stereotype of the single 'superstitious and ignorant' Christian is proof on its own of the religious nature of Atheism -- a crude and intolerant religion at that...