It's True that Atheism Isn't a Religion, But...


It's often been argued, by those who profess to be atheists, that atheism is nothing more and nothing less than "an absence of belief in God (or the gods)". This definition is simple, to the point, and clear enough. It is the dictionary definition of the word, but although one might think this position is rather straightforward and uncontroversial, it hides the fact that, at least so far as modern-day, militant atheism goes, it remains hopelessly inadequate.

It is inadequate for the rather simple and obvious reason that the vast majority of atheists one encounters these days do not simply lack a belief in God, but actively promote what they DO believe, to anyone nearby who will listen (and even to those who tell them to go away). Evidence for this can be found, first and foremost, in the 'YouTube' comments section where anything of a religious nature is discussed within the clip that has been posted. Alternatively, one can make them come out of the woodwork by simply leaving a comment beneath any clip that has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, by simply mentioning "God" in a comment you leave there.

Before I came here to GAG, I would often express my views there, and would usually wind up in a debate with someone who truly thought that if a claim was in their view "extraordinary" (whatever that means, precisely) it required "extraordinary evidence". Well, as anyone who has given this a modicum of thought will be able to tell you, the very idea of the extraordinary is completely subjective. What may be extraordinary to me, may not be to you (and vice versa), so what exactly are they after here?

They also like to emphasise the point that their "lack of belief" requires no explanation, and no justification, because it's "the default position". Well, sorry, but no, that's not the way it works. A belief that is stated as such, when used to make a point about something, always needs to be explained and defended. An absence of belief about anything at all is still a belief (i.e. the belief that x does not exist). When you base an entire worldview (ex. the philosophy of materialistic reductionism) upon this "absence of belief", the burden for providing reasons for why you believe what you do is even stronger, and when you try to justify the absolutely abhorrent (ex. abortion "rights"), well...

Yes, I mentioned abortion because that's something else I have observed most atheists believe in, or support, along with a whole list of other (in my personal view) dreadful ideas. Could this just be a coincidence? Why DO they so insistently state that "religion is for idiots", or "Christianity isn't true, because... reasons. Richard Dawkins says so, and he's a really smart guy"? Where are the good arguments for the belief that God is a delusion? Why should I accept their horrendously bad arguments for God's non-existence? Don't they realise their belief that physical reality equates to all of reality has holes in it that put black holes to shame?

Although I do not consider myself to be a Christian, I know enough about it to understand it isn't something that can only be approached from a single perspective, that perspective being the literal interpretation of the Bible as a manual on how the universe works. People believe it is true because they can relate to it on a personal level, they take much of the text allegorically, and the passages that are meant to be interpreted literally are seen for what they are: laws, commandments and promises made within a context that may not be applicable today.

Anyway, that's my take on all of this. You can disagree if you want to, but please, no profanity! Don't become emotional about this. Keep that anger in check. :)

Its True that Atheism Isnt a Religion, But...
It's True that Atheism Isn't a Religion, But...
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  • OfDeath
    I don't know how accurate it is to judge atheists based on the comments section of youtube. In my experience of being part of large enough groups like schools, universities, football clubs, work places etc and knowing and speaking to enough people in those groups, the majority of atheists aren't actively seeking to destroy religion and insult those who believe in god. They're usually just getting on with their lives. You are seeing atheists in that light because those are the ones you are hearing. Most don't really think about it.
    I am one of the more outspoken ones who you think take atheism to be more than just a lack of belief in God. I agree with you that there are people who take it further than that but they're not the majority and they do base their atheism on what can only be a departure from the meaning of the word. However, in my case, it is just a lack of belief in God. My atheism doesn't correlate to any particular ideology or even a belief in how the universe started. It is very simply just that I don't believe in god. My views on other people who believe in god aren't based on an ideology, they are just opinion. Some might be wrong and uninformed opinions and I'm not arrogant enough to pretend to know everything. It is exactly my lack of knowledge which gives me the courage to question.
    You are also frankly wrong about the burden of proof issue. In the context of a lack of evidence, the burden of proof is always on the one making the positive claim. It is not on the person pointing out that there is no evidence and rationally dismissing the claim until there is. This is especially true when there is also evidence to the contrary of a belief. This sort of evidence doesn't exist for something like a deistic perspective but it certainly does when it comes to particular religions which claim to be divine truth based on their scripture (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Hellenic polytheism etc).
    Like 2 People
    Is this still revelant?
    • OfDeath

