Atheism is a religion

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Whether atheism is a religion has been a subject of debate in the US, because of its First Amendment implications.

If the view that there is no God (or are no gods) is a religion, then its expression is constitutionally protected. [1] The government cannot force atheists to recant and adopt the opposite belief.

If atheism is not a religion, then the expression of atheistic ideas is still covered by the First Amendment, but only by the free speech and free press clauses.

The implications go deeper, affecting public education. If atheism is a religion, then the atheism inhering to the methodological naturalism of physical science cannot be given excessive government support. That would violate the establishment of religion clause. So, evolution education would have to allow students freedom to dissent from the "orthodox" scientific view that human beings evolved from earlier forms of life without any intervention from God. It should be noted that biology courses only require knowledge of what the theory of evolution, its mechanisms, and the evidence supporting it, rather than belief that evolution occurred.[2]

In 2013, a trend of atheist services began and atheist services were reported in the New York Times, The Blaze and other major news outlets.[3]

Contents

Ninian Smart's scheme for study of worldviews and its application to atheism

Many of the leaders of the atheist movement (such as Richard Dawkins) argue for atheism with a religious fervor - atheism plays a role in the life of Dawkins', or other atheist leaders, similar to the role which Christianity plays in the life of a Christian minister or author.

Roderick Ninian Smart, a Scottish writer and professor, defined a seven-part scheme of understanding both religious and secular worldviews[4]. These can be understood as narrative, experiential, social, ethical, doctrinal, ritual and material.

English Pastor Daniel Smartt defines atheism as a religion, using Ninian Smart's seven dimensions of worldview as a list of criteria. It is not necessary in Smartt's model for every one of these to be present in order for something to be a religion.[5]. However, it can be argued that all seven are present in the case of atheism:

  • Narrative - this dimension is concerned with stories which explain the origin of the universe and the human life. For Christians, there is the Book of Genesis. For atheists, the Big Bang theory, the abiogenesis hypothesis, the evolutionary paradigm, etc., play a similar role[6] See: Evolution as a secular origins myth
  • Experiential - this dimension is concerned with personal or spiritual experiences. Many religious believers report experiences of being near to God. Many atheists report an experience of "liberation" in the moment when they first rejected God[7]
  • Social - the social dimension of religion is concerned with religious leadership and community in congregations. Contemporary atheism has its own leadership (authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris) and social gatherings (e.g. the Global Atheist Convention held in Melbourne, Australia)[8]
  • Ethical - this dimension is concerned with the ethical teachings of a religion. Logically speaking, if there is no God, how can there be any objective ethics? Ethics is reduced to each person's individual whims. Despite this, the leaders of atheism are insistent that they do have ethics, and even claim to have better ethics than religious people[9]
  • Doctrinal - this dimension is concerned with the philosophical teachings of a religion, its claims about the ultimate nature of reality. Some of the central dogmas of atheism include the non-existence of God, the non-existence of afterlife or an immortal soul, that all which exists is ultimately reducible to matter (materialism), and that faith is illegitimate[10]
  • Ritual[11] - this dimension is concerned with rituals, the celebration of rites, ceremonies or festivals. Although atheism at present has few rituals, there are explicitly atheist versions of rituals to celebrate major life events (birth, marriage, death), and some atheists have proposed annual festivals to substitute for Christmas or Easter, such as Charles Darwin's birthday
  • Material[12] - this dimension is concerned with the physical artifacts of a religion, such as buildings, monuments, art, etc., and with physical places considered sacred. Many atheists argue that all nature is sacred

All of these seven dimensions are present for atheism, and hence atheism is a religion under Smartt's model. Although atheism possesses some of these elements more strongly than others, Smart's model does not require all of these dimensions to be present, or present equally, for the existence of religion to be established.

Kitzmiller vs. Dover case

The Kitzmiller vs. Dover case which focused on the issue intelligent design being taught in public schools did not take into account arguments that evolution is religious in nature.[13][14][15]

The Question evolution! campaign by Creation Ministries International is a worldwide campaign which poses 15 questions that evolutionists cannot satisfactorily answer.[16] The 15 questions posed to evolutionists can be found HERE

The atheist philosopher of science Michael Ruse said "Evolution is a religion. This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today."[17] In the their Question evolution! campaign, Creation Ministries International asserts that evolution is a religion.[18]

Quotes

John Calvert, a lawyer and intelligent design proponent declared:

The Seventh Judicial Circuit of the Court of Appeals of the United States held that atheism is a religion. Therefore, it cannot be promoted by a public school. Currently, public schools are often unwittingly promoting atheism through a dogmatic and uncritical teaching of materialistic theories of origins.[19]

Atheist cults

See: Atheist cults

See also

External links

References

  1. The Supreme Court has said a religion need not be based on a belief in the existence of a supreme being. In the 1961 case of Torcaso v. Watkins, the court described "secular humanism" as a religion. Court rules atheism is a religion
  2. See Kenneth Miller's testimony in Selden v. Cobb County', available at [1], p. 178
  3. Dimensions of the Sacred, page 2
  4. "Atheism vs Religion", Daniel Smartt
  5. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt, Creation.com
  6. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt, Creation.com
  7. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt, Creation.com
  8. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt, Creation.com
  9. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt, Creation.com
  10. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt, Creation.com
  11. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt, Creation.com
  12. http://creation.com/atheism-a-religion
  13. http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/Kitzmiller%27s_error_summary.pdf
  14. http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/Kitzmiller%27s_Error.pdf
  15. http://creation.com/question-eviolution Question evolution! campaign] by Creation Ministries International
  16. Ruse, M., How evolution became a religion: creationists correct? National Post, pp. B1,B3,B7 May 13, 2000.
  17. 15 questions for evolutionists
  18. The effects of the Question Evolution! Campaign will be devastating to evolutionary belief and atheism
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