Truly there is no end to the vapid inanity the HuffPo Religion section will post. Our latest example comes from David Lose, in an essay titled, “Has Atheism Become a Religion?” Want to take bets on whether the answer is “No”?

I don’t recall who first said it, but it has been wisely noted that if atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby. That ought to be the end of things, but Lose encourages us not to dismiss the question out of hand. He then presents four lines of evidence. Let’s have a look.

1) As recently reported in the New York Times, military personnel who identify themselves as “Atheists” have requested chaplains to tend to their spiritual needs. As the Times article notes, “Defense Department statistics show that about 9,400 of the nation’s 1.4 million active-duty military personnel identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, making them a larger subpopulation than Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists in the military.” Having their own chaplains, the article explains, would give Atheists a sense of legitimacy and help validate their own system of values and beliefs.

How on earth is that evidence that atheism has become a religion? It looks more like evidence that atheists feel a bit beleaguered in a military environment that tends to be suffused with Christianity.

2) The U.S. Government reports that in 2008 those identifying themselves specifically as “Atheist” composed the 18th largest group of 43 possible categories of “self-described religious identification.” The number of persons so identifying themselves almost doubled from seven years earlier. Admittedly, “Atheist” is one of the options listed under “no religion specified,” but given that other options for respondents included checking “Agnostic” or “No Religion” or not answering the question at all, it appears that identifying oneself specifically as an Atheist, as opposed to simply “not religious,” is growing in appeal. This points to the utility of a distinction made by Jonathan Lanman between “non-theists,” those with no particular religious belief, and “strong atheists,” those who view religion not only as irrelevant but as misguided and dangerous.

You can make whatever distinctions you like, but, save for some semantical games, I fail to see how this makes atheism a religion. I’m certainly glad to hear that the explicit rejection of religion is becoming more common, but it seems odd to argue that rejecting religion makes you religious. For some reason I’m reminded of that old SNL commercial, where Sam Waterston represents an insurance company selling policies against robot attacks. At the end of the commercial we are told, “People who deny the existence of robots may be robots themselves.”

3) Similarly, it’s worth noting the degree to which Atheists routinely, strategically, and often vociferously position what is often described as their “secular-humanist” views against religious traditions. Read or listen to any of the celebrity Atheists of the past decade like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris and you realize that they fashion many of their arguments not against some alternative economic, political, or philosophical position but against organized religion. Religious faith is clearly their primary opponent in the contest for the intellectual allegiance of the population, which makes it hard not to conclude that they offer their views and beliefs as a viable alternative to traditional religious systems.

That’s very perceptive, don’t you think? Of course atheists direct their fire at organized religion, and rightly so. But, once again, how does arguing that organized religion is a blight the world would be better off without transform atheism into a religion? Offering your views as an alternative to traditional religious systems does not mean that your views comprise a religious system of their own.

4) Finally — and you probably knew this was coming — consider all the comments made by self-identified Atheists on articles published in the Religion section of the Huffington Post. Seriously. Either Atheists have way more time on their hands than the rest of the population or they’ve got something to prove. This assertive, us-against-them tone (in this case, against established religion) is characteristic of new religions. (Think of the Christian gospels’, especially Matthew and John, stance toward first-century Judaism, for example.) As Rabbi David Wolpe observed a few months ago, there is an astonishing garrulousness to the comments made by Atheists to posts about religion that suggest not simply a lack of interest in, or even disdain for, religion but a competitive anger directed against persons of traditional religious faith. (Obviously plenty of religious folk radiate the same garrulousness, but this post is about Atheists.)

An assertive, us-against-them tone against established religion is also characteristic of groups that are consistently derided and belittled by it, which certainly describes atheists rather well. And let me suggest that people who use asinine cliches about commenters “having too much time on their hands” represent the lowest level of the blogosphere.

Lose now turns to three reasons why he thinks it’s terribly important to describe atheism as a faith. I’ll leave the first two as exercises for you, but here’s the third:

Third, characterizing both organized religion and emergent Atheism as distinct faith traditions invites a measure of mutual regard and even respect that is sorely lacking in present discourse. Professing belief in God, as well as rejecting such belief, each requires equal measures of imagination and nerve. As it turns out, doubt is not the opposite of faith; certainty is. For this reason, we can hold out the hope that religious and non-religious believers alike may recognize in each other similar acts of courage and together reject the cowardice of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular. Being able to disagree respectfully is a small but significant step that believers and non-believers could take as they, together, contemplate admiring, understanding, and preserving this wondrous world we share.

Equal measures? No.

