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Is Atheism a Religion?

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Filed under Atheism

atheist_fish

At first, the claim that atheism is a religion might sound ridiculous.

It certainly can be a surprising claim.

And it’s one that many people, including western atheists, might initially dismiss out of hand.

But there’s more to the story here.

There is a case to be made that, in a very real sense, atheism is a religion.

 

A Word About Words

Words mean what people use them to mean. So whether atheism counts as a religion will depend on how you use the term “atheism” and how you use the term “religion.”

There is no single right way or wrong way to use terms. Their boundaries can be drawn differently by different people, and their meanings can change over time.

As a result, I’m not going to be claiming in this piece that there is a single right or wrong way to define our two terms.

In fact, I don’t really care about the terms. What I’m interested in is the reality that the two terms represent.

My claim, therefore, is that the reality of what is commonly called “atheism” has much in common with the reality of what is commonly called “religion.”

The two have so much in common that there is a sense in which atheism can be seen as a religion.

 

“Are You A Christian?”

A prima facie or “at first glance” case for the claim that atheism can be seen as a religion can be found in the answer an atheist might give to the question “Are you a Christian?”

When presented with this question, an atheist may reply, “No, I’m an atheist.”

On the other hand, if he was instead presented with the question, “Are you a Jew?” he might again reply, “No, I’m an atheist.”

If he had been asked, “Are you a Buddhist?” or “Are you a Muslim?” or “Are you a Hindu?” he might well give the same answer: “No, I am an atheist.”

This suggests that being an atheist is analogous to being a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or a Hindu.

And that, in turn suggests that atheism is analogous to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Hinduism.

In other words, atheism, too, can be seen as a religion.

Now let’s ask a question that will let us go deeper into the subject . . .

 

Why?

Why is it possible to view atheism as a religion?

A good starting point is asking what the different religions have in common.

This is a potentially vast discussion, as the field of comparative religion shows.

Many of the definitions of religion (and there are many) get into rather deep and abstract waters (e.g., whatever your “ultimate commitment” is, etc.).

We can’t go into all the possible definitions in a blog post, but I would like to propose what strikes me as a commonsense, functional definition of religion.

It is a definition that will distinguish between the things we normally think of as religions and those we normally do not.

Before we get to that, though, we need to define our first term . . .

 

What Is Atheism?

Atheism can be defined in different ways, but for purposes of this piece, I will be using the term “atheism” to refer to standard western atheism—that is, to the view that rejects the existence of God or the gods, that there is no afterlife, and that the material universe is all that is real.

There can be and are other understandings of atheism, but this is the paradigmatic version of atheism in the west, and it’s what we will be considering here.

Also, for purposes of this post, we won’t be going into the difference between the “God positively does not exist” version of atheism and the “I can’t positively rule out the existence of God, but I don’t have convincing evidence, so I don’t believe in him” version of atheism.

For purposes of simplicity, we’ll treat them both as a rejection of the existence of God/the gods.

Same thing goes for “the afterlife positively does not exist” atheism and “I don’t have good evidence, so I don’t believe in the afterlife” atheism.

 

What Religion Is

In this piece, I will use the term “religion” as follows:

Something is a religion if it has a position on the divine and/or the afterlife.

By “the divine” I mean God or the gods.

By “the afterlife” I mean “the afterlife”—what, if anything, happens to us after death.

A more technical definition could be proposed (e.g., “X is a religion if and only if . . .”), but what I’ve suggested is a functional definition that one works fairly well for distinguishing the things we call religions from those we don’t.

In what follows, for purposes of simplicity, we’ll be looking at religions in their classical forms, not every possible variant of them.

We will, however, take note of two notable historical variations, one of Buddhism and one of Judaism, because they are fairly well-known and have a bearing on our subject.

 

Things That Aren’t Religions

Things that aren’t religions under this definition include mathematics, boatbuilding, the culinary arts, square dancing, and virtually all of the other things we normally don’t consider religions.

They don’t have a position on the existence of the divine or the afterlife, so they’re not religions.

Of particular note, belief in evolution is not a religion—despite the claims of some Creationists.

One can believe in the existence of evolution without taking a position on the divine or the afterlife.

On the other hand, belief in evolution can take on a religious dimension if, e.g., it is proposed as a reason to either reject or accept belief in the divine or the afterlife.

But then that’s true of anything that is proposed as a reason to reject or accept belief in the divine or the afterlife.

Now let’s turn to viewpoints that do have a position on these matters . . .

 

Double-Positive Religions

Many religions assert the existence of both the divine and the afterlife. You might call these “double-positive” religions:

  • Christianity asserts the existence of the divine (specifically, a single God who created the world and appeared to Abraham) and it asserts the existence of an afterlife (specifically, resurrection).
  • Islam asserts the existence of the divine (specifically, a single God who created the world and appeared to Abraham) and it asserts the existence of an afterlife (specifically, resurrection).
  • Hinduism asserts the existence of the divine (specifically, a pantheon of gods who may, in some versions of Hinduism, be conceivable as a single God) and it asserts the existence of an afterlife (specifically, reincarnation).

