Atheism Is Not A Religion

A Response to a Reader of Symptom of the Universe

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A Mr. Richard Fetter of Fort Lee, New Jersey writes in and says… – No, props to Gilda Radner, but truth be told “Matt W” wrote in to comment regarding an earlier Symptom of the Universe article Atheism – Savior of the World. A second article, Atheism is Not a Choice may also be of interest to anyone who has not yet read it.

Matt’s first critiques are common ones fielded by atheists daily – the idea that atheism is just another religion and that WE are as bad as fundamentalists in purporting our position to others. Allow me to retort – first, let’s define:

Agnostic – a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.

b. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.[1]

And

Atheist – One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.[2]

We are all agnostic – anyone who denies this is not worth debating with. No one can prove the existence or non-existence of a god or Supreme Being. It is commonly understood that you can never prove a negative and that the burden of proof is required of those who are trying to prove it exists. Atheists state there is no god – there is nothing to find or prove there – believers say there is a god – show us some proof. The essential difference between atheists and deists and theist is that the latter two operate on faith and the former do not.

The theists are willing to live their life denying rational thought regarding Supreme Being(s) – the atheist will not and cannot operate this way. I am of course referring mainly to theists who believe fundamentally and make the total commitment to their belief. There are many churchgoers who use their heads as well and do not deny science – but have not followed the path to its obvious conclusions that religion and god are man made constructs. The religious will deny proven knowledge such as carbon dating, which proves the universe is nearly 14 billion years old, not 6000 years old which is believed by many because an uneducated writer penned it into the bible a few thousand years ago. Evolution is another scientific truth that has been proven over and over again. Recently life was started from scratch in a laboratory. Man is constantly learning about the natural world and each day that goes by the world becomes less mysterious. If atheists are coming across all high and mighty to you Matt it is because we have difficulty with people who can stare at scientific proof and say it is not true. This is both childish and foolish.

Matt also asked me if I have a good understanding of the Christian worldview – I will answer yes to that question. To reply to Matt’s asking “why is it unreasonable to believe in god if god was created in the minds of men who are rational creatures?” I say that god was created and accepted by man to explain the unexplainable. What was unexplainable 4000 years ago is largely understood today. Epileptics are not possessed by demons; the world is not flat; we do not live in a geocentric universe; man was not created and much of what is in the bible cannot be confirmed or proven by standard historical methods. Did Moses exist? If so how come there is no record of him and all of the trouble he created in Egypt? Egyptians were excellent historians and recorded everything. There is no evidence of the Exodus in Sinai either. This area has been the subject of many large-scale archaeological digs and nothing has been found of a large wandering tribe that spent forty years in the desert.

I researched the “noetic effect of sin” that you mentioned and I will honestly say that I am familiar with the concept, but have not heard the term used to define it. (It is the notion that sin undermines the intellect of man – it is big in Calvinism.) Note to Matt – you should not be shocked when an atheist does not know something – the fact that Christopher Hitchens had not heard of this concept is meaningless as he is willing and capable of learning its meaning – and most assuredly he was aware of the concept. As for the worldview of Christians – I was one for 12 years willingly and a few years after that unwillingly. I am also experienced in Judaism (I am an secular/atheist converted Jew if anyone cares.) I am familiar with the virgin conception, holy trinity and resurrection nonsense. I know what Christ preached and it makes no difference. Prophets were a dime a dozen in that era and this particular prophet was no more divine than you or me. He was a man who became a cult of personality that was eventually followed by millions via the dealings of the Church of Rome.

Your commentary on the noetic effect of religion is ludicrous to anyone who knows the Earth is over 6000 years old, has evolved and was not created in six days. In other words, Genesis is total bunk as is the concept of original sin, which is one of the most offensive Christian/biblical concepts. The idea that all babies are born with a stain on their record because of the activities of a mythical figure form 6000 years ago offends anyone who has had a child or has taken responsibility for their own actions. It is also incredulous and insulting to propose that your worldview/religion is the one correct religion and that it is superior to all others. You Matt, are also an atheist – the difference between us is that I also do not believe in “your” god – you do not believe in Allah, Zeus or the Hindu gods either. The Golden Rule that is so precious to all Christians is not even original – it pre-dates Christ by over five centuries and is attributed to Confucius (as well as the Jews, Buddhists, Babylonians, Egyptians etc. – it is a human attribute – not a god given law.)