As for certainty, not doubt, being the opposite of faith, please. Atheists are not the ones who need lectures about excessive certainty. Let’s not forget that it is Christians who claim the Bible is the inerrant word of God. It’s the Catholic Church that claims an exclusive right to interpret the Bible, and claims its leader can speak infallibly at least some of the time. It is Christianity that, in its culturally dominant forms, preaches eternal damnation for anyone who demurs. Against this atheists and agnostics just point out that the evidence for these propositions is very weak. Tell me again about how these positions require equal measures of faith.

I’m all in favor of respectful disagreements, but, at the risk of being childish, I would note that it was not Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or Christopher Hitchens who started this little fight. Respect is a two-way street, and I see very little of it coming from the leading representatives of religion.

Comments

  1. #1 Tulse
    May 31, 2011

    Someone recently suggested a new law for evaluating such articles, namely, if the title asks a question, the answer is almost always “no”.

    And if the criteria used to identify a religion could also apply to sports fans and dog enthusiasts, those are not very good criteria. But it is interesting to see how little importance the author seem to give to belief in god(s) as being part of being religious.

  2. #2 random ntrygg
    May 31, 2011

    Lessee, no rituals, magic clothes, meetings, tithings, creation myths, sacred texts, heirarchy of authority or dieties

    other than all that being missing, I can see how religionists who have already rejected realty convince themselves that atheism is a religion

    more pleading for special consideration and respect for ideas that deserve none

  3. #3 Uncle Bob
    May 31, 2011

    I become more and more convinced that every argument against atheism is one continuous example of projection. Atheists are arrogant. Atheists are mean. Atheists believe in absolutes. Atheists are close minded. Atheists are dogmatic. Atheism requires a lot of faith. Atheists are immoral/amoral.

    It is so Orwellian it often leaves me speechless.

  4. #4 Pierce R. Butler
    May 31, 2011

    … characterizing both organized religion and emergent Atheism as distinct faith traditions invites a measure of mutual regard and even respect …

    Yeah, like at the battle of Mühlberg. Or that exchange of opinion between the two branches of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the same vicinity almost four hundred years later.

  5. #5 Scott Houtteman
    May 31, 2011

    This “controversy” is just a matter of definition and, as such, not terribly interesting. If you define religion broadly as something you cannot prove but must take a “leap of faith” and “believe” then atheism is a religion, a noncontroversial issue that even atheists like Issac Asimov accepted. Actually a better term to use if one wants to include both religion and atheism is “philosophy.” On the other hand, there is a utility to describing atheism as a religion when discussing fundamentalist atheism such as that of Dawkins. At the end of the day Dawkins argues that the answers to the “big questions” and “the meaning of life” can only come through Science. He is every bit as impatient as a religious fundamentalist with those that believe otherwise.

  6. #6 Uncle Bob
    May 31, 2011

    #5 If you are going to poe us, you could at least use different arguments than the very article being discussed here.

  7. #7 Mike Haubrich
    May 31, 2011

    contemplate admiring, understanding, and preserving this wondrous world we share.

    Am I the only one who is sick of this whole poetic nonsense that this world is some sort of wondrous, Willy Wonka-esque planet of babies and puppies and duckies and peonies and sunflowers and beer? The world is kind of a mixed bag, frankly, with a lot of bad bad things to go along with the good. Yep, we could all sit around and admire how pretty it all is together and be happy and eat chocolate; or we could face the world as it is and try to solve the problems that humans are creating by seeing the world as it is and not as strummed by lute players in sandals.

  8. #8 miller
    May 31, 2011

    Sometimes I like to imagine atheists making similar arguments, just to see if I have any more sympathy for the arguments when they’re made by allies. Here, I imagine atheists arguing, “Christianity is not a religion! That’s why it’s wrong!” Wouldn’t that be absurd?

  9. #9 hibob
    May 31, 2011

    It could be a step toward atheism being legally considered a religion.

  10. #10 Mandrellian
    June 1, 2011

    Idiocy. It’s not even original idiocy, either, it’s like a copy+paste of any number of ignorant & projection-riddled “You are too!” screeds posted by goddists in the last decade.

    It’s as if none of these god-shills have bothered to do five fricking minutes’ homework and actually educate themselves, not only about what atheism is and isn’t (a goddamn dictionary would be a great place to start on that respect), but what atheists themselves actually say and do not say about atheism.

    Seriously, “atheism is a religion too” is grade-school bullshit. I’d kick this guy off my debating team for excessve triteness.

  11. #11 AL
    June 1, 2011

    As it turns out, doubt is not the opposite of faith; certainty is.