 

Single-Positive Religions

It is possible, though, for a religion to assert the existence of only the divine or the afterlife but not both. You might call these “single-positive” religions:

  • Theravada Buddhism (the oldest form of Buddhism) does not assert the existence of the divine. It does, however, assert the existence of an afterlife (specifically, reincarnation).
  • Sadducee Judaism did assert the existence of the divine (specifically, a single God who created the world and appeared to Abraham). However, it rejected the existence of an afterlife.

It is important to note that we are talking about Theravada Buddhism and Sadducee Judaism, because most other forms of Buddhism and Judaism are double-positive, asserting the existence of both the divine and the afterlife.

 

Double-Negative Religions

In view of the foregoing, it is possible to see standard western atheism as a double-negative religion:

  • It does reject the existence of the divine (it either denies the existence of God or the gods or it or it at least refuses to endorse their existence).
  • It does reject the existence of an afterlife (it either denies or refuses to endorse the existence of an afterlife).

In the former, it agrees with Theravada Buddhism, and in the latter, it agrees with Sadducee Judaism.

One might wonder whether standard western atheism is the only double-negative religion.

It might be, but I would want to do further thinking and research on that question, because it strikes me that some views might reject the existence of the divine and the afterlife without embracing the materialism that is characteristic of standard western atheism.

I can imagine, for example, a viewpoint that would say that there is no God and no afterlife and the material world we see around us is just an illusion. The true world, on this view, might be some kind of spiritual reality that did not entail the existence of either deities or survival beyond death.

 

Interreligious Groups

I should also mention the possibility of ecumenical and interreligious groups.

Such groups can and do take positions on the divine and the afterlife without requiring one to commit to a specific religion.

The Boy Scouts, the Freemasons, the World Council of Churches, and others might qualify as groups of this type, expecting their members to take certain positions on the divine and/or the afterlife, without requiring them to commit to a single religion.

Such groups are not normally considered religions in their own right but as groups open to members of particular religions.

To accommodate this fact, we would probably need to further refine our definition, but this would take us too far afield for purposes of the present post and how atheism relates to the things we ordinarily consider religions.

 

Atheism as Non-Religion

There is, of course, a marked difference between atheism and the other religions.

One could easily revise the proposed definition for religion so that atheism would be excluded. For example:

Something is a religion if it asserts the existence of the divine and/or the afterlife.

This is a possible definition, and it can be used.

It has the advantage of the fact that it corresponds with the intuition we have that atheism is somehow different than the other religions we have considered.

It is. It’s double-negative.

But this second proposed definition is not the only legitimate definition. The one proposed earlier is also possible.

That one has the advantage that it corresponds to the intuition we have that atheism is the same kind of thing, and thus can be put alongside, the other religions we have considered. It does have a position on the divine and the afterlife.

That’s why I’m not interested in asserting only one legitimate definition of either “atheism” or “religion.” I’m interested in the realities behind the terms, and the realities are such that atheism can be viewed as a religion.

It can also be viewed otherwise.

The question depends on how you’re using the terms, but the realities remain the same.

 

What Now?

If you like the information I've presented here, you should join my Secret Information Club.

If you're not familiar with it, the Secret Information Club is a free service that I operate by email.

I send out information on a variety of fascinating topics connected with the Catholic faith.

In fact, the very first thing you’ll get if you sign up is information about what Pope Benedict said about the book of Revelation.

He has a lot of interesting things to say!

If you’d like to find out what they are, just sign up at www.SecretInfoClub.com or use this handy sign-up form:

Just email me at [email protected] if you have any difficulty.

In the meantime, what do you think?

Jimmy Akin

Written by

Jimmy Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, and a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine. He's the author of numerous publications, including the books The Fathers Know Best (Catholic Answers, 2010); The Salvation Controversy (Catholic Answers, 2001); and Mass Confusion: The Do's & Don'ts of Catholic Worship (Catholic Answers, 1999). Many of Jimmy's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Jimmy's writing at JimmyAkin.com.

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  • BenS

    There is a case to be made that, in a very real sense, atheism is a religion.

    There's also a case to be made that the Queen of England is actually a seven foot lizard in a five and a half foot human suit...

    So whether atheism counts as a religion will depend on how you use the term “atheism” and how you use the term “religion.”

    And whether Christianity counts as Islam depends on how you use the term Christianity and how you use the term Islam...

    This suggests that being an atheist is analogous to being a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or a Hindu.

    Are you a rapist? No, I'm a Christian. Are you a murderer? No, I'm a Christian. Are you a paedophile? No, I'm a Christian.

