Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Is Atheism a Religion?

Ray Comfort, once again, is repeating himself, and perhaps a gazillion other droolers like him, when he responds to an atheist rightfully claiming that atheism is not a religion.
Ray comfort drooled:

It’s interesting to note that one definition of religion is:

"A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion."

He just stops right there with the definition. You will note that this is only one of the many definitions of religion. Here is the rest of the dictionary entry for "religion":

  • 1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
  • 2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
  • 3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
  • 4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
  • 5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
  • 6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
  • 7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
  • 8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one's vow.

This is very typical of religious people who insist that anything that they are opposed to is just another religion, as though everyone's religious views are equally valid when it's just one religion against another.

Of course, it also completely ignores what people usually understand when they read or speak the word "religion" in conversation. Most people in real life associate "religion" with robes, silly hats, candles, prayers, ceremony, clergy-collars, churches, holy books, priests, nuns, and clergy.

Ray continues:

That rightly describes the ardent atheist cause. Despite protests to the contrary by its faithful adherents, atheism is a form of religion.

Despite being educated in an English speaking country, Ray continues to have trouble thinking his thoughs over and proofreading.

"A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion." does not describe "the ardent atheist cause" at all. It doesn't even tell us anything about atheism. Ray's selective word definition can describe anything from being a sports fan, a Ford automobile enthusiast, a political activist, a collector, Soccer-moms, musicians or music fans, and a whole spectrum of different activities that people "pursue with zeal or conscientious devotion."

Being possibly one of the dumbest people in the English Speaking world, Ray, like all the idiots who echoe his statement (he's not the first person to make this argument by far) doesn't realize that not only is he pretty much calling any activity that is pursued with zeal and devotion, a religion, he's completely devaluing the concept of "religion" by equating himself and what he does with those guys who paint their faces blue and shout slogans in the stands at football games (which you have to admit is kind of close to what I equate religious people with).

Ray continues:

Though their numbers are small—-only 2 percent of the world’s 6.5 billion inhabitants—atheists are an ever-growing group of people with a "belief" system. Although many flinch at the thought that they have faith in anything, they believe that there’s no God, and even have "works" to confirm it.

Atheism is apparently a "belief system". Of course, whenever hard pressed to list the basic tennants of this belief system, most religious people will either pooh-pooh it and make a joke answer up, or they will try to conflate "atheism" with liberalism, evolution, communism, abortion, homosexuality, and other topics.

Ray concludes:

Their lifestyle is fruit of their belief system.

This implies that there is automatically something unpleasant or negative about the lifestyle of the average atheist. Of course, no details are ever given about what, in the lifestyle of an atheist, is not acceptable or pleasant. This is because like most of the brain damaged preachers out there who crusade against their "enemy of the week", Ray has no idea what the "atheist lifestyle" is, because he's never asked. In fact, if he did ask, he wouldn't find much commonality between atheists in their lifestyles that differs from that of the average Christian, beyond not going to church and not believing in gods. Atheists have lifestyles that are representative of a cross-section of society. There are certainly a lot fewer atheists in our prisons, which I can't interpret as saying anything bad about our lifestyle.


Brent Rasmussen said...

From my own blog back in 2004, commenting on Ray and Kirk and their WotM guide to debating atheists:

[UTI - Leaving Kirk Cameron Behind] ----
First there is the the laughable assertion that "Christianity" is not a "religion" because religions are "[...]accompanied by ignorance, intolerance, and superstition." So, believing in an invisible magic man in the sky is not superstitious? Then they pull a bait and switch and give the Websters definition for the word "religious" instead of the definition of "religion" which are two completely separate things. One can religiously follow Nascar races, but this does NOT mean that Nascar is a religion, or that Dick Trickle is God.

Pocket Nerd said...

It’s interesting to note that one definition of religion is:

"A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion."

Heh. So what about us atheists who DON'T pursue "atheism" with zeal or conscientious devotion? In general, I don't care about religion (or lack thereof). I just want to live my life as well as I can.

David W. Irish said...

Did you see, over on Ray's blog, he's continuing by comparing Buddhism to Atheism, since buddhism has no god. He's arguing that since buddhism has no god, and is considered a religion, that atheism also has no god, and is therefore just another religion, like buddhism -- casually ignoring the fact that atheists do not have worship, rituals, burn incense, chant mantras, or do any of the things that one associates with religion.

Apparently, the atheists on his blog managed to frighten him in to thinking he wrote somethign really stupid, so he wrote something even stupider to cover up for it! Hahahahahahahahaha!!!

Pocket Nerd said...

Actually, he's almost right about Buddhism. (He'd better be careful, or he'll spoil his perfect record of being wrong about everything.)

Buddhism has both religious and non-religious aspects; some self-identified Buddhists regard the Noble Eightfold Path as a useful set of behavioral ethics, no different from Rationalism or Objectivism. Other Buddhists accept some supernatural claims (such as reincarnation) without embracing the existence of gods. And some accept a full pantheon of gods as well, such as Shinto Buddhists.

Ray, on the other hand, wants to apply the binary thinking so typical to religious fundamentalists: Buddhists are either religious or they aren't. In truth, the question isn't quite that simple, as some Buddhists follow a religion, and others do not.

Aspentroll said...

I guess I'll have to consider myself as an atheist about atheism. That way I can honestly say that I am not religiously inclined about being an atheist. But then...
the word "atheist" seems to conjure a religion no matter how it is used, as far as Comfort is concerned. I know, I will now call myself an "anti religion godless person". Do you think that will satisfy Ray un-Comfort?

GamingAsshole said...

Atheism IS a religion, because we say so. A religious person saying that by the way means a LOT.

David W. Irish said...

Well, it means a lot in comparison to "less-than-nothing", but that's no more weight than saying "my friend's brother's cousin's friend said..."