    Certainty is the opposite of faith? Someone’s really, really stretching the meaning of words here. Then again, you have to stretch the meaning of religion quite a bit to make atheism a religion. HuffPo might as well publish Kent Hovind announcing that atheists are actually theists because their God is the nothingness from which everything came. I mean if we’re going to play this definition stretching game, then certainly “are atheists theists?” becomes a legitimate question that we should all think deeply about and write many paragraphs over.

  12. #12 ALeyram
    June 1, 2011

    Bu tanrı-shills hiçbiri beş fricking dakika ödev yapmak aslında, kendilerini eğitmek rahatsız varsa It’s as sadece hakkında ateizm ne olduğunu ve ancak, (lanet olası bir harika bir yer olduğunu saygı günü başlayacak olacağını sözlük) değildir ne kendileri aslında söylemek ateizm hakkında söylemiyorum ateist.

  13. #13 Alan
    June 1, 2011

    Lose by name, lose by nature.

  14. #14 JimR
    June 1, 2011

    PhysOrg has a post on the Church of Satan which is described in the article “…as a law-abiding, atheistic new religious movement…”. It explains: “…LaVey liked to shake up the status quo. And how best to trump convention than to adopt a name that suggests devil-worship but really means adversary in Hebrew?”

    So atheists can join an anti-religious religion. As secretive as members are, they will never be called New Atheists.

  15. #15 NoSacredCow
    June 1, 2011

    Equal measures? No.

    Faith is the lazy way out of a cognitive exercise.

    It’s like using a treadmill for hanging laundry.

  16. #16 PhillyChief
    June 1, 2011

    Like Pascal’s Wager, they’ll never stop using the same failed arguments and strategies.

    The point behind ‘atheism is a religion’ is to try and undermine every atheist argument and action. It’s essentially an ad hominem. If atheism is a religion, then its objections to your religion aren’t based on logic, reason and evidence; they’re simply another faith based objection like Islam or HInduism and as such, can be dismissed out of hand.

    On one hand it’s amusing that the strategy to undermine the opposition is to basically say, “you’re just as bad as us”, but I think that’s encouraging because it acknowledges the influence, real and potential, that reason and evidence can have on people. Let’s face it, people do not rely on faith and similar irrationalities to get through most of their days. They may say they do, but see if you get any takers if you challenge them to rely on faith alone to accomplish mundane tasks like crossing the street.

  17. #17 James Sweet
    June 1, 2011

    Shorter Lose: If you oppose something, you are that thing.

    Is Gun Control Advocacy a Form of Gun Ownership?

    1) As the New York Times recently reported, gun control advocates have their own political lobbying groups, analogous to the NRA.

    2) Surveys show that a small but growing fraction of those who identify as “not owning guns” also identify themselves as “pro-gun control”. It appears that identifying oneself specifically as Pro-Gun Control, as opposed to simply “not a gun owner,” is growing in appeal. This points to the utility of a distinction made by Lonathan Janman between “non-gun owners,” those with no particular guns in their possession, and “strong gun control advocates,” those who view gun ownership not only as unnecessary but as misguided and dangerous.

    3) Similarly, it’s worth noting the degree to which Gun Control Advocates routinely, strategically, and often vociferously position what is often described as their “pro-gun control” views against gun-owning traditions. Read or listen to any of the celebrity Gun Control Advocates of the past decade like James Brady, and you realize that they fashion many of their arguments not against some alternative economic, political, or philosophical position but against unrestricted gun ownership. Gun ownership is clearly their primary opponent in the contest for the intellectual allegiance of the population, which makes it hard not to conclude that they offer their views and beliefs as a viable alternative to unrestricted gun ownership.

    4) Finally — and you probably knew this was coming — consider all the comments made by self-identified Gun Control Advocates on articles published in the Politics section of the Huffington Post. Seriously. Either Gun Control Advocates have way more time on their hands than the rest of the population or they’ve got something to prove. This assertive, us-against-them tone (in this case, against unrestricted gun ownership) is characteristic of political groups lobbying in favor of unrestricted gun ownership. (Think of the NRA’s stance toward the Brady Bill, for example.) As Sarah Palin observed a few months ago, there is an astonishing garrulousness to the comments made by Gun Control Advocates to posts about gun ownership that suggest not simply a lack of interest in, or even disdain for, gun ownership but a competitive anger directed against gun violence. (Obviously plenty of gun owners radiate the same garrulousness, but this post is about Gun Control Advocates.)

