Is Atheism a Religion
Is Atheism a Religion
Throughout the countless generations of our existence, we as a global community have pondered a variety of noteworthy enquiries. Most notably, the following come to the forefront. How did the universe come into existence? Does God exist? Does evil exist? What is the ultimate reality? The emergence of these thought provoking questions is something we as a society have become accustomed to debating. Rationally speaking, there simply cannot be one precise justification for these questions. Judging on the history of this heated topic, it is apparent that a variety of possibilities have arisen.
The truth of the matter is that the nature of God and religion in itself can be perceived and interpreted through a broad array of individual beliefs. What one individual deems to be the ultimate reality can differ tremendously from another individual’s viewpoint. Ultimately, a person’s culture experiences, traditions, and beliefs all carry significant weight into their perceptions of God and religion. This in fact, is the ultimate reality. Fortunately for us, the use of religion alleviates some of the speculation as it gives us a firm basis of discussion for argument sake.
To begin with, it is fundamental to interpret what is classified as religion. Religion has been globally renowned as a set of symbolic world views, theories of action and institutions that relate individuals and groups of individuals to that which they consider to be the ultimate reality. Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism are all vivid examples of belief systems that are devotedly practiced worldwide. Although unique in their own respective way, all of these belief systems share the common ground of being classified as religions.
Contrarily, Atheism (although it possesses the “ism”) is often disregarded as a religion due to a variety of reasons. Not only does majority of the public disregard Atheism as a religion, but also refuse to accept it as an ideology, philosophy, worldview, and belief system. Nonetheless, it is vital to construe that religion is merely one mode of reasoning to justify our existence in this intriguing universe. According to science, the universe came into existence from an “arbitrary pop” globally accepted as the Big Bang Theory.
More specifically, the Big Bang Theory was a “theory of the creation of the universe first introduced by George Gamow in the 1940s where the universe started as very small, dense, and hot about 15 billion years ago and then expanded into our modern day universe and continues to expand today” (Gribbin, 1996). Prior to this colossal event, there was no matter. However, the purpose of this essay is not to favour one argument over another but rather to examine the nature of Atheism and reflect on both sides of the argument respectively.
Firstly, with regards to Atheism not being classified as a religion, many Christians oppose this fact by stating Atheism can be classified as a religion. However, through a perspective of the majority who don’t, one simply cannot make this judgement with the full understanding of religion. The fact of the matter is that Atheism lacks every one of the essential characteristics of religion. Furthermore, with the use of various external resources, we can gather a better grasp of what religion is commonly referred to. This in return will enable us to elaborate on how Atheism contradicts Religion.
According to one resource, “Religion can be the service and worship of God or the supernatural” (Wolf, 2010). By focusing solely on this definition, Atheism is without a doubt NOT a religion due to the fact that Atheism is commonly referred to as the doctrine or belief that there is no God. Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court claims that “religion is based on a belief in the existence of God and that religion is founded on different beliefs” (Hammar, 1991). This evidently contradicts Atheist viewpoints due to the fact that they believe in no supernatural being.
Thus, it’s not possible to call Atheism a religion. It can most definitely be part of a religion, but it can’t be a religion by itself. These two factors are in entirely dissimilar categories. Atheism is the absence of one particular belief while religion is a complex web of traditions and beliefs. An analogy that can be directly correlated with calling Atheism a religion is stating that not collecting hockey cards could be classified as a hobby. As you can see, it is evident from the factors listed above that Atheism should not be classified as a religion.
On the contrary, looking through the perspective of those who consider Atheism a religion, the following points do raise some speculation. To begin with, Atheists believe that a religion does not necessarily have to be comprised of worshipping a God. For example, as learned in class, there are religions which are classified as polytheistic (Hinduism, Mormonism), monotheistic (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and non-theistic (Buddhism). As you can see, Buddhism is classified as a religion even though Buddhist’s do not worship a God.
To put it into perspective, Atheist’s claim their religion is anti-theistic, but their Atheism is indeed religious. Moreover, Atheists possess their very own worldview which can be referred to as Materialism. “Materialism is a viewpoint that there is in fact only a material world” (Li, 2009). Atheists merely interpret information within the very slender worldview of materialism. An analogy that can be made here is that of an individual wearing dark sunglasses to influence others perception of the sun being out.