You are building a silly argument for belief that is somewhere between Pascal’s Wager and some of the weak arguments put forth by famous Christian apologists like G.K. Chesterton, T.S. Eliot and C.S. Lewis (it is merely a coincidence that they all utilize the same naming format!) We should all submit to the one true religion (this is very absurd) and it is true because our minds are just trying to tell us not to submit to the god that we know is real and true. Tell me Matt – which sect of Christianity is the one true one? May I hazard a guess? It is the one you belong to and follow – right? You almost make me feel bad for the Pope, Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, Mel Gibson, the Mormons and the Westboro Baptist Church. Damn – they all thought they were the right one. The above mentioned apologists would have us all believe just because “it would be better if there was a god,” “there must be a god,” “I could not live my life without knowing there is a savior who is watching out for me,” etc. Man may want a god, but certainly does not need a god or religion to be kept inline. Remember – US prisons are largely populated by people who state they are practicing Christians – in far larger proportions than there are atheists in jail.

Religions, cults, god and cults of personality are all synonymous with each other – they have brought us such landmark moments as the Dark Ages, the Crusades, the Inquisition, genital mutilation practices, World War II, Vietnam, Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Kim il Jong in North Korea, Stalin and the Holocaust. Mankind will not be saved by mythical saviors and promises of an afterlife. It is all rubbish. Mankind needs to be educated and enlightened – learn from each others differences that we are all basically the same and we can take a big step in that direction by stepping away from religion and the worshiping of idols (by this I mean any religious figure) or real life maniacs that have caused so much pain, death and destruction. It is high time for mankind to open their eyes and wake up to the inherent dangers of group-think and we need to think for ourselves.


[1] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/agnostic

[2] http://www.thefreedictionary.com/atheist

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13 Responses to “Atheism Is Not A Religion”

  1. Kate Says:

    Thank you Mike.
    Oddly enough the UK will extend their Freedom of religion to Atheist. From where I stand, it is the right thing to do, Atheism or Theism are ways of life, not a supreme whatever. Putting everyone in the same level plane makes it egalitarian.
    You post just raises the awareneess to new levels.
    Thank you again.

  2. ybs Says:

    All religions are one big pile of dung. Justify eating it however you want, the putrid stench lingers.

  3. Gianfranco Tubino Says:

    I like the article but, like a nasty teacher would say “there’s still room for improvement”

  4. Al Stefanelli Says:

    Well done, Mike!

  5. Tweets that mention Atheism Is Not A Religion « Symptom of the Universe -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Reap Sow, Michael Saporito. Michael Saporito said: Atheism Is Not A Religion: http://wp.me/pS3cE-4A […]

  6. Matt W Says:

    Mike,

    You were correct: Twitter would not allow for a response such as this in 140 characters ; ) lol!

    In any case, you have certainly said much and I would like to craft a response to at least some of your points (give me some time). However, I will not go down the “age of earth” road or carbon dating or the Inquisition. (I wasn’t even expecting the Inquisition. Does anyone? ; ) For these “critiques are common ones fielded by” theists. With all due respect, did you really need to bring up the flat earth thing?

    And, I suspect, given your response, you and I will not run into any new arguments that we haven’t at one time or another dealt with. But hopefully I will be able to challenge you on some presuppositions I think you may have – stay tuned. (Although there may be nothing new under the sun.)

    Regarding my invoking Hitchens’ ignorance of a Christian term: you are right to point out that this didn’t mean he didn’t know what the term describes. So I apologize for poor argumentation and making some assumptions.

    I will work on a response and post it here, and thanks, Mike, for engaging this further and not simply dismissing me.