    Characterizing both NRA membership and emergent Gun Control Advocacy as distinct manners of gun ownership invites a measure of mutual regard and even respect that is sorely lacking in present discourse. Owning a gun, as well as advocating gun control restrictions, each requires equal measures of imagination and nerve. As it turns out, being banned is not the opposite of being unrestricted; shooting people is. For this reason, we can hold out the hope that gun owners and non-gun owners alike may recognize in each other similar acts of courage and together reject the cowardice of political advocacy, whether pro- or anti-gun control. Being able to disagree respectfully is a small but significant step that gun owners and non-gun owners could take as they, together, contemplate admiring, understanding, and preserving the wondrous guns we share.

  18. #18 Charles Wade
    June 1, 2011

    If “Atheism” is a religion, then can we get tax-exempt status for our income and properties?

  19. #19 jensan
    June 1, 2011

    #5 – I agree w/you. When they say “religion” in the context of atheism, they don’t mean “magic clothes, rites, tithing, etc.” they mean “your philosophy of life.” In that sense, it is a religion. It is what you believe to be true. I have no problem with any “religion” so long as it’s goal is the lease expenditure of energy for the greatest common good. Therefore: building huge cathedrals while letting the peasants who build the cathedral die in bone-crushing pain and hunger = bad religion BUT espousing a system of beliefs whereby you mind your own business, help as many as you feel called to help, and hurt no one = good religion.

  20. #20 Ed
    June 1, 2011

    If they let me get all the same unwarranted tax breaks that religions get, then they can call my atheism a religion all they want.

  21. #21 eric
    June 1, 2011

    Ed: If they let me get all the same unwarranted tax breaks that religions get, then they can call my atheism a religion all they want.

    No! Absolutely not. You don’t make the country better by taking a crappy, discriminatory, tax exemption and giving it to others.

    We can do better than cutting off our nose to spite our face.

  22. #22 Chrisj
    June 1, 2011

    James@17:

  23. #23 Jim Harrison
    June 1, 2011

    We use the word “atheist” to refer to people who simply don’t believe in God but also to identify people who belong to a definable social group that not only disbelieves in God but shares a variety of other beliefs and attitudes. Atheists of the second type aren’t really in a religion by any reasonable definition of religion, but they are a movement with a history and an ideology, not to mention a characteristic sociological profile.

    Attacking atheists of any kind by accusing them of belonging to a religion is a bit self defeating since those who use this approach are in effect admitting that belonging to a religion is something you ought to be ashamed of.

  24. #24 Brice Gilbert
    June 1, 2011

    #5 Yeah no. Show me where Asimov says his atheism is a leap of faith like religion. Atheists do not think their lack of belief in a God is a “non-controversial” issue.

    We are talking about people who don’t believe in Gods, believe that reality operates by natural laws, and only accept claims when shown evidence. If you want to say that these people are part of a religion I think we playing with words yet again. World View is a more proper term.

  25. #25 Brett
    June 1, 2011

    Excellent post. I have been hearing the argument that “atheism is a religion” my whole life, and all the attendant back-and-forth.

    However, my reason for commenting is that I really, really admire a refutation that can reference the SNL Robot Insurance commercial.

  26. #26 debaser
    June 1, 2011

    Secular morality is better than religious morality. Its important to constantly point that out, because religions are constantly causing actual pain and suffering of living beings for no good reason.

    @3 – So true Uncle Bob. Somewhat fitting in that most people’s conception of god is basically a person with supernatual, omni-magical powers glomed onto it. What better way to defend your projection then by….MORE projection?

    Its really sad, countless lives have been lost or ruined because of what amounts to (an) imaginary monster(s).

  27. #27 Scott near Berkeley
    June 1, 2011

    I like the example of “not collecting stamps” is a hobby. In the same category, is “Not Golfing” a sport?? Seems inherent.

    The best test I have recently deduced about “Is it a religion or not?” is the test for apostasy, or declaring you no longer hold those values. If you declare your personal philosophy no longer supports Islam, declares it to be a false and unworthy belief, what is the penalty for declaring this is so?

    What is the penalty for apostasy? No social shame, no stigma, no threat of physical harm, NOT a religion. Threats to self, to family, to social standing, to one’s finances, for declaring a set of beliefs to be false: a RELIGION.

    This puts belief in Stalin’s version of Communism, Mao’s version of Communism, Hitler’s version of National Socialism, all into the “Religionist” category. These were truly religions according to the test of apostasy. You could walk down any public street and decry atheism, and you’d get applauded in Mecca or Rome, and certainly not punished. Try the opposite: try denouncing Mao in Peking in his day, Stalin in Moscow in his day, Catholicism in Rome today, Islam in Mecca today, and you know which set of values is a religion, and which is not:
    the apostasy test.

