Turn to Your Left at the End of the Sky

Is Atheism a Religion?

My post two days ago has been honored with some critiques. 

Dan over at Fitness for Occassion makes the following two points which I would like to comment on:

  1. If God could potentially be incredibly unethical, as SL posits, then how would moral truth come from God?
  2. [Atheism] is not a religion, not a system of beliefs.  It is simply the idea that God does not exist.

On the first point: I’m not sure that the existence of moral truth (or absolute truth) in humanity is a very strong argument for the existence of God. (But I do believe it is part of an argument). However, the point that Hitchens made was that the fact that the Andromeda galaxy is going to obliterate earth in 5 billion years proves that God is either a) nonexistent or b) not good. To which I say, not true. First, it might not happen. Second, I hope our little band of humans will have made a plan given the 5 billion years advance notice of our destruction. Third, God is the standard for Truth. This was Richards’ point on the necessity of a resting point for any set of beliefs. This is the failure of relativism. If we don’t take some absolute, external criterion as our yardstick for measuring truth then we’re left with nothing. As I said, Hitchens didn’t even bother to address that point.

On the second point: Atheism has always been more than a single idea that God does not exist. To say “I am an atheist” conveys a lot more information than to say “I don’t believe in sentient pink unicorns”. The existence or nonexistence of God is a fact which touches on almost every aspect of life: what we strive for, what we uphold as ideals, what our purpose is, and what kind of society we would want to build. That makes it, if not a religion, at the very least a system of beliefs. Every atheist I know is arguing about a lot more than the mere existence of God.

If atheism is going to make an argument about how society is going to be organized (which Hitchens was doing in the debate) then the rest of us would like something a lot more substantial than a one line statement about something that doesn’t exist. We would like answers to: What informs your system of jurisprudence?  What values does your society hold dear? What exactly does “self evident” mean in our defining documents? Where do our rights come from and who guarantees them? What motivates our concern for the poor? That’s why atheism needs a foundation. Because the next time an atheist says that they’re going to eliminate a few million people I’d like an answer more comprehensive than it’s based on “a simple idea”.

Advertisements

January 30, 2008 - Posted by | Christianity, Philosophy, Spirituality, Thoughts

2 Comments »

  1. To make assumptions of one’s values, belief in human rights or motivation for compassion is to assume that without god these things aren’t possible, which puts you right back to the beginning of the argument. Theists have been talking in circles since they first found someone to listen. In religion, there is always the ability to make new ends that never meet based on the flexibility of interpretation. There is much to interpret in religion while science holds strong in definintions and conclusions. Atheism is not a religion nor a system of established beliefs. No book tells us that we need to behave in a certain way to be atheists. We hold each other accountable as people to the laws of morality and function in society as overall good people. We are able to feel remorse, love, compassion, tolerance, and have a sense of law with a relationship to morality. We simply don’t believe that it came from anyone’s god. I am content in the belief that chemical and synaptic connections allow me to feel these things. Triggered responses are the proof of my capacity for right and wrong. Cause and effect and millions of years of evolution through learning are the reason for my lack of belief. It’s not a debate on the organization of society (god vs. none). From human beginnings it was more advantageous to basic survival to hunt in packs and develop relationships, with that would naturally come the things that make a society livable. Society has already been established and it’s clear that it would be a much more harmonious existence without religion, not the addition of more religion. I simply prefer to look toward a future without religion. Imagine what that would look like… I strongly doubt people would start becoming immoral because there is no religion to tell them not to be. Mothers will still love their children and we as humans will still maintain compassion and care for others. No thanks to god.

    Comment by Dawn | February 12, 2008 | Reply

  2. Dawn,

    With all the valid points that you have made for atheism, you may have unwittingly invalidated your entire response with this one line:

    Dawn:I simply prefer to look toward a future without religion.

    It proves a point that I’ve been making to proponents of either side of this argument for a very long time: Belief is not a product of logic. It is a product of will. People don’t believe in what they believe because it makes sense. They believe because they choose to. The motivation for one’s belief is often more important than the arguments they have discovered after the fact to back up that position. Belief happens first. The arguments are rationalised later. I find that there are very few exceptions.

    Comment by xenlogic | April 18, 2009 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: