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Atheism is Not A Religion? • An Atheist Perspective Critiqued

Vjack talks about his trouble with the facebook setup in a post. Here’s an excerpt:

… I was not sure what to make of the “religious views” line on my profile. Coincidentally, a reader e-mailed me and asked my opinion about this very issue just as I was confronting it myself. She did not want to put “atheist” under religion because she recognized that atheism is not a religion and did not want to pretend it was. This led her to think of simply putting “none” in the space. However, she wasn’t sure she liked this idea much better.

You see … vjack does not think of atheism as a religion.  He explains this in another post.

Thus, an atheist is one who does not believe in a god or gods. Note that “one who lacks belief in a god or gods” is not quite the same thing as “one who believes that there are no god or gods.” This distinction may be subtle, but it is important for reasons I will review below. 

As I have stated elsewhere, “Atheism is not a religion, a philosophy, a worldview, or anything similar. It is not the conviction that there are no gods, ghosts, angels, etc.” Rather, atheism simply refers to the lack of theistic belief. A young child or person living in an isolated community who has never heard of any gods is an atheist. In fact, we are all born atheists because we have not encountered any theistic concepts before birth.

… it is critical to recognize that atheism does not involve the assertion of any belief claim. An atheist is simply an individual who do not hold the theistic belief claim (i.e., that god or gods exist). … When the theist says, “God exists,” we are correct to expect evidence in support of this claim. Without such evidence, the claim cannot be accepted on rational grounds. 

But vjack can’t get away that easy.  You don’t escape the worldview nature of atheism just by stating it’s belief negatively as the absence of theism.  I could say that theism is just the absence of belief in atheism.  If vjack is not ready to assert positively that there is no God, god or gods, he is not actually an atheist, but a skeptic—–someone who doesn’t affirm theism but doesn’t leave out the possibility that God, a god, or gods exists either.  Is Vjack really only a skeptic or does he have strong convictions that belief in God, god or gods is irrational, and therefore that God doesn’t exist?  Based on his definition, he only wants to be considered a skeptic.  But if you just read a few posts on his blog, you will see that he thinks people ought to live as if there were no God.  He’s not simply unsure about whether there is or is not a God, he’s working out the implications of hard-atheism.  

Vjack’s way of defining things is not original.  Atheists have long argued for a distinction between hard-atheism and soft-atheism.  Hard-atheism as belief that there is no God, god or gods, and soft-Atheism as belief that there is no apparent rational reason to believe there is a God, god, or gods.  Either way, vjack’s claim that atheism is not a worldview, then, is unfounded.  Atheism actually demands presuppositions about the nature of knowledge (epistemological presuppositions) to even begin to evaluate whether there is or is not any evidence for the existence of God.  Read the last part of that excerpt again.

When the theist says, “God exists,” we are correct to expect evidence in support of this claim. Without such evidence, the claim cannot be accepted on rational grounds. [italics added] 

Epistemological presuppositions about how we ground true knoweledge is at the very heart of worldview theory and determines the outworking of what one accepts as true, false, right or wrong.  It’s the hinge on which one’s worldview turns.   

Therefore, for vjack to claim atheism is not a worldview may be a sly way of dodging theistic rhetoric, but it is also reveals a glaring logical blind spot.  Atheists tend to pride themselves as rational, but as I see it, they make foundational rational mistakes all the time.  This is one of them: Claiming that atheism is not a worldview when in fact, it either demands that one assert there is no God (which results in a different way of viewing the world as not created by God) or that there is no apparent rational reason to believe in God (which demands a non-theistic epistemology, such epistemologies being at the heart of worldview theory).    

———————————–HT: Atheist Revolution——————————–

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6 Comments

  1. joeynelson says:

    Atheism is definitely a worldview. And I would even go so far as to say that there are no true atheists – only idolaters. We all know God exists – it’s intuitive through conscience, nature, and human desire. Atheists have made themselves god.

  2. theophilogue says:

    There may be some varieties of worldviews among atheists, but the common starting place is a non-theistic epistemology. Neutrality is a myth.

  3. Aspentroll says:

    Well Joeynelson, I have been an atheist for 74 years and am a true atheist, by any definition. To say “we all know God exists” and “atheist have made themselves gods”, shows that you have a huge inability to understand other people and how
    they may live their lives. If you want to think of me as a god, go
    for it. I won’t even demand part of your income or insist you come to my house several days a week to kneel in obedience. I won’t threaten you with hell or promise you heaven if you kiss my ass with great regularity. Therefore you are free to call me a god if you wish. But think about it, if all atheists make themselves gods, wouldn’t it be easier to kiss a real ass than
    an imaginary one?

  4. joeynelson says:

    The imprint to worship is deeply embedded in every human-being. There obviously had to be a First Cause that began all that we see and know. Most physicists admit a “big bang” of some sort that jump started our cosmos. this First Cause, upon close investigation, will prove to be the God of the Bible.

    the Bible doesn’t so much teach against atheism; it condemns idolatry. the implication: how could you look around you and conclude that there is no god. There’s way too much evidence to indicate an Intelligent Designer made our world.

    And remember, it’s about love… true love. We’ve not been forgotten down here on this planet. That’s what christmas is about.

    So I maintiain my proposal: there are no true atheist (you can’t prove that God doesn’t exist). I also believe that if you would allow yourself to access your conscience, study nature, and investigate why something in you calls out for the world to be made right, you’ll recover this sense of deity, the First Cause that is intuitive to every human being.

  5. Dogran says:

    joeynelson said:

    <>

    I’d take issue with this. Firstly, there is no reason to suppose that there needed to be a ‘first cause’. The notions of time and of cause-and-effect are part of our perception of the universe, not necessarily of the universe itself. Time is a consequence of our perception of and interaction with ‘space-time’ – the fabric of the universe still awaiting a less clunky name.

    The argument commonly used by theists (and I count myself a polytheist, so please don’t assume I’m an atheist trying to find cause to condemn religious belief) is that what is must once not have been. That there must have been a ‘start point’ for the universe. While the Big Bang indisputably occurred, the question then becomes whether it was truly the beginning, or whether the Bang itself was caused by something else. Either way, we have a problem with our notion of causality: either the universe flashed into being out of nothing for no reason; or something caused it. If we assume the latter, as some scientists and most theists will, then we’re faced with the same questions about that cause: did it ‘just happen’, or did it too have a cause? And if the cause ‘just happened’ without any cause of its own, then what reason is there to suppose our universe couldn’t do the same?

  6. theophilogue says:

    Dogran,

    I don’t, as a theist, believe that “what is must once not have been.” But I have a question for you concerning your Kantian epistemology. (if you don’t know what I mean by that you can still answer my question below)

    How do you know that your perception of perception is a perception of reality as it is?

    Bradley

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