    This suggests being a Christian is analogous to being a rapist, murderer and paedophile.

    To put it another way, you can answer 'No, I'm innocent' to each of those three and, following the OP's logic, then declare that innocence can be seen as a form of guilt.

    The rest of this is no better. Mangling the definition of words to make them mean things they do not mean. In fact, the whole thing is a massive straw man and thus breaches rule 3 on the board's commenting guidelines.

    These articles are getting worse. Does no-one vet these?

    • Vuyo

      There's also a case to be made that the Queen of England is actually a seven foot lizard in a five and a half foot human suit...
      >> Make your case

    • Rationalist1

      "These articles are getting worse. Does no-one vet these?" It's almost an article an unscrupulous atheist would choose as it trivializes belief and exposes a noted Christian's reasoning to ridicule.

      • Justin

        It shows how atheism is a religion. I hope you're being sarcastic.

      • grevyturty

        Christianity should be ridiculed. If you worship a god who had his son tortured and killed to "save" you from "hell" you are a very sick individual.

        • OpMindCrime

          Prove to me that Jesus didn't have a choice.

          • grevyturty

            What an idiotic non-sequitur. There's no evidence Jesus of the bible even existed, so what are you even talking about? Are you slow witted or just confused?

          • OpMindCrime

            What a bunch of of stupid Ad Hominem attacks. Yes, two can play at your game.

          • Waldo Wallace

            All I can say to you is that Christians have faith in what we don't see.

          • Alithia

            I guess you don't believe the past exists then.

          • Waldo Wallace

            Huh? Can't see your point there. You can't see the past so we don't believe it exists...?

          • Alithia

            Merely that there is no physical, empirical evidence that the past exists besides human memory, which is not infallible, and apparently adjustable.

          • Waldo Wallace

            Doesn't that just prove it even more?

          • Alithia

            You still need faith to believe the past exists.

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      This is just a guess, but I suspect that all the heavy artillery was deployed fairly early in the site's life, with the anticipation that atheists by the score would shortly be queueing up for priestly instruction.

      That result having obviously failed to materialize, we're now observing the scraping of the apologetic barrel.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        Looks to me like exactly the opposite is occurring.

        The initial roll-out was a disaster for the Catholics, but then the Traditionalists showed up.

        • Andre Boillot

          Just the one, as far as I can tell from your many accusations of heresy.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I object to that definition of Traditionalist. It could mean many things. I am a traditionalist. However, I am also a fan of Vatican II.

            Do with that what you will.

          • Andre Boillot

            You object to Rick's definition, or my characterization of Rick as a representative of traditionalists?

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Both. Though if this article has taught me anything, its that the meanings of words are subjective. Carry on.

            Honestly, while I style myself as a traditionalist, in that I do not seek to break from tradition, I also don't see tradition as something stagnant, but something that lives, and (dare I say it?) evolves. Not in the way a "liberal" Catholic hopes it will someday evolve, but nonetheless.

            Then again, any [adjective] Catholic is probably missing part of the picture of the whole of Catholicism

          • Andre Boillot

            I should have specified "tongue-in-cheek" re: suggesting Rick as a representative of traditionalist.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            I was joshing you, as it were.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I should have specified nothing tongue in cheek whatever in demanding you provide evidence of your claim concerning heresy.

          • Andre Boillot

            As I've already pointed out, anyone regular subscriber need only do a search of their inbox for "heresy". They should see quite a few accusations. From you. Towards other Catholics.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            There was the conversation about who is damned, where you told Stacy her position was heretical, which is understandably seen as tantamount to calling her a heretic

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Correcting someone of a false belief is not an insult. It is a work of charity. Secondly, only the Church can declare someone a heretic with definite knowledge. If you truly care about a persons salvation, you tell them the truth, you don't look the other way.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Which is fine, I was just citing the conversation that Andre was referencing.

          • grevyturty

            Why would you worship a god who sends people to hell? What kind of childish, sick individual are you?

          • Alithia

            Dude, we believe that if evil were allowed in Heaven, it may as well be hell.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Let's first establish which accusations of heresy you refer to, Andre.

            I reiterate: I have never advanced any accusation of heresy against either the documents of the Council, or of the papal magisterium since the Council.

            If you mean to insinuate the contrary, I demand that you produce the evidence.

            Thanks.

          • grevyturty

            Mindless idiot.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Which accusations were those, Andre?

            Not a one of them was advanced against the magisterium.

          • Andre Boillot

            No, of course, never against the magisterium, perish the thought. However, there have been many instances where you've accused fellow Catholics on this site of promoting heresy, including Ms. Trasancos and Brandon himself. You'll forgive me for not wading through an archive of your comments, I can scarce imagine a more horrifying thought, though anyone who subscribes regularly to these comments need only to type "heresy" into their email search.