    It also puts some of these “Satan” and “Wiccan” cults into the “hobby” or “philosophy” category, since (so far) I hear people come into and go out of them without much effect to their person.

  28. #28 SC (Salty Current)
    June 1, 2011

    As it turns out, doubt is not the opposite of faith; certainty is.

    No – science.

  29. #29 Kevin
    June 1, 2011

    I have to agree with #3. It’s projection; pure, simple and unadulterated.

    “You’re nothing like us, therefore you’re exactly like us.”

    Right.

    By this level of thinking, astronomers are really astrologers. Because they deny astrology.

    Seriously, it’s only religion that gets this kind of free pass in the “WTF, that doesn’t make sense” department.

    Hint to PuffHo: Next time you want to post an atheist-bashing article, substitute “astronomy” and “astrology” in the appropriate holes. If it makes no sense whatsoever (and that’s my bet going in), then shit-can the piece. It’s nonsense.

  30. #30 nic
    June 1, 2011

    Ed: If they let me get all the same unwarranted tax breaks that religions get, then they can call my atheism a religion all they want. No! Absolutely not. You don’t make the country better by taking a crappy, discriminatory, tax exemption and giving it to others. We can do better than cutting off our nose to spite our face.

    With all the money we save on taxes, we can buy ourselves new noses.

  31. #31 Moewicus
    June 1, 2011

    This argument is like saying “like dogs, babies have four limbs, are doted upon by adult humans, eat food very different from the food adult humans eat, and make unintelligible noises just like dogs. Therefore, calling babies dogs allows us to better understand their appropriate role in the household.” Nothing is gained by thinking of atheism as a religion, not least because it simply isn’t one.

  32. #32 Rieux
    June 1, 2011

    I have to agree with #3.

    Yeah, but how about #12?

    Upon further review, it appears to be a (competent? I have no idea) Turkish translation of the middle paragraph of Mandrellian @10. What an odd form of trolling.

  33. #33 Joe Shelby
    June 1, 2011

    “Think of the Christian gospels’, especially Matthew and John, stance toward first-century Judaism, for example.”

    This alone shows the guy is a theological idiot.

    Matthew and John are *extremely* Jewish (and pro-Jewish) Gospels. Everything about Matthew is on how the works of Jesus fit the prophecies, especially Isaiah. Matthew as an author is absolutely convinced that Jesus is The One for the Jews, so to have taken an anti-Jewish stance in the work would have defeated the point.

    John’s two works (assuming they’re done by the same author) are also a concerted effort to make Jesus fit the model of a Messiah and connect the dots between His words and the old testament (the Temple as described in the middle of Revelation is a one-to-one mapping to the very temple that Solomon built as described in 1st Kings).

    Both were an attempt to convince Jews that Jesus was the One and so they should unite behind his message (even after his death/resurrection) as the completion of the promises made in the Old Testament. (Paul *sometimes* takes this stance, but only to particular audiences like Hebrews. It is not the stance he takes to gentile-originated churches like the ones in Greek regions.)

    John can appear anti-Judaism on the surface, but that is merely a surface reading ignoring the deeper points that John is attempting to convince the non-Christian Jews that they are wrong (particularly in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD – both John-credited books are certainly written after that event).

    If anything, it is Luke that is the most anti-Jewish Gospel in that his works, combined with its “sequel” Acts, are the most direct reference to the process of the apostles actually founding a new religion rather than trying to convince Jews that Jesus is/was the Messiah as described. In these, they led (or follow) Paul in opening the new faith to Gentiles, which neither Matthew nor John really acknowledge.

    I sometimes think Acts was written first, then the Gospel of Luke done as an adaptation of Mark’s Gospel to justify the actions described in Acts.

    Mark is pretty much a rather dry, objective account, but even there could only be described as having a stance of apathy regarding Judaism at the time, nothing more.

    Of course, this guy’s also an idiot in assuming (as I read it) there was only one philosophy behind “1st Century Judaism”, and Monty Python addressed that fallacy better than any other scholar in history.

  34. #34 Ichthyic
    June 2, 2011

    your philosophy of life.” In that sense, it is a religion.

    no, in that sense have you arbitrarily redefined what a religion is.

    I for one, don’t care for your re-definition, I found the old one to be quite fine.

    In fact, if the author MEANT “philosophy” then he just as easily could have said that, instead of building a strawman.

    that said, even calling atheism a fucking philosophy is a strawman. It’s not.