Additionally, Atheists believe that their own orthodoxy (set of beliefs acceptable to a faith community) should be sufficient for their inclusion as a religion. The reason being, just as there are orthodox Christian beliefs, there is Atheist orthodoxy as well. This orthodoxy preaches that everything can be clarified as the product of inadvertent, undirected, meaningless evolution. The basis of Atheist orthodox lies on the fact that no truth claim is adequate if it cannot be subject to scientific scrutiny. In addition, as discussed in class, there were a variety of prophets for each respective religion.
Atheists in their own right, have their own prophets as the likes of Nietzsche, Russell, Feuerbach, Lenin and Marx. Lastly, Atheists have faith. Although it often seems like the opposite, if one looks carefully at their writings, the revelation in their writings shows that they condemn faith. The fact of the matter is that the existence of God cannot be confirmed or disproven. In actuality, to deny the existence of God (Atheism) takes faith. An analogy that can be used to describe the correlation between Atheism and religion is that of “black” (which physicists define as the total absence of color) not being categorized as a color.
Throughout the world, it is a norm for black to be considered a color disregarding the definition assigned by physicists. However, if black is considered a color then Atheism should most definitely be classified as a religion. In conclusion, looking at religion through a sense of morality, being religious can be looked at being passionate, zealous and scrupulous. We can confirm with sincerity that Atheist’s are in fact passionate, zealous and scrupulous towards their own respective beliefs.
Ultimately, the variability in the definition of religion definitely has an impact on all the uncertainty surrounding Atheisms inclusion in the definition. Unlike our class, the definition of religion is broader in scope. By taking that into consideration, how can one with the utmost credibility confirm that Atheism is or is not a religion when there simply is not one precise definition of religion? The facts above depicted why Atheism can and cannot be classified as a religion. These facts lead to our next argument regarding Atheisms inclusion as an ideology.
For this particular argument, the sole viewpoint will be of Atheism not being classified as an ideology due to a lack of facts for the opposed. The negligence towards Atheism being classified as an ideology originates from the fact that “An ideology is the body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture” (Grobman, 1990). Simply put, it is the collection of myths and beliefs that guide an individual or group of people. Therefore Atheism is not an ideology due to the fact that it does not meet the most integral component of an ideology.
This element is the provision of guidance which is directed towards a group of ideas or beliefs. Atheism in itself is the absence of belief in God. Moreover, it is not even a single belief, much less a body of beliefs. Secondly, Atheism offers no guidance or moral, social or political matters. Consequently, these so called “philosophers” of religion argue the fact that Atheism is not a religion or ideology BUT can be a part of both respectively. In addition to the all the contemplation regarding Atheism’s inclusion as a religion and ideology, it’s insertion as a possible philosophy has also been heavily scrutinized.
The denial of Atheisms declaration as a philosophy will be illustrated below through the perspective of someone who believes Atheism is not a philosophy. An individual’s philosophy is their “system of principles for guidance in practical affairs” (Bronstein, 2008). Although Atheists have individual philosophy’s by which they live by, the fact of the matter is that Atheism simply does not contain a philosophy to live by collectively. The truth of the matter is that there is no precise defined philosophy that is common to all Atheists.
Additionally, as mentioned above, a philosophy is also comprised of two crucial aspects like an ideology. For one, in order for something to be classified as philosophy, it must be a collection of beliefs that provide guidance to its respective believers. Likewise, Atheism is not a philosophy due to the same reason that it is not an ideology. Atheism is not even a single belief, much less a collaboration of interconnected beliefs. Once again, Atheism can most definitely be a part of a philosophy but not the philosophy itself. Atheists on the other hand, argue that their “religion” is indeed a philosophy.
According to their intellect, there is no such religion with a philosophy that encloses so many truths and inspirations. Moreover, Atheism has the ability to prepare us to face life with its multitude of trials and tribulations. The fact of the matter is that Atheism is based on nature which is the very roots of life itself. In addition, they argue that their philosophy is without the additional embellishments and false garments like others. Simply put, there are no pretence’s attached to it due to the fact that Atheism rises above faith, and puts humanity upon one level plane.
In the Atheist philosophy, there are no such things like “chosen people”. “There are no supplications, no prayers, no sacrificial redemptions, no divine revelations, no crusades, no massacres, no holy wars, no heaven, no hell, no purgatory, no Christ’s , no saviours, no devils, no ghosts, and no Gods” (Bronstein, 2008). Not only do Atheists claim that their religion is indeed a philosophy, but they strive to make aware the fact that it is a very spirited and courageous philosophy. Courageous in the sense that it is not frightened to confront the many dilemmas of life.