          • Ben

            I've referred everyone involved in these alleged heresies to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

      • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

        Vicz_Ruiz, besides being insultingly dismissive, your comment leads to a suggestion: if the site is so bad, why not leave? I'm surprised at the number of commenters--including some in this thread--who relentlessly complain about the site.....and then keep coming back.

        If I ever found an atheist site I believed was "scraping...the apologetic barrel" I would never return.

        If you're interested in fruitful dialogue, I encourage you to stay. But if you're interested in taking general pot-shots against the authors or content, then the door is open.

        • BenS

          If I ever found an atheist site I believed was "scraping...the apologetic barrel" I would never return.

          Sounds like you're a quitter. Fortunately for your faith, there are others who don't quit and run quite so quick.

          Besides, if all the atheists fled, who would remain to point out these 'arguments' are so hopelessly and irredeemably flawed? It would turn into a circle jerk of you all patting yourselves on the back and you wouldn't learn anything from our opposing views.

          If you want that, you can always boot all the atheists off... though if you did, you should probably change the last word of your strapline to 'monologue'. :)

          • grevyturty

            Atheism is a faith. You may want to buy a dictionary.

          • grevyturty

            Non belief has nothing to do with faith. Your comment is so ridiculous it is astonishing you have the ability to type and be so stupid. Maybe you never even graduated high school?

          • yousirnaime

            Non belief may have nothing to do with faith, but you must believe the world was started somehow (whether it be the big bang theory or not), and nothing on that subject has been even close to proven, so you are just as much believing in something without fact as the Christians are. At least Christians have meager historical evidence, whereas atheists really have,,, nothing.

          • Alithia

            Some atheist seem uncertain as to whether the world started at all...

        • primenumbers

          Brandon, perhaps take the criticism of this article as "scraping of the apologetic barrel" as a call to ensure that pro-Catholic articles present as strong a case as possible for the argument they're making, and in turn we'll attack them with a quality of response that is in direct proportion to their case.

        • Sample1

          why not leave?

          I'll gladly accept the offer. Cheers!

          Mike

        • Vicq_Ruiz

          Brandon,

          There have been some very well written articles on your site. Disagree with them though I may, I certainly appreciate the thoughtfulness and careful marshalling of argument to be found. Which is why I'm still here.

          This particular article not only fell way short of that standard, at its core is the very type of straw-manning you have requested posters to eschew.

          And I can see from this thread that I'm far from the only one to think so.

        • Susan

          I'm surprised at the number of commenters--including some in this thread--who relentlessly complain about the site

          Can you give me an example of a commenter here who "relentlessly" complains about the site?

          When a criticism is made, your response is too often, "Why not leave, then?"

          Vicq has made countless comments here in the spirit of participation. I looked into his commenting history. One (maybe two or three, I missed them) criticism and rather than consider the point he's trying to make, you suggest he leave?

          This is a terrible article and it's been explained why by countless commenters in this discussion, some of them catholics.

          You are quick to point out "offense" but really, how rude.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Thank you for the unasked-for defense, Susan.

            I've been an openly professed atheist for five decades now. Long before the "new atheism" and long before disbelief in God became intellectually fashionable.

            Like a number of us gray bearded atheists, I've had to develop a pretty thick skin, not taking offense except at the most outrageous comments.

            With that in mind, it's probably a failing of mine to recognize that others, who have been in the "majority" all their lives, have not had the epidermal toughening that I have.

          • Michael Murray

            Long live grey bearded atheists !

          • ZenDruid

            I missed this for three days? I'm sorry, really...!

          • Michael Murray

            Hang your beard in shame !

    • Chomsky_fan

      You should first try learning what logic is before trying to follow it. Atheism is NOT Agnosticism. Never has been. Never will be. Atheists should stop piggyback riding on the Agnostic non-religiousness and accept their position as a religion.

      • grevyturty

        Non-belief is not a religion. Please take an introductory college class.

    • Laza Amafirin

      "Are you a rapist? No, I'm a Christian. Are you a murderer? No, I'm a Christian. Are you a paedophile? No, I'm a Christian.
      This suggests being a Christian is analogous to being a rapist, murderer and paedophile."
      Are you on something? How is this remotely close to what was previously stated?

      If someone were to ask a Christian (or any of those other religions) they would say "No, I'm (this) religion" or "Yes. I'm (said religion)"

      So, why in the world would someone answer "Are you a rapist" with "No, I'm Christian." Like wtf?

      You sir, are the pinnacle of failure.

      • grevyturty

        Sounds like his point sailed over your sloped brow.

    • Forrealz

      I was thinking the exact same thing as this with his logic on how words get definitions.