  7. Matt W Says:

    “A Response to “A Response to a Reader of Symptom of the Universe”

    I must say I am a bit overwhelmed by your response. My main concern is that you bring up a number of issues that you have absolutely no idea as to what I think about since I never brought them up. And I assume you assume that I hold these positions since I am a religious person- and all religious persons think alike, right? (group-think, as you put it).

    Now these things may indeed be true or they may not, but in no way do you know this. For instance, never once do I bring up any comments on the age of the earth or my thoughts on science and scientific proof or evolution or my thoughts on Moses. It’s as if you have a bag full of ready-made responses labeled “Theist” and have dumped them on the table for me to now deal with and have assumed that I hold the same positions that any other theist does.

    This does reveal a lot about your views of Christians (or at least the religious in general): you attribute positions to us that are either wholly untrue or incomplete (and sometimes true). I will provide examples below. So, even though I stated in my initial response that I was happy that you didn’t simply dismiss my comments, after re-reading your post, I can’t help but think that you are being rather dismissive. But that may be due to the fact that you have dealt with theists in the past and are often faced with the same criticisms for which you have a ready-answer. And, to be fair, that is also the case with me: I often have a canned response at the ready usually because I have already dealt with many of these common arguments myself. So I am not completely unsympathetic to your ready-made response dump. But, as I am trying to point out, in doing this, you have indirectly attributed to me positions on issue I have taken no position on.

    O<-=

    (That’s my attempt at drawing a knocked-down straw man.)

    But, I will indulge you a bit and respond to some of the things you bring up.

    First, a clarifying question for you: are you an atheist or an agnostic? Maybe I am unclear on this. You define an atheist as “one who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods”. You then state that “we are all agnostic”, seeming to indicate that no one can really know if god exists or doesn’t exist and then state it is not worth debating anyone who does not at least affirm this. But you then proceed to say that god is a creation of man, indicating that you do not believe he exists (atheist), but is a figment of our uneducated imaginations. Yet, if you are an atheist, you are not worth arguing with because you are denying something that cannot be proven or disproven. So please clarify if you are an atheist, someone who denies the existence of God even though this cannot be proven; or you are an agnostic. The titles of your previous blog posts seem to indicate the former. I just want to be sure I understand where you stand.

    Second: You claim deists and theists “operate on faith and [atheists] do not”. What do they then operate under? Certainly not proof, since you admitted yourself that God’s existence cannot be proven or disproven. Wouldn’t you say that you are operating under a certain level of faith as well? You may not like the term faith as it is loaded with religious baggage. So I will use the term “presupposition”. You hold to the presupposition that God does not exist, and this proposition is *not* based on direct, empirical, scientific proof, is it—since a negative cannot be proven? An honest look at any meta-narrative or attempt to explain the world will always result in the reality that people begin with certain improvable suppositions. That God exists cannot be proven; that God does not exist cannot be proven (my summary of your words). So maybe you are just agnostic with heavy atheistic leanings. In other words you are, for whatever reason, predisposed to deny god’s existence although you acknowledge that one cannot empirically prove his non-existence. Is that a fair characterization? You have to concede that you can’t prove atheisms either. And that is what prompted me to respond initially: yours is just another voice in a chorus of ideas about the world.

    Third: Science. This is an overstretched term. I am a huge proponent and advocate of the empirical sciences: those sciences that employ the proven scientific method and are always open to peer review (group-think ; ) and reassessment: the “this science gave us the automobile, airplanes, and medicine” argument. It is when the term science is used in looser ways yet still assumed to be empirical science that I begin to get a bit skeptical. The fact that science continues to uncover and explain mysteries only shows that we are learning more about how this world operates and says nothing of how it came into existence. Anything that lays claim to explaining how the world came into existence in the first place is empirically improvable and therefore only theory and speculation. But these distinctions between the different sciences are often blurred. There is empirical science and theoretical science. And too often theoretical science is touted as empirical science.