    Atheism is a conclusion, based on the lack of evidence for ANYTHING counter to it.

    whether a sufficient number of people coming to the exact same conclusion, for the same reasons, and starting a movement to defend this position against sheer ignorance and projection of the religious is irrelevant, nor does the fact that people need to defend themselves make it a religion, or a philosophy, either.

  35. #35 Sean Santos
    June 2, 2011

    jensan@19:

    When they say “religion” in the context of atheism, they don’t mean “magic clothes, rites, tithing, etc.” they mean “your philosophy of life.”

    This is precisely what I find most objectionable about the article. It is using this rarely-used secondary definition of religion in order to advance the idea that, on some level, everyone is (or should be) religious.

    Truthfully, religions are a class of “philosophies of life”, a mere subset, and not even, IMO, the most interesting ones. When someone equates this subset with the whole, they are simultaneously over-inflating religion and degrading huge swathes of human thought, and we do ourselves a disservice by not challenging this sort of unthinking equation.

    Humanity would be in a sad state indeed if no one had any ideas about how to live their personal life that weren’t religious in nature.

  36. #36 SAWells
    June 2, 2011

    Medicine seeks to replace disease with health, therefore health is in some sense a disease.

    Right.

  37. #37 TomZ, a miasma of incandescent plasma
    June 2, 2011

    “…it appears that identifying oneself specifically as an Atheist, as opposed to simply “not religious,” is growing in appeal.”

    OK, protip, there’s a big difference between someone calling themself an Atheist vs Non-Religious. Non-Religious says nothing about that person’s belief in the supernatural. A non-religious person could claim they believe in a deity (or some “spirit” or “presence” or whatever woo you want), but not prescribe to a specific religious sect.
    Atheism is a rejection of the notion of deities or lever-pulling supernatural forces.
    One can be non-religious and still believe in gods.

    Oh, and that last piece that’s quoted:

    “…we can hold out the hope that religious and non-religious believers alike may recognize in each other similar acts of courage and together reject the cowardice of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular. Being able to disagree respectfully is a small but significant step that believers and non-believers could take as they, together, contemplate admiring, understanding, and preserving this wondrous world we share.”

    Blame the victim much?? So it’s atheists’ fault that religious people treat us like shit because we aren’t seen as a religion, except that we are seen that way by most religious people. So if religious people see us like that already, and we’re currently discriminated against, what good would it do to agree with them? Would religious people all of the sudden say “Oh, now you admit you’re a religion, NOW we’ll trust you and not send you death threats for upholding the constitution or making your public school follow the 1st amendment.”

    Oh yeah, the claim that if atheists would say “we’re a religion” it would allow religious people to “disagree respectfully” (why they can’t just do it anyway, god’s love and all that). Well, I guess with that logic then we can say that no established religions ever have violent, geneocital tendencies towards each other. I guess Christianity, Islam, and Judaism killing each other like a backrub circle is just our imagination. (Not to mention the killing that goes on between smaller sects.)

  38. #38 Blaine
    June 2, 2011

    When someone asks if I am an atheist, I invariably answer yes because I don’t want to get into a long winded discussion about science, evidence, etc. But in private, I make a distinction between pragmatics and theory. From a pragmatic standpoint I am an atheist, but from a theoretical perspective, I am agnostic. One can easily create a taxonomy of gods and quickly establish that there is plenty of evidence that disproves the existence of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic god ( or at the very least, is inconsistent with their existence ). But, as for others, there is insufficient evidence to establish either way whether or not a ‘god of the philosophers’ exists. For example, some think that there is a non-trivial probability that we are a simulation. Not a simulation in the matrix sense, but a Turing/SuperTuring computable simulation( given the limitation of the Plank length, the world could possibly be computed with rationals which means its Turing computable.) So we may be some hyper-dimensional high student’s experiment ( see http://www.simulation-argument.com ). I’m not sure how we could know this, so I’m leaving it as a curious thought experiment. My point is that I am an agnostic over these issues. Maybe god is a hyperdimensional physicist. From a pragmatic standpoint, I am an atheist because it really doesn’t matter to me whether these sorts of beings exist. From a theorical point of view, I do agree that it requires faith to be an absolute atheist and rule out the simulation hypothesis or even rule out an evil god( Descartes failed miserably IMO) from a theoretical perspective. Monotheists are not typically interested in these fine points, so I routinely answer that I am an atheist even though its tiresome to hear that it requires faith to believe there is no Christian, Jewish or Muslim god.