      Deistic perspectives are also null beliefs. They aren't based on anything but can't be proven in the negative. You can't prove something like a flying rainbow unicorn in the negative either though, and you certainly wouldn't suggest those exist! Atheism also IS the default position. This is obvious. Someone who has never heard of god doesn't believe in it by default. They won't suddenly believe just because they are presented with the idea (unless they are inculcated children which is another issue). The idea needs to actually be shown to be true before it is to be taken as fact. This is true for science as well. Extraordinary claims do need extraordinary evidence. Creator of the universe god is such an extraordinary claim which does indeed require extraordinary evidence. So is the idea that the universe expanded in something like minus 10 to the power of 35 of a second and I haven't come around to that idea either but there is some evidence. That evidence just isn't good enough yet in my opinion.

    • OfDeath

      If you want to know where the good arguments that God is a delusion are, I suggest you
      actually read God Delusion. If you have read it, I apologise but people who criticise books without actually reading them is a pet peeve of mine (and I have read the Bible, enough of the Quran and have a copy of the Baghavad Gita on my coffee table so don't try to pull that one). I hadn't actually read God Delusion until just recently because I always assumed it would just be full of things I had already thought of, and to a large extent it is, but it is also full of a lot of other entertaining arguments and points. Believing physical reality is all of reality isn't that irrational in my opinion. Any attempts to find something which isn't physically real have so far failed. So the default position, just like with atheism is that no evidence exists for an immaterial reality, so you just go with what you see. And I don't include things like consciousness and imagination to be immaterial in a certain context. We can point out consciousness is an epiphenomenon of something physical. I'm a materialist and I have good reason to be which is a lot more than can be said for immaterialists. I did say that my atheism is simply a lack of belief based on a lack of evidence however, I have thought of reasons why god in fact wouldn't exist and I've never heard a decent argument against them.

    • OfDeath

      10 to the power of minus 35*

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Most Helpful Girl

  • Deepsilence
    we can say. defending the existence of something is faith, and defending its absence is a kind of faith.*
    Disagree 2 People
    Is this still revelant?
    • Faith "strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof."

      Not believing is the exact opposite of faith. Agreeing with proof over having faith is absence. Hence why it's called absence of faith

    • could you be a little more specific?

    • Not believing is the opposite of having faith... that's as specific as I can be

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • Belgie
    "the vast majority of atheists one encounters these days do not simply lack a belief in God, but actively promote what they DO believe, to anyone nearby who will listen"

    Some evidence please.

    For example - there are many atheists on this website. Please point out where the VAST MAJORITY do as you claim. Or indeed, select from any atheist grouping, where you can point to a vast majority. I'll wait.
    Like 1 Person
    • Yaaten

      Just visit 'YouTube' for all the evidence you could possibly want. Atheists over there talk about their disbelief in God more than theists discuss their belief.

    • Belgie

      I never take Youtube as evidence for anything. And in no way does it justify your assertion that the vast majority of atheists act a certain way.

      Youtube by definition is for people with something to say. There's no shortage of religious nuts on there either, promoting everything from young earth to flat earth to near-death-experiences and on and on.

      If that's all the "evidence" you have, I call bullshit.

    • Yaaten

      Well, I'm not sure what exactly you want me to provide here. My own experiences with atheists have largely been as I've described them here, so I can only really go on that. When I mentioned 'YouTube' I was, of course, referring to the comments that appear below the clips that are posted, and not necessarily the person who uploaded the video (that could be a topic on almost anything, but atheists are far more likely to appear if it discusses a religious topic).

  • Massageman
    You nailed it! The absence of a Godly belief is STILL A BELIEF, nonetheless.
    So many "unbelievers" just don't, uh, believe that.
    Great piece.
    Like 1 Person
  • Kaneki05
    Well yeah, a lot of atheists don't like people of faith and can see it as something that should be gone from conventional means mostly having strong opinions on how anything but own conserved religion is immoral and dumb. But so did the founding fathers in america they thought on similar lines to say there were types of Christians apart from the atheist who just admitted he hated religion.
    And it's just sad to see that they couldn't bring justice to separate the church from the state properly.
    And yeah it is sorta a belief that i think hawking's is correct with how black holes disprove god 100% but even without that i know 100% god don't exist. But i am putting my trust in logic and science study's that make a lot of sense rather than a book of self proclaimed prophets that say one thing is good or bad without much evidence on why apart from God say's this is the way. And the fact so many scientists are not Conservative or religious kinda shows the direction people should be thinking if they study and learn.

