Atheism is a religion

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The British atheist Sanderson Jones is a founder of the Sunday Assembly atheist church movement.[1]

Atheism is a religion and this has implications in terms of the disciplines of religion, philosophy, Christian apologetics and law.[2] In addition, although many atheists deny that atheism is a worldview, atheists commonly share a number of beliefs such as naturalism, belief in evolution and abiogenesis.[3]

If the view that there is no God (or are no gods) is a religion, it is argued its expression is constitutionally protected in the United States. [4] The government cannot force atheists to recant and adopt the opposite belief.

In his BBC documentary The Trouble with Atheism the award-winning journalist Rod Liddle indicates:

Some atheists have become rather dogmatic. Terribly certain in their conviction that there is no God and anyone who thinks there is is a deluded and dangerous fool. ...atheists are becoming as intransigent about their own views as the people they so despise.

Atheism is becoming a religion of its own. It already has its gurus and its revered sacred texts... It has its magnificent temples within which lie mysteries and unknowable truths.[5]

See also: Atheism and lack of open-mindedness and Atheism and dogmatism

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 adhering 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" pseudoscientific 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.[6]

In 2013, a trend of atheist churches began and atheist church services were reported on in the New York Times, The Blaze and other major news outlets.[7]

Atheism is a religion: 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.

The Canadian anthropologist Paul Gosselin has written that evolution is a secular origins myth.[8]

Roderick Ninian Smart, a Scottish writer and professor, defined a seven-part scheme of understanding both religious and secular worldviews[9]. 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.[10]. 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[11] 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[12]
  • 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)[13]
  • 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[14]
  • 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[15]
  • Ritual[16] - 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 (Darwin Day). See also: Atheism, rites and rituals
  • Material[17] - 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.

Atheism is a religion and the Sunday Assembly "atheist church" movement

See also: Atheists and church attendance

The Sunday Assembly ("atheist church") movement was founded in 2013 by the secular humanists and comedians Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones.[18] In 2014, it was reported that there was a schism in the movement as far as whether or not they should use the word "atheist" in their movement and/or whether they should just cater to atheists..[19]

Atheist cults

See also: Atheist cults

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg was turned into a Temple of Reason by the Cult of Reason.

Within the atheist religion, there have been a number of atheist cults and atheistic groups which have had a cultish following. Some of these atheist cults/groups still exist today. In 2015, FtBCon which is an online conference organized by the Freethought Blogs network, recognized that nonreligious/secular cults exist (for example, the atheist cult of objectivism).[20][21]

An example of an atheist cult in history is the Cult of Reason during the French Revolution. The French atheist Pierre Gaspard Chaumette encouraged the "worship of Reason".[22][23]

The atheist cults or atheist groups which have had a cultish following which have formed in history or exist today are often a result of factors such as: utopian thinking, fanatical devolution to various atheistic ideologies, a poor understanding of science/technology (or a penchant for materialist pseudoscientific thinking) and wishful thinking.

For example, cryonics is a pseudoscience that tries to extend life or achieve immortality in a non-theistic way after a person is legally dead (Cryonic procedures are performed shortly after a person's death).[24] See also: Atheism and death

The atheists Robert Ettinger and Isaac Asimov played a significant role in the founding/launching of the cryonics movement (see: Atheism and cryonics).[25] According to The Cryonics Society, Asimov said of cryonics, "Though no one can quantify the probability of cryonics working, I estimate it is at least 90%..."[26]

For a more complete listing and description of atheist cults or atheistic groups which have a cultish following, please see: Atheist cults.

Charles Darwin and the Cult of Personality

See also: Atheism and science

Darwin Day is an unofficial celebration of Charles Darwin's birthday, February 12. It is supported by various atheist, irreligious, antichristian, and evolutionist groups and organizations as well as schools and biology programs.

Since World War II a majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the evolutionary position which employs methodological naturalism have been atheists and agnostics.[27]

There is a cult of personality and type of religiousity currently surrounding Charles Darwin. Stephen Jay Gould wrote the following in 1978: ""... all theories [of natural selection] cite God in their support, and ... Darwin comes close to this status among evolutionary biologists ...".[28] In 2002, Michael White similarly wrote: "Of course today, for biologists, Darwin is second only to God, and for many he may rank still higher."[29]

New Atheism seen as a dogmatic religion. The Dawkian cult of personality

See also: Richard Dawkins' cult of personality and Atheism and arrogance Militant atheism and Atheism and anger