    Do you realize that science will never attribute the supernatural to anything science observes? That may not shock you. But the reason this is so is because science has assumed the supernatural away. That is, science has an a priori (before the evidence) commitment to explaining everything in “natural” terms and therefore will never concede the supernatural. This is a statement of fact. I see nothing wrong with this as long as the scientific community is open about this reality. And I think in some ways it is healthy because it does motivate a scientist to keep pushing the envelope of research. But, in the interest of truth, one must acknowledge that science will never concede the supernatural, by definition. This reality os so often lost on people. They have set the boundaries of their discipline. So when science begins to reach beyond its self-created boundaries, people like myself only want to point this out. “You are going beyond your own established boundaries”. But, we are dismissed because we are not peers and therefore irrelevant. It’s easy to win the game when you set the rules and move the goal posts at your convenience.

    Fourth and finally (for now): Evolution. May I just say his: You said “recently life was started from scratch in a laboratory” You initially wrote “created” instead of “started”, didn’t you? Come on, admit it! : ) . OK. What does this prove: that life sprang forth on its own? I am assuming that this is the reason you brought this up. So, life was started in a laboratory by intelligent scientists who used their knowledge of nature to bring together pre-existing materials (i.e. from ‘scratch’) in order to “start” life. Sounds like intelligent design to me. How does this prove evolution (or move toward proving evolution). All it shows is that intelligent beings (scientists) can apply knowledge to “create” life.

    Mike, I am happy to engage in these discussions even when they are loaded with assumptions and false presumptions. But I take you back to my original point that you never really responded to: what do you think about the fact that what really motivates atheists is not a pursuit of truth but a denial of that which they know to be true about God in order to serve their own desires, without accountability to God. God has made himself evident to man, but man is neither grateful to God or honors Him as God. So man attempts to suppress that truth with “foolish speculations” among other things, devising all sorts of theories and religions to explain the true God away. Atheism is just one of those theories.

    That was my main point that I desired for you to comment on.

    Thanks again for engaging me in this discussion.

    • Ben Deily Says:

      “Do you realize that science will never attribute the supernatural to anything science observes? That may not shock you. But the reason this is so is because science has assumed the supernatural away.”

      With all due respect and good humor, this is arrant rubbish. (It’s actually close to what is called “the argument from ignorance”–a rhetorical device Mike referred to earlier when he spoke of proving a negative.)

      Science does no such thing–even remotely.

      Here’s the deal. Empirical, experimental science deals with that which may be (1) observed, and (2) experimentally repeated by others. Fundamental to this approach is that any assertion–again, in science, that is–has to be so-called “falsifiable”: that is, it must ALWAYS be subject to potentially being disproven. (See Karl Popper, “intersubjectivity,” etc.)

      Again, contrary to your assertion, empirical science makes no assumptions regarding causes: in fact, science discovers new phenomena and “causes” all the time. But if a theory cannot be subjected to test–if it can’t POTENTIALLY be proven false–it is by definition no longer a part of what we call “science.”

      So, let’s take your theory regarding the existence of the “supernatural”: if it cannot be subjected to proof OR disproof, by its very nature it is no longer within the bailiwick of science, and ANY scientist–even the most religious–will tell you this. 🙂

      Example: let me advance a theory. Here on earth, if I drop an object, it always accelerates towards the center of the earth. You can test this. Any number of people can test it, under any number of circumstances. If it isn’t always true, or not true someplace, SOMEONE can prove me incorrect through experiment.

      However, let’s look at your theory: God exists. Well, can I disprove it? No, you tell me. And I agree completely. There is no theoretical–let alone observational–basis through which I can prove the negative.

      (This is why science worthy of the name seldom weighs in on, say, “ethical” subjects. Or religion, for that matter!)

  8. Matt W Says:

    P.S. Would you be willing to re-post this on your blog and out of the comments section?

    • sapblatt Says:

      Yes – I am willing to put it up – I will BOLD your text, and italicize my comments – like last time – it will take a few days – thanks for reading and discussing.

  9. Page not found « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    […] Atheism Is Not A Religion […]

  10. A Response to A Response to “Atheism is Not a Religion” « Symptom of the Universe Says:

    […] The follow up article that Matt W is referencing can be read here: https://sapblatt.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/atheism-is-not-a-religion/ […]

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