    • Alithia

      You say it is "mangling the definitions of words" yet shows multiple used and valid definitions of the same words...
      Also, according to the OP's logic innocence can be seen as a substute for or alternative to guilt. It is a description of what you are guilty of, which is nothing. In that specific context, religion defines what belief you subscribe to, which is atheism. The OP even goes on to explain how because of different definitions, it may not be entirely accurate, as the word "religion" isn't always used to mean "what group of people you identify with as having the right idea of these specific philosophical questions that are usually associated with belief systems"
      Also, it is possible to be a rapist, muderer, or pedophile and also belief in the Christian God. Yes, it goes against Christian beliefs, teachings and practices, but people claim to be homophobic and Christian, and they are accepted as such. Some people are uncharitable and Christian, which goes against the Christian Bible, just in case you don't understand the homophobic part. It is not possible to say you are Atheist and Christian. It is not possible to say you are innocent and guilty.

    • Matthias Ladwig

      love your reply, well done.

  • clod

    "There is no single right way or wrong way to use terms. Their boundaries can be drawn differently by different people, and their meanings can change over time."

    So that applies to marriage too, right?

    • BenS

      Good response!

      • Alithia

        So even though the response appears to be complete bull, you applaud it because it conforms to your desire?

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      Bravo!

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      You are no "clod", sir. Beautifully played, indeed.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      clod, you've shown a very basic and regrettable confusion between semantics and essence. Nobody argues that the word "marriage" cannot change over time, especially in regards to how the federal law understands it. Proposing that the word can never change would of course be silly. It would also be silly to assume that by merely changing the definition of a word, you change what that thing *is*. The essence of "triangularity" would remain unchanged even if the majority of America agreed that rectangles could be described as triangles.

      What defenders of the conjugal view of marriage argue is that the institution of marriage, the only institution which unites children with their parents, and which is the bedrock of any flourishing society, has a basic, unchanging essence. Call it what you want--most people call it "marriage"--but that institution is essentially (and by that I'm referring to its essence) ordered toward procreation, among other ends. To be clear, this is not to say that *every* marriage must result in children to be a true marriage, but that an orientation toward procreation characterizes all real marriages.

      To put it more simply, the argument is not that the *word* marriage is immutable, but that the essence of the institution is. Changing dictionary definition does not alter its essence.

      • Andrew G.

        There are no such things as "essences" even for actual physical objects, much less for human-defined relationships.

        • Chicagoish

          I will reply with your bald assertion with one of my own. Yes, there are essences for physical objects.

          • ZenDruid

            Except for bow ties.

          • Rationalist1

            Essences are a leftover from Plato and his cave analogy. There is no evidence for the existence of the essence of marriage any more than the essence of triangles.

            The biology Ernst Mayr put out the hypothesis that the reason evolution took so long to be discovered was western civilization was hung up with essences. The essence of a rabbit existed out there and all rabbits were just an instantiation of that perfect essence. If that was the case how could rabbits evolve without the essence evolving?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Evolution asserts that rabbits will give birth to non rabbits.

            This is not observed.

            Evolution asserts Cretaceous fossils cannot possibly be << 65 million years old.

            This is observationally falsified, given the refusal of the evolutionary metaphysical research program to do science in the face of the observation:

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2012/02/marys-bones-part-iii-is-evolution.html

          • ZenDruid

            "Evolution asserts that rabbits will give birth to non rabbits."

            The Ray Comfort version of [non-]evolution makes that assertion.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The assertion is consistent with the principles of evolutionary metaphysics; in fact it is inescapable.

            We know there are rabbits.

            We do not know of rabbits giving birth to non-rabbits.

            The metaphysic insists this occurs so gradually we can not observe it.

            Quite convenient.

          • ZenDruid

            "...the principles of evolutionary metaphysics..."

            A phrase which sounds impressive but means precisely nothing.

          • severalspeciesof

            A phrase which sounds impressive but means precisely nothing.

            It's because someone doesn't understand evolution...

            Glen

          • epeeist

            The Ray Comfort version of [non-]evolution makes that assertion.

            Is that a banana in your hand or are you just pleased to see me?

          • Justin

            HOLY CRAP!!!!! I WILL NOW START A RABBIT COMMUNE IN THE HOPES OF BREEDING A SUPER RACE OF "NON RABBITS"!!!
            Dude, you are genius, humanity, sub humanity with webbed feet, sub humanity with dwarfism, sub humanity with pigment deficiency, all of the humanities thank you! Oh, let me not forget the sub humanity of genitalia heads!
            Off to start my master "non rabbit" race!

          • grevyturty

            You're so far off it's funny. I guess the banana is the atheist's worst nightmare, too?

          • English Catholic

            Evolution can't disprove forms without disproving its own premises. This is a misunderstanding that needs dealing with. I'll try and find time tomorrow to do so; I can't right now.

            Meanwhile, you should read this exchange:

            http://www.strangenotions.com/atheist-scientists/#comment-963087859

          • ZenDruid

            Evolution doesn't need to disprove forms. Evolution doesn't even use that inane bit of metaphysical fluff.