Moreover, Atheism does an avid job of displaying that there are conflicts which yet remain to be solved. Although Atheism does not allege to have discovered all the answers to our existence, it does provide us with a sense of assurance by stating it has discovered and learned the appropriate approach. This approach enables us to strive for the ultimate truth by having the mindset that truth for truths sake is the highest ideal and ultimately, virtue is its own reward. Atheists articulate the fact that our passion and devotion should be directed to humanity and not a supernatural being because humanity is the higher supreme.
An analogy that can be made here is that of we cannot help God, but we can help mankind. Hands that help are better far than lips that pray. According to their respective viewpoint, praying and worshipping to God is humiliating and degrading. A great quote that can be directly related to the philosophy of Atheism is that of the great Robert G. Ingersoll. He created the quote that states “Give me the storm and tempest of thought and action, rather than the dead calm of ignorance and faith. Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. ” (Robert G. Ingersoll, N. A. )
Atheism can be considered as an independent philosophy that enables one to be intellectually free. Atheists also argue that their philosophy approaches “what is” rather than “what is said”. They forcefully believe that their philosophy teaches individuals that unless their full attention and devotion is not towards one particular goal, the level of successfulness of that goal can be tampered. An analogy that can be used here is that of “failing to prepare, is preparing to fail. ” No such reliance upon prayers can alter that. We will now discuss whether or not Atheism should be considered a “world view” so to speak.
It is commonly accepted that a worldview is a widespread origin or illustration of the universe and how humanity relates to it. Many theistic individuals argue that Atheism is not a world view due to the fact that it does not offer as any insight on the “ultimate reality” and its direct relation with us (humanity). Atheists on the other hand, argue that their “religion” is in indeed a world view. They are reasoning their assumption on the basis that although Atheism by itself does not offer any guidance on how to conceive the universe and humanities relation to it, it does however provide us with exclusion of other possibilities.
More notably, those possibilities of origin centered around a supernatural being (God). Therefore, they claim that their worldview is universal in the sense that it excludes God as the origin of creation. Secondly, excluding certain types of world views as “potential options” can also be considered their world view. The existence of God is indeed a very heated topic merely for the fact that both sides present very strong and influential ideas that really provoke people to think. Disregarding the fact that this topic has been continually debated for centuries, it is inevitable that this topic will continue to grow as a basis of discussion.
The fact of the matter is that no matter what day and age we will live in, the debate whether or not God exists will never cease to disappear. Interestingly enough, these debates have triggered a variety of so called “arguments” for the existence of God and the classification of religion. One of these so called arguments is that of Atheisms inclusion as a religion. The fact of the matter is that majority of the world’s population adamantly oppose this classification. From their perspective, Atheism is simply and completely an explicit denial of religion.
Contrarily, we have individuals in this world who strongly argue that Atheism should be considered a religion just like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other respective religions. Upon personal research along with the insight received from roughly twelve lectures in this very class, it appears as if the complexity in this matter lies not in what the people believe about Atheism, but in the definitions used when referring to “religion. ” It is evident that we are witnessing somewhat of a transition from theism to atheism. However, I personally believe this does not justify Atheism’s categorization as a religion.
I will stress that I am not against Atheism in any which form. I respect Atheists for their curiosity and willingness to explore what they believe is the ultimate reality. I am merely opposing Atheisms INCLUSION as a religion. In conclusion, it is neither my place nor right to preach my opinions on Atheisms inclusion or exclusion as a religion with the basis of influencing people’s perceptions. I will continue to practice my own religion (Sikhism) and keep MY opinions on the nature of God close to my heart. Like the rest of society, I too am baffled to explain why there is evil and suffering in ur world. I am sure even the most devoted Catholic, Muslim or even Christian has wondered why this is the case. Personally, I believe that my soul knows that there is indeed a God out there and these mysteries are not enough to sway me towards Atheism. Ultimately, everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs of religion and God that it would be simply egotistical to justify one concrete reason of our existence. However, I do advise every individual (whether Atheist or believer) to explore many avenues of our existence ranging from science to religion before reaching a conclusion.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 September 2016
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