    Anyway atheism isn't a religion, for sure. Maybe a belief in circumstances. But then again i wouldn't call knowing a chair is a chair a belief. Just more of knowing. But i digress with that point cause religious people would say the same like "They just know god exists" rather than believing he does. so yeah i guess everything is just a belief now.
  • The_Other
    A man by the name of John is walking around with a black box defrauding people by telling them that in return for 10 percent of their monthly income, he'll show them the contents of the box probably sometime in the future, maybe. He describes the contents as beautiful and amazing and powerful and something to die for. John also has 4 body guards and every now and then some people who don't fall for this confidence trick are beaten, sometimes beaten to death.

    People who believe John call themselves: "The Gullibles".
    People who don't believe John call themselves the NonGullibles.

    On a daily basis the Gullibles will attempt to spread this confidence trick to everyone that they possibly can.
    While sometimes the Nongullibles will attempt to let people know that they are obviously being defrauded and should not fall for John's Con.

    My question to you: How does the Nongullible's attempt to stop people from being defrauded by John every Tuesday suddenly translate in to them being The Gullibles?
  • BeMuse
    You’re not a very astute thinker. People can and will have different opinions than you on all sort of topics in life. That doesn’t turn their opinions into a religion with a god, just because they are debating with you on you beliefs in a god. If you happen to be a chef (christian) and you strongly believe that rice (god) is the best thing in the world so you go online and write an article about house fabulous rice is and someone come to your article and leaves a comment on your page and say nah rice sucks dude I don’t believe in eating it. Does that make them a chef? No. It just means they have an opinion that is different than you. Atheists are people that have an absence of a belief in a god or god. It’s absolutely simple. Ascribing some other meaning to it is wrong.
    Like 1 Person
    • BeMuse


    • Yaaten

      Yes, I know, because I didn't make that specific claim here (i. e. that every opinion is equivalent to a religious belief of some kind). I was simply pointing out that when it comes to the topic of atheism, things are usually not as they seem, or as they are presented to us by the atheist.

    • Yaaten

      One of my other points was that belief in God's non-existence usually entails a long string of other, unrelated, beliefs held by the modern-day atheist, those beliefs mirroring current social expectations and standards, which I said I do not believe is simply a coincidence.

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  • jgibsonian1986
    Well said. I often see atheists I talk to fall under the defensive statement of "look it up" whenever I present an idea, problem, or inconsistency in the theory of evolution.
  • DudeDiligence
    As one would expect, not being influenced by religion means that atheists typically do not see things the same way religious people. Does that surprise anyone?

    Hopelessly inadequate? Not so much. Atheism is extremely simple.
  • DangpMango
    I think people keep trying to over complicate these things. It's subjective every person's perspect and respective idea of what these religions or ideas mean to them. But that sounds too chaotic so people try to label them. You either believe or you don't. Any further opinions are personal and can be discussed more personally.
  • ObscuredBeyond
    Creationists support the virgin birth of Christ. Materialists support the virgin birth of the universe. Pick your miracle.
    • Yaaten

      I reject both. We shouldn't have to rely upon miracles to account for what we cannot explain.

    • It's very possible to implant anything in the vagina of a woman who's never had proper sex. A 4D Eldritch entity implanting a divine super-sperm into the Fallopian tube of a Jewish teen, right as she's about to have her period, and then letting nature do its thing from there, is by no means the most preposterous thing anyone has ever believed.

      However, it's not possible for life to come from nothing; for information to exist without an informer. The Greeks debated this hotly with one another. At some point, something without a creation or creator itself had to exist, before anything else could have been created.

      So either one rejects the Eldritch conception, because the implications are probable yet offensive, or one rejects proto-pantheism, because it's preposterous mathematically.