          • Rationalist1

            There is no form for things like rabbits, only a spectrum of attributes in existing rabbits. Put a stress on the rabbit ecosystem and isolate the population and rabbits, over a number of generations will evolve to a separate species. There is no essence of rabbit, eternal and unchanging.

          • English Catholic

            The non-existence of forms does not follow from the facts, if one approaches them without materialist assumptions.

            Evolution is entirely compatible with forms. One specific thing, over time, gives rise to another specific thing. Proto-rabbit gives rise to rabbit. Rabbit gives rise to super-rabbit. And so on. And each of these three stages is an instantiation of a form.

            Before discussing this further (and especially before mentioning Occam's Razor), could I ask you to read the argument I linked to, and point out the flaws? I try and argue there that the practice of science assumes the existence of forms (or 'types' or 'categories' if it's easier), whether the practitioner is aware of this or not. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

          • grevyturty

            Please provide evidence for these "essences".

          • Alithia

            To everyone who argued on this thread: Take the broomstick argument and the house argument:
            If you have a broom, use it until the head breaks. Replace the head. Keep using it until the handle breaks. Replace the handle. Do/will people consider it the same broom? Is it the same broom?
            If you take a house apart, is it still a house? What if you only remove a wall or a window and lean it against the remaining structure? A single brick? At what point is a house not a house and why?

        • English Catholic

          I would suggest that an un-biased view of our exchange here:

          http://www.strangenotions.com/atheist-scientists/#comment-960940370

          and several exchanges in the same thread would indicate the opposite. You, and several others, failed to find a fault in the logic that was presented for the existence of forms. Please don't just throw out a statement like that as though the discussion never happened.

          • Andrew G.

            So did you read "A Human's Guide To Words" yet?

          • English Catholic

            I'm sorry, I don't see how that's relevant.

            You did, it is true, raise several objections -- dealing, if I remember correctly, with Occam's Razor, clusters, and whether we can know two objects are alike -- but when I responded to each of these in turn, you made no further reply. Perhaps I was too hasty in assuming that this was because you had no further answer? In any case, now is your chance to correct that.

            If the texts you referred to can help disprove the case, you're welcome to cite them.

            Until then, we will have to work with the assumption that your statement that 'there are no such things as essences' is false.

          • Andrew G.

            It's relevant because the whole argument for forms isn't flawed in the sense of "this statement fails to follow from that one", but rather "this entire argument fails to connect in any meaningful way to reality".

            I don't have unlimited time at my disposal and I'm not the world's fastest writer, so if I fail to respond it usually has nothing to do with the validity or otherwise of your arguments, just to do with the time/benefit tradeoff of responding.

            I've outlined most of my main points before, but I'll reiterate:

            1. Logical arguments are useless unless they properly connect to reality, and you can't show this using only logic.

            2. Things (sometimes) do cluster in terms of correlated inferences regarding properties; something that resembles an apple in appearance is more likely to taste like an apple than some other random object. This explains the relatively objective existence of "natural kinds" without resorting to essences. (This is a matter of empirical facts, not logic)

            3. Thinking about these related inferences in the form of category membership is an important cognitive optimization - but that's all it is. In particular, there is no meaning remaining in the question "is X a real Y" once all the desired inferences have already been drawn.

            4. Real-world categories almost always have fuzzy borders, and differing degrees of centrality; but this can't be ascribed to mere imperfection in instantiating a form, because we often see a continuous range of variation where no point can be objectively regarded as more central than others.

            Now, since you said before that you were going to read the articles I referred you to, do you have some specific reason not to do so?

          • English Catholic

            Apologies for the late reply.

            It's relevant because the whole argument for forms isn't flawed in the sense of "this statement fails to follow from that one", but rather "this entire argument fails to connect in any meaningful way to reality".

            Depends on how you define 'reality'. If you assume a priori that reality is limited to the material, then of course you'll say that. But isn't that a bit question-begging? This is the very thing under discussion!

            Can I assume from your comment that we agree that the previously-presented argument for forms' existence is logical?

            1. Logical arguments are useless unless they properly connect to reality, and you can't show this using only logic.

            I don't understand, I'm sorry. Could you re-phrase? Reality is that that two apples are alike (though some people have tried pretty hard to deny this); this is an empirical fact about observed reality; the logic follows from that.

            2. Things (sometimes) do cluster in terms of correlated inferences regarding properties; something that resembles an apple in appearance is more likely to taste like an apple than some other random object. This explains the relatively objective existence of "natural kinds" without resorting to essences. (This is a matter of empirical facts, not logic)

            This is just another way of saying that two apples are alike (from which logically forms exist). The distinction between appearance and taste did not form part of the argument. And is a 'natural kind' something that exists in reality? - in which case it sounds suspiciously like a form/essence. Or does it exist only in our minds - in which case, again, the likeness between two apples is in our mind only, and all our attempts at categorisation (on which science relies) fail.