  39. #39 Blaine
    June 2, 2011

    When someone asks if I am an atheist, I invariably answer yes because I don’t want to get into a long winded discussion about science, evidence, etc. But in private, I make a distinction between pragmatics and theory. From a pragmatic standpoint I am an atheist, but from a theoretical perspective, I am agnostic. One can easily create a taxonomy of gods and quickly establish that there is plenty of evidence that disproves the existence of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic god ( or at the very least, is inconsistent with their existence ). But, as for others, there is insufficient evidence to establish either way whether or not a ‘god of the philosophers’ exists. For example, some think that there is a non-trivial probability that we are a simulation. Not a simulation in the matrix sense, but a Turing/SuperTuring computable simulation( given the limitation of the Plank length, the world could possibly be computed with rationals which means its Turing computable.) So we may be some hyper-dimensional high student’s experiment ( see http://www.simulation-argument.com ). I’m not sure how we could know this, so I’m leaving it as a curious thought experiment. My point is that I am an agnostic over these issues. Maybe god is a hyperdimensional physicist. From a pragmatic standpoint, I am an atheist because it really doesn’t matter to me whether these sorts of beings exist. From a theorical point of view, I do agree that it requires faith to be an absolute atheist and rule out the simulation hypothesis or even rule out an evil god( Descartes failed miserably IMO) from a theoretical perspective. Monotheists are not typically interested in these fine points, so I routinely answer that I am an atheist even though its tiresome to hear that it requires faith to believe there is no Christian, Jewish or Muslim god.

  40. #40 marc sobel
    June 2, 2011

    I have faith (or hold these truths to be inalienable) that:

    1) the Conservative Baptist Association of America http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservative_Baptist_Association_of_America interpretation of the Bible as the inerrant word of God is not the same as any other Christianist denomination

    2) by induction from 1) that any specific Christianist denomination does not agree with the interpretation of the Bible as the inerrant word of God of any other specific Christianist denomination.

    Therefore the null interpretation (that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God) has equal and opposite validity.

  41. #41 Ichthyic
    June 2, 2011

    But, as for others, there is insufficient evidence to establish either way whether or not a ‘god of the philosophers’ exists.

    methinks it resembles a weasel.

    seriously, if you can’t see how intellectually vacuous your “theoretical agnostic” position is, I weep for you.

    there is no more evidence for Spinoza’s god than there is for the flying spaghetti monster, so all you’ve done is claim that imagination allows for agnosticism.

    bull.

    shit.

  42. #42 Blaine
    June 3, 2011

    “there is no more evidence for Spinoza’s god than there is for the flying spaghetti monster, so all you’ve done is claim that imagination allows for agnosticism.”

    Exactly, which was my point! It is similar to the seti program. It may end of being a proof by exhaustion that life on other planets does not exist. My notion of a possible ‘god’ is a being sufficiently advanced to simulate a world. I develop software, therefore, I am a god. The god of the philosophers may simply be our descendents who are vastly more advanced than we are re-simulating their evolution. According to strong AI, our minds are Turing computable, ie substrate neutral Turing machines. If it all boils down to e=mc^2 ( which it does btw ), we are all negentropic energy sinks and in a very real way, purely material avatars. I don’t really care how the simulation started myself, its just fun to get beyond the politics and think about the possible…what’s your take on modal realism?

  43. #43 Ichthyic
    June 3, 2011

    It is similar to the seti program.

    fail.

    why?

    because the reason SETI exists is that we ALREADY have proof that an intelligent species uses manipulation of radio waves to communicate.

    I develop software, therefore, I am a god.

    O.o

    *backing away slowly*

  44. #44 Spaghetti Monster
    June 3, 2011

    @Ichthyic
    “But, as for others, there is insufficient evidence to establish either way whether or not a ‘god of the philosophers’ exists.”

    methinks it resembles a weasel.
    seriously, if you can’t see how intellectually vacuous your “theoretical agnostic” position is, I weep for you.
    ——————-

    Well, I wrinkle my nose in disgust at your attitude.

    And it seems you don’t even grasp the analogy with the SETI program, so maybe you shouldn’t jump to conclusions regarding others’ intellectual vacuity.

    The SETI program hopes to detect alien civilizations on other planets. Now there is exactly as much evidence for alien civilizations as there is for your Flying Spaghetti Monster or Quetzalcoatl.

    So, someone like you would jump to the conclusion that searching for them is “intellectually vacuous bullshit” and propose to cut all funding.

    What the SETI program does is, precisely, maintain a “theoretically agnostic” position about their existence while continuing the search.