      Either one requires mechanics we have yet to understand or make sense of. Ergo, a miracle, as far as we can best wrap our minds around it. We cannot traverse the W axis, even if quantum mechanics prove it exists. And we cannot make something come from literal nothing, simply by willing it; for willing it means crafting it from thought. Which is still something, even if it is a mass-less something. Making it even more difficult than trying to cheat Schrodinger, or lock an electron into one observable point.

  • BlacklightShade
    Ever ask an atheist what they do or do not believe? Don’t strawman.
    LikeDisagree 2 People
  • zeitgeist057
    I tire of the endless discussion of this topic at the moment, but I wanted to comment about a particular section where you said:

    "... I mentioned abortion because that's something else I have observed most atheists believe in, or support, along with a whole list of other (in my personal view) dreadful ideas..."

    The "coincidence" is that when one doesn't have an "objective truth" (like the 10 commandments from an almighty creator), it opens up the question of what is right or wrong, and what do those words mean, exactly? Is what is good for a cow the same as what is good for a human; and then does that mean hamburgers are good, evil, both, or neither? Realizing that "good" and "evil" are subjective terms given the lack of an objective truth such as "God", a person begins to view a subject like abortion with a broader perspective.
    • Yaaten

      "I tire of the endless discussion of this topic at the moment..."
      And yet you contributed to it. :)
      "Realizing that "good" and "evil" are subjective terms given the lack of an objective truth..."
      Are you telling me here that you don't believe that objective truth is real? That belief - that objective truth doesn't exist - is it true? Never mind, I can answer that: no, because the statement that "reality lacks objective truth" (or words similar) is self-defeating. In order for it to be true it would have to be false, but if it's false then we can safely discount it.

    • @yaaten No, I am not "... telling (you) here that (I) don't believe objective truth is real...". I am telling you that an individual, as a subject, is unable to be objective. Be it a human, a squirrel, or a cow. Not that the truth itself does not exist, merely that an individual is incapable of understanding/knowing it objectively if it does.

  • TurkishDİxon3419
    Irreligion is also a religion, the religion of atheists is science. Sciences are Gods, scientists are their prophets and their Sacred Books are Science books.
  • genericname85
    being an "atheist" is like not beliving in flat earth. you still are exposed to those people claiming the earth is flat and you still argue with them cause what they believe is insanely stupid.

    it's basic empathy. you know if i for example was terribly wrong in something, i would want people to make me aware. i'm not a pushover when it comes to my knowledge and being corrected isn't a nice feeling. but i sure hate the thought of "being wrong" more than i dislike being corrected.

    and that's the place from which an atheist will engage into a discussion with a believer.

    just to make thems ee that all they have is claims. nothing that's verifiable or evident. you know... like with most other things that you know...
    • for atheists it is very hard to understand that some people don't care for truth. they want to believe no matter what and they want to be wrong, cause being wrong is better to them than being corrected for some weird reason that we can't grasp.

    • oh and on a side note, i don't getthe "but" in your question. it's still not a religion. period.

  • Tamera952
  • Anonymous
    ATHEISM IS A RELIGION It's True that Atheism Isn't a Religion, But...
    LikeDisagree 2 People
  • Anonymous
    Atheism is the absence of belief in a god or the gods. That is ALL it is, period.

    You can make all sorts if silly assumptions about what atheists believe or don't believe and try to make it into something more complicated than it really is, but in the end it is just silliness. Atheists do not believe there is a god, end of story.

    I understand you being put off by people disagreeing with you. That's human nature. But that's all that's really going on here, nothing more.
    LikeDisagree 4 People
    • Yaaten

      Yes, I understand the dictionary definition of the term "atheism". Did you not READ what I wrote above? I explain it all.
      I'm not "put off" by people who disagree with me. On the contrary, I WELCOME IT!

    • Anonymous

      Yes, I read all of it, I just disagree with it because you're wrong. You lost me when you tried to argue that a lack of belief in some supreme deity is not enough to explain atheism. I am an atheist, and that is all atheism is, end of story.

    • Yaaten

      I never argued that though. I DID say that the vast majority of modern-day atheists had other beliefs (ex. political ones) that they often failed to justify, and that patterns could be observed (ex. their almost overwhelming support for abortion) that correlated with their professed "lack of belief" in God/the gods/supernatural in general.

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