            3. Thinking about these related inferences in the form of category membership is an important cognitive optimization - but that's all it is. In particular, there is no meaning remaining in the question "is X a real Y" once all the desired inferences have already been drawn.

            I've already dealt with this. Anything can be explained away as a cognitive optimisation. Furthermore, whether that is true or not, an argument stands or falls on its own logic. Or are we denying the possibility of a logical argument now?

            4. Real-world categories almost always have fuzzy borders, and differing degrees of centrality; but this can't be ascribed to mere imperfection in instantiating a form, because we often see a continuous range of variation where no point can be objectively regarded as more central than others.

            This doesn't affect the argument as far as I can see. Nowhere did I say that the proof for forms' existence relies on our knowing where one thing becomes another thing.

            Now, since you said before that you were going to read the articles I referred you to, do you have some specific reason not to do so?

            I've read some of them now. Most seem to be begging the question:

            "Our minds are not transparent windows unto veridical reality; when you look at a rock, you experience not the the rock itself, but your mind's representation of the rock, reconstructed from photons bouncing off its surface. Sugar in and of itself is not inherently sweet; the sugar itself only has the chemical properties that it does, which your brain interprets as sweet."

            A great number of difficult questions are explained away - ignored - in the space of a couple of sentences. As far as I can see, all the articles proceed from the assumption that these statements are true. None argue for them.

            Is there a particular article you'd recommend?

      • Rationalist1

        There is an essence of Catholic marriage, that exists in the mind of some Catholics that is one man and one womand and no divorce and apparently there's an essence or religion that can have nothing to do with God that also exists in the minds of some Catholics. We don't have to accept either.

      • clod

        What is this unchanging essence you refer to? Is it love?

        Does atheism have an unchanging essence?

      • BenS

        So, why the broohaha about banning homosexuals from marriage? If the word is not important but the essence is, then why doesn't the Catholic church simply ban homosexuals from the 'essence' of marriage and keep their nose out of the legal definition of the word?

        What's your beef with them legally getting married then? Our legal definition of the word marriage has got nothing to do with your 'essence' of marriage so what's the problem? You keep your essence and we'll have the word.

        Ta.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          BenS, I'm hesitant to get too off topic here. The short answer of why the Catholic Church concerns herself with civil marriage is because it cares for the common good. And redefining marriage to simply be an intense emotional commitment--one that cannot explain restrictions like monogamy and permanence--is harmful to all society. It would codify in law the idea that moms and dads are irrelevant to children, and would vanquish the only institution that unites children to their parents.

          I've written extensively about this issue and if you're interested, I'd be glad to point you to some links. The first I'd suggest is this one:

          http://www.osv.com/tabid/7621/itemid/10339/Rebuttals-to-arguments-for-samesex-marriage.aspx

          If you're interested in discussing it, please comment on that article instead of this thread.

          Also, if you're sincerely interested in marriage (and its essence) I suggest the book co-written by Princeton law professor Robert George, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Gergis titled "What Is Mariage? Man and Woman: A Defense." It's intellectually serious and I consider it the strongest (and unrefuted) case for the conjugal view of marriage.

          • primenumbers

            Brandon - post up an article here for us to comment on.

          • BenS

            Also, if you're sincerely interested in marriage (and its essence) I suggest the book...

            I have no doubt I will regret this, but I have ordered it and the mighty Amazon Prime will have it to me tomorrow. It'll be behind some others but I'll get to it soon enough.

            As for the rest of your points, I hope they're not indicative of the points this book will make as they're pretty weak.

            Intense emotional commitment can easily explain monogamy. I've never been married but I've never once cheated on any of my partners. 'Permanence' presumably means something other to you than it does to me. Human beings aren't permanent so marriage cannot be. I imagine you're wedging a soul in there somewhere which means you have foundations of smoke.

            Harmful to all society? Yes. France has actually slid into the sea and the entire populace was eaten by raptors on surfboards in recent months since they legalised gay marriage. Shocking.

            And if you think mums and dads would become irrelevant if they weren't married, it says much more about your thoughts than it does about other peoples'. If my parents got a divorce then I wouldn't immediately throw my arms in the air and go "Well, fuck 'em then.". They would still be my parents and I would still love them dearly.

            In fact, even if they came to me one day and said "Ben, the reason you're so much more handsome and successful than your siblings is because we bought you off Madonna and you're adopted. That's also why your middle name is Buttercup." I would't love them any less. They need to be neither married, nor my biological parents for them to be united to me in the only way that matters.

            Anyway, lest this go too far off topic, I'll leave it there. Might get back to you when I've read the book, even if it is just to tell you that owe me £10.99 and three hours of my life back.

          • josh

            I'm pretty sure treating homosexuals as abominable aberrations and denying them any rightful acknowledgement of their love for a millenium or two has been more harmful to society than allowing two women to share insurance benefits.