    On the other hand, most scientists, including the SETI folks are “atheist” as far as UFOs are concerned. Here its not just there is no evidence for UFOs but a considerable amount of evidence against them.

    Does your vast intellect comprehend the distinction ?

    Similarly, it is intellectually sound to be agnostic about
    Spinoza’s god and atheistic about, say, the Old Testament god.

    Much more so than your one size fits all take on the position.

  45. #45 Ichthyic
    June 3, 2011

    it seems you don’t even grasp the analogy with the SETI program

    because it failed.

    you repeating it doesn’t make it fail in comparison any less.

    I explained exactly why it failed as a comparison: Because we already have evidence than an intelligent species uses that form of communication.

    there is now, and never has been, any evidence of any kind of deity described by any kind of religion.

    so, yes, it fails in comparison, flat out.

    that you can’t see this exactly tells me volumes about whether it would be worth continuing this discussion.

    hint:

  46. #46 Lee Harrison
    June 5, 2011

    When anyone asks if I believe in God I say no. That makes me an atheist. Full stop. It says nothing about what else I may think about the universe.

    I am also an agnostic because I am ‘without knowledge’ of God either way. All rational people are agnostic, including believers – anyone claiming to know for certain that God exists is just as wrong about the meaning of the word ‘know’ as anyone claiming to know for certain that there are no gods. There are agnostic theists (in my head I call them honest theists…) and agnostic atheists.

    I am an agnostic because I lack knowledge. I am an atheist because I lack faith. Why is that so damn hard to grasp?

    The idea that atheism is a faith position is as hilarious as it is irritating. It is simply not true that I have a belief in the non-existence of gods; instead, I have no belief in the existence of gods.

  47. #47 Blaine
    June 5, 2011

    Of course I was being tongue and cheek about being god. My point was that if humans ever have the computing power to simulate a human mind ( assuming we can ), this mind would ponder its existence and we would effectively be a god. This is standard sci-fi stuff, but it does lie in the possible given our current state of knowledge. But it only pushes the problem one step backwards and we are left with the same problem. However, since I am a critical rationalist ( ala Karl Popper, Hans Albert, W.W. Bartely III, and David Miller ) and not a justificationist ( ie not a coherentist, foundationialist, or infinitist – corresponding to the three branches of Munchhausen’s trilemma ), I do not think certainty is possible. Hence I maintain agnosticism in theory, but atheism in practice.

  48. #48 Roberto
    June 7, 2011

    ever heard the name Andre Breton?

  49. #49 Wow
    June 10, 2011

    “He is every bit as impatient as a religious fundamentalist with those that believe otherwise.”

    I’m impatient when my toast takes a long time to pop out.

    Does that make me religious?

  50. #50 Blaine
    June 12, 2011

    ever heard the name Andre Breton?
    ================================
    Come on!
    Doesn’t anyone here know that the computable reals have measure zero? Anyone here know what the Church-Turing-Deutsch principle is and what it implies? Anyone here know what a SuperTuring machine is or a quantum computer?

  51. #51 Rodolfo
    June 19, 2011

    I consider myself an agnostic theist. In other words I know you can’t “know” there is a god but I believe one does exist. The belief that no god exists is just as much a belief that a god does exist. Science, since it only deals with the physical realm, and god is not physical(and yes I realize I’m making an assumption about the nature of god but if he is physical he wouldn’t be god would he?) cannot say anything on the subject. So science cannot answer in the affirmative or negative on the existence of god. The belief that there is no god is just as faith based(believing in something that is inherently unprovable) as the belief that there is a god. Therefore athiesm is a religion, and no, it does not need traditions or rhetoric to be a religion. It just needs to have its core belief to be inherently unprovable.

    Oh and please save your angry/dismissive/derogatory/belittling comments as i’ll not read them. Also, before you assume, I am in fact very educated(for all of you who think only uneducated people believe in god and vice versa).

  52. #52 John
    July 19, 2011

    @ 51

    Atheism is a religion just like bald is a hairstyle. A lot of atheists don’t “believe there is no god” – they lack a belief in a god… or like me think the concept is ill-defined.

    Your “Therefore athiesm is a religion” does not follow because as I said, a lot if not most atheists simply lack a belief in a god. Provide data and I’ll accept the existence of this invisible person who lives in a different dimension and who has magic powers…until then, do not classify atheism as a religion.

  53. #53 Wow
    July 19, 2011

    Anyway, if atheism was a religion, why doesn’t it get tax breaks like other equally large religions? Why can’t we get atheist presidents like we get other religion presidents? And why is it fine to denigrate atheism and bad to denigrate your religion?

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