Atheism as a Religion


Last night on The Cleveland Show, Cleveland Junior admitted he is an atheist. That was good. He also said atheism is a religion. That was bad. I’m a bit confused as to why an atheist character would claim atheism is a religion. No atheist I know ever would.

Atheism is not a religion. Saying that you don’t believe in any kind of gods because there’s no proof for their existence is a position on religion, but it isn’t a religion in of itself. I think people who say that are trying to do a backwards assertion that atheists do, in fact, believe in God; they just can’t admit it.

But this is nonsense. To quote from a comment on this page, atheism is not a religion in the same way that bald is not a hair color. Look at any picture of me, and you’d never describe me as having bald colored hair. You’d just say I’m bald.

I have a specific stance on religion: I think it’s stupid, I think it’s wrong, I don’t believe any gods exist until I see proof otherwise, I don’t believe there’s any afterlife until I see proof otherwise. I believe we’re here because of what people refer to as “the Big Bang” and evolution, and I think these things because there is scientific evidence backing these things.

Believing something because there is evidence for it is not a religion. Refusing to believe something because there is not evidence for it is also not a religion.

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6 Responses to “Atheism as a Religion”

  1. drakonig Says:

    You might find that the main problem with Atheism (for people to fully accept it), is that religious people are completely unable to understand it. I know atheists may come to understand the need of someone to believe in the super-natural, a god, something that somehow cares about them and might help them, a need for comforting, familiar rituals. But I have never met a religious person who understands how someone can live without that need, with the independence of an atheist…

    • PiedType Says:

      I just think of atheism as the absence of religion. That seems the simplest, clearest explanation to me.

      drakonig, I recently had a conversation with an atheist friend who’d suffered a loss in her family, and we agreed dealing with death is the toughest part of being an atheist. We feel as much a need for comfort, ritual, etc., as anyone else, so of course we understand that need in others. But for us, or me, there’s no comfort to be derived from something that doesn’t exist. We don’t live without the need. We live without the comfort. We can’t just say, “Okay, I believe,” and feel comforted. That’s what believers can’t seem to understand — that we can no more turn belief ON than they can turn it OFF.

  2. oldancestor Says:

    Apparently, having convictions about something makes it a religion. Therefore, wanting to cure breast cancer is a religion. So is liking the Boston Red Sox.

    Well, it’s been nice chatting, but I have to go. I’m (not) off to my atheist church, where I (don’t) read a holy book about (no) god and I (don’t) practice symbolic rituals.

  3. m Says:

    He never said he was atheist. He said he didnt believe in god.

    He then went on to explain (and Im paraphrasing) that If you dont believe in God, its a personal choice between you and yourself. An atheist hates religion being preached yet they feel the need to prove and preach their own disbelief in God just as those with faith feel the need to share their belief. That is how atheism is like a religion. Its a belief in disbelief in God that is shared (or pushed) on others.

    You manipulated what was actually said and conveyed in the show. Kudos to you!

    • Chris Says:

      Here are the relevant quotes from the episode in question.

      JUNIOR: …I don’t believe in God. (said twice, with disbelieving dialogue from Cleveland in the middle)

      Here’s the first line from Wikipedia’s article on atheism:

      Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.

      You are correct in that he doesn’t explicitly say that he is an atheist. He in fact denies it, saying that atheism is a religion and then goes on to slam Brian from Family Guy. So he doesn’t believe in God, which to me, means he’s an atheist. It’s like if someone says they aren’t a theist, but they do believe Jesus was the son of God, died on the cross for their sins, came back three days later, revealed himself to Saul who became Paul once the scales dropped from his eyes and believe that the Rapture is near. They might say they aren’t a theist, but the proof is in the pudding.

      It is also worth noting something else you said.

      An atheist hates religion being preached yet they feel the need to prove and preach their own disbelief in God just as those with faith feel the need to share their belief.

      That is a very broad generalization and not very accurate. I have a friend who is an atheist. His entire identity as such is expressed when he, about once or twice a month, wears a t-shirt that says “ATHEIST”. That’s about it. Many other people are similar in their lack of belief, but don’t even go as far as telling people. On the other hand, there are activist atheists, such as myself, who do, indeed, occasionally get preachy about atheism and what a horrible thing for humanity religion is. But we aren’t the majority of atheists.

      One final thing. Later in the episode, Junior claims he doesn’t believe in things that can’t been seen, touched or measured. Donna references Star Wars, saying to Junior:

      DONNA: Han Solo didn’t believe in the Force, but he didn’t think Luke Skywalker was an idiot for believing in it.
      JUNIOR: But the Force-
      DONNA: Is what? An unseen presence from which one draws strength and inspiration? How is that any different from what I’m talking about?

      Junior then accepts this. Now not only is this questionable theology, it’s just bad Star Wars! Everyone knows that Han Solo did, in fact, mock Luke for believing in the Force, at least initially. This doesn’t say anything good about Han, really, given that within that universe the effects of the Force are, indeed, something that can be directly seen, touched and measured. So, yeah, possibly making sci-fi references in the context of religion isn’t the best idea. :)

  4. Robert Palsma Says:

    This argument again. Religion requires belief in a deity. Atheists do not believe in deities. Therefore, atheism isn’t a religion. It’s really that simple and doesn’t require any more explanation. (Yet I still type.)

    The problem I’ve often found with religious types is that they are incapable of NOT believing in a god and therefore assume atheists are “angry at god” or some such nonsense.

    I also don’t believe in unicorns. I’m not just mad at them because they killed my cat. They aren’t real. God isn’t real. Therefore, I can hang out with many atheists at multiple atheist gatherings and talk about atheist things and guess what… still not a religion any more than Weight Watchers or Friday Night Bridge Club.


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