          • Andre Boillot

            It takes a special kind of hypocrisy to go from criticizing homosexuals (men especially) for being too promiscuous, to then denying them the right to marry.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It takes a special kind of illogic to go from disapproving homosexual promiscuity, to alleging a right to redefine marriage.

          • Andre Boillot

            Which is why people don't usually argue for SSM on the grounds of whether or not homosexual men or women are any more or less promiscuous than their hetero counterparts.

            That didn't stop people opposed to SSM from trying to downplay the idea that homosexuals would ever want to enter into committed relationships to begin with.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Any such argument was an indication of the mush-mindedness of the one advancing it.

            The argument against homosexual pseudo-marriage is that it is pseudo-marriage.

            Marriage unites the genders.

            Always has.

            Never in all of human history is there a more universally attested truth.

            It has been trashed at the altar of a profoundly disoriented, anti-reason, anti-Christian, solipsism.

          • Alithia

            THERE IS AS MUCH RIGHT TO REDEFINE MARRIAGE AS THERE IS TO REDEFINE ANYTHING. And guess what? Things are being redefined ALL THE TIME. It's actually one of the reasons why many people think the Bible is fake or misinterpret it. The translations quickly become outdated and more translations are made out of the outdated ones.

          • Corylus

            Brandon, you might find interesting a piece on same sex marriage by the philosopher Martha Nussbaum.

            The Right to Marry? Same-sex Marriage and Constitutional Law.

            It is very clearly written. Obviously, you will not be agreeing with it, but it does marshal the various arguments and counter-arguments very lucidly. It also touches on your 'common good' argument.

            BenS, you might also enjoy this with along with your new book.

      • Susan

        clod, you've shown a very basic and regrettable confusion between semantics and essence.

        I read your entire post (and too many posts on the subject that try the same trick) and you've done nothing to explain that "essence" means anything at all and that there is anything that can reasonably be called confusion from someone who only sees semantics.

        • Michael Murray

          It's a kind of anti-polyfilla. Instead of filling gaps it makes gaps. You load up a cartridge of it and get your nozzle in between the world of human ideas and the world of reality and squeeze hard. You open up a gap full of essence big enough for a god. It's pretty neat stuff. You can find it in the metaphysical section of any good hardware store. There are youtube videos on how to use it.

          • Susan

            s[Script infomercial]

            Act now and we'll throw in a tube of Yahweh to seal those troublesome gaps in "the cosmos"!

            You can chuckle quietly to yourself as physicists stare dumbfounded at 0 to approximately 10 to the -43 seconds.

            (Has this ever happened to YOU?)

            What is time?! Who cares?!

            Yahweh is beyond time! Beyond space! Yahweh is transcendent!

            No EVIDENCE?! No PROBLEM!!

            Yahweh is beyond evidence! Yahweh is beyond scientific investigation! Yahweh is everywhere! Yahweh is no place he can possibly be detected because that's how love works!

            Disclaimer: Potential side effects are (incomprehensible high-speed mumbling for 15 seconds, link to documents between 300 and thousands of pages that assume their premises without justification generally early on without ever justifying them) insomnia and dizziness!!!

            I'm pretty sure that this will be deleted.

            It's worse than bovine excrement. :-)

        • Alithia

          Pretty much what people identify as one or another. People call apples apples, but they don't call an image of Mother Teresa's face carved into an apple, then preseved and painted to look and feel like stone an apple until they find other people who identify it as an apple. Don't ask me why.

      • grevyturty

        Actually in your bible there are many examples of polygamy, so you're very far off base with your beliefs.

        • Alithia

          The Bible does have examples of polygamy and sexual promiscuity. Doesn't mean God agrees with it. Just means the people featured did. It's like how Paul was misogynist and homophobic, while Jesus preached love, acceptance and equality. And considering that Jesus is basically God...

    • VelikaBuna

      Wrong.

      • clod

        Right.

        • Michael Murray

          +1

        • VelikaBuna
          • epeeist

            You have one instance of homosexuals abusing children. Do I as an atheist condemn such behaviour and the network that they were part of? Absolutely.

            So, let's invert it. Do you condemn the abuse that happened in the Catholic church and the cover up that followed?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Marriage is a thing.

            Child abuse is a thing.

            Marriage is not a thing only so long as child abuse does not occur.

            Child abuse is not cured by destroying marriage.

            Marriage is destroyed for the explicit purpose of establishing grounds at law for unrestrained persecution of Christians.

            The persecution of Christians will, in turn, restore the Faith.

            See Christians and lions for details.

          • Alithia

            Marriage is not "destroyed" at all. It is changed. You can get all technical with me and say the whole "Chaos is destruction is change" but legal union in the ritually specific presence of God between a man and a woman still exists even if a man and a man also decides to have a legal union in the presence of God as well.

          • Alithia

            Also, this specific case of "unrestