Atheist vs Secular
The words atheist and secular can be easy to confuse, but they have subtly different meanings. An atheist is one who does not believe in a God, and therefore an atheist institution (for example) is one that openly holds the position that there is no God. Richard Dawkins is an atheist, and the "Out Campaign" is an atheist institution.
Someone who is secular, by contrast, does not display any belief or religion, regardless of their actual views. A secular institution is one that does not promote religion of any form. The French and American public school systems are not entirely secular. For example, they promote a tenet of the religions of atheism and liberal Christianity - namely evolution. The Kitzmiller vs. Dover case which focused on the issue intelligent design being taught in public schools did not take into account the argument that evolution is atheistic/deistic and therefore religious in nature. See: Atheism is a religion
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." In their Question evolution! campaign, Creation Ministries International asserts that belief in evolution is religious.
Atheism is protected by the First Amendment as freedom of expression. However, secularism prevents freedom of expression, and can therefore be said to be contrary to the First Amendment.
Note that many but not all secularists are atheists, and vice versa.
- School prayer: If someone chooses not to participate in school prayer, they might be an atheist. If someone outlaws school prayer for all, they are secular.
- A librarian who does not read any religious text may be an atheist. A librarian who refuses to stock religious texts is likely secular.
- One who disagrees with theistic thought on the Internet is an atheist. One who attempts to suppress it is secular.
- Ruse, M., How evolution became a religion: creationists correct? National Post, pp. B1,B3,B7 May 13, 2000.
- 15 questions for evolutionists