Using special text analysis software, the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt found that New Atheists very often wrote in dogmatic terms in their major works using words such as “always,” “never,” “certainly,” “every,” and “undeniable.”[30] Of the 75,000 words in Sam Harris's The End of Faith, 2.24% of them connote or are associated with certainty.[31]

In a 2014 New Republic article entitled The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins: His atheism is its own kind of narrow religion, the atheist philosopher John Gray wrote:

One might wager a decent sum of money that it has never occurred to Dawkins that to many people he appears as a comic figure. His default mode is one of rational indignation—a stance of withering patrician disdain for the untutored mind of a kind one might expect in a schoolmaster in a minor public school sometime in the 1930s. He seems to have no suspicion that any of those he despises could find his stilted pose of indignant rationality merely laughable. “I am not a good observer,” he writes modestly. He is referring to his observations of animals and plants, but his weakness applies more obviously in the case of humans. Transfixed in wonderment at the workings of his own mind, Dawkins misses much that is of importance in human beings—himself and others.[32]

On August 16, 2014, Andrew Brown wrote an article for The Spectator entitled The bizarre – and costly – cult of Richard Dawkins in which he made a case for Dawkian religious cult.[33]

The Richard Dawkins cult is similar to the cult of Scientology.[34] Dawkins was one of the founders of the New Atheism movement. The New Atheism movement, which has waned in recent years, was called a cult by the agnostic, journalist Bryan Appleyard in a 2012 article in the New Statesman in which he describes the abusive behavior of New Atheists.[35] Although the New Atheism movement does not perfectly fit the various characteristics of a cult, it does fit some of the characteristics.[36]

For more information, please see: Richard Dawkins' cult of personality and Richard Dawkins and pseudoscience

Atheism and spirituality

See: Atheism and spirituality

Atheism and nature worship or neo-paganism

Atheism and nature worship or neo-paganism

Atheist deification of politics

See: Atheist deification of politics

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.[37][38][39]

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."[40] In the their Question evolution! campaign, Creation Ministries International asserts that evolution is a religion.[41]

Kenneth R. Miller's number one argument in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial has been debunked as the beta-globin pseudogene appears to be functional.[42]

U.S. Supreme Court case and secular humanism as a religion

Secular humanism rejects the supernatural and is a type of atheism.

In the 1961 U.S Supreme Court case of Torcaso v. Watkins Justice Hugo Black commented in a footnote, "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture, Secular Humanism, and others."[43]

Casey Luskin wrote about the U.S. Supreme Court:

In 2005, the Supreme Court reiterated its view that religion should not be defined narrowly, and the Seventh Circuit likewise observed that “the Court has adopted a broad definition of ‘religion’ that includes non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as theistic ones.” The Seventh Circuit went on to note that “[t]he Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a ‘religion’ for purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions[.] . . .” Earlier, the Seventh Circuit had observed that “[i]f we think of religion as taking a position on divinity, then atheism is indeed a form of religion.” Thus, atheism can be a religion for the purpose of constitutional analyses. Now getting courts to enforce this is another matter.[44]

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.[45]

Blind faith and the religion of atheism

In his book I don't have enough faith to be an atheist, the Christian apologist Norman Geisler pointed out the unreasonableness of the atheist religion and why it requires blind faith and a willful disregard of the available evidence for God's existence to posit that God does not exist.[46]

The popular Christian YouTube video maker and ex-atheist Shockofgod has referred to atheism as "faitheism" and has repeatedly asked the atheist community for "proof and evidence that atheism is accurate and correct".[47] He said he left atheism due to its lack of proof and evidence and that Christianity has abundant proof and evidence supporting its veracity.[48]

Atheism is a false religion

Rather than knowledge, atheism is a false religion. See: Common arguments against atheism and Arguments for the existence of God

Rites and rituals in atheistic cultures

Ex-atheist John C. Wright on American secular leftism being a religion

See also: Atheism and politics and Secular left and Decline of the secular left

The ex-atheist and science fiction author John C. Wright wrote about American secular leftists:

...all the Progressives do is take their religion, Social Justice Marxism, or whatever name it is going by these days, and PRETEND it is not a religion at all, and they press their worldview as if it were the default worldview promoted by the Constitution and by the consensus of academia, and declare the burden of proof to be on the conservative to proof otherwise. And when the conservative does prove otherwise, the Progressive decrees from the bench that the proof is inadmissible, on the grounds that no religious arguments can be brought into the public sphere to argue against the Progressive religion. Because it is said to be not a religion, you see...

They were triumphant because they were and are a religion, not a political movement. In a religion, dogma is accepted on faith, by bowing to the authority of the prophets or the Church who speak God’s word. To question the faith is an act of immorality, of disloyalty, of subversion. Hence the Progressive has no need and no ability to defend his dogma: he merely condemns the questioner as a heretic, a man with bad motives...

The Progressive is fighting a holy war. A holy war concerns not one policy or one thing, but everything. It is a war to impose a worldview on the world. It cannot compromise.

Politics is merely one branch springing from the trunk of one’s worldview, and one’s worldview grows out of the roots of one’s religious background. Even atheists with a Christian background have their worldview so informed.

Facing holy warrior with prudential political arguments about policies and politics is bringing a knife to a gunfight.

Conservatism is insufficient, since it only addresses the political side of life. The Christian roots of conservativism alone have the strength to resist the attempt to undermine and uproot civilization.

Only a crusader can face a jihadist.

The truce of the Enlightenment, for better or worse, is over.[49]

Wright wrote about secular leftist rioting and Islamic terrorism:

The rioters and the terrorist have combined against us. Both use the same language of victimology, the same tactics of crybaby-bullies, who bludgeon girls from behind while weeping like brats that they are the wounded party. Both are utterly evil, and utterly blinded by their own self-righteousness. One is an open religion, the heresy of Mohammedanism. The other is a an agnostic and materialistic variant on the old, old heresy called Gnosticism, the belief that each man is his own god, and that God is a devil who must be reviled and overthrown.[50]

See also


External links


  1. Atheist Church Split: Sunday Assembly And Godless Revival's 'Denominational Chasm', Huffington Post, 2014
  2. Is Atheism a religion? by Daniel Smartt, Published: 4 May 2010(GMT+10)
  3. 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
  4. BBC Documentary The Trouble With Atheism BBC Horizon Documentary
  5. See Kenneth Miller's testimony in Selden v. Cobb County', available at [1], p. 178
  6. Myths of Origin and the Theory of Evolution
  7. Dimensions of the Sacred, page 2
  8. "Atheism vs Religion", Daniel Smartt
  9. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt,
  10. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt,
  11. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt,
  12. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt,
  13. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt,
  14. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt,
  15. "Atheism: A religion", Daniel Smartt,
  16. Atheist Church Split: Sunday Assembly And Godless Revival's 'Denominational Chasm', Huffington Post, 2014
  17. Atheist Church Split: Sunday Assembly And Godless Revival's 'Denominational Chasm', Huffington Post, 2014
  18. Reminder: Secular Cults Panel at FtBCon Tonight!, January 24, 2015 by Adam Lee
  19. FtBCon3: Secular Cults
  20. Pierre Gaspard Chaumette was an atheist, see: The English Heiress, Book 1 By Roberta Gellis, page 211
  21. Pierre Gaspard Chaumette encouraged the "worship of Reason", see: Benjamin Rush's Lectures on the Mind, Volume 144 By Benjamin Rush. page 170
  22. Cryonics and critics, The Cryonics Society
  25. Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind by JONATHAN HAIDT, February 3, 2014 8:36 pm
  26. Why Sam Harris is Unlikely to Change his Mind by JONATHAN HAIDT, February 3, 2014 8:36 pm
  27. The Closed Mind of Richard Dawkins, New Republic by John Gray
  28. The bizarre – and costly – cult of Richard Dawkins, The Spectator, Andrew Brown 16 August 2014
  29. The Cult of Dicky Dawkins
  30. The God wars by Bryan Appleyard, New Statesman
  31. How cultish is the New Atheism?
  35. Ruse, M., How evolution became a religion: creationists correct? National Post, pp. B1,B3,B7 May 13, 2000.
  36. 15 questions for evolutionists
  37. Dover Revisited: With Beta-Globin Pseudogene Now Found to Be Functional, an Icon of the "Junk DNA" Argument Bites the Dust, Casey Luskin, Evolution News and Views
  38. Torcaso v. Watkins
  39. Forr First Amendment Purposes, Is Atheism a Religion? by Casey Luskin
  40. [;AtheismisaReligionPart1.pdf Spiritual Warfare; Atheism is a Religion Part 1 ] by Darrin Morehouse
  41. Review of the book I don't have enough faith to be an atheist,
  42. Ex-atheist shares why he left the lie of Atheism
  43. The Last Crusade: Rip van Con by John C. Wright
  44. The Last Crusade: Rip van Con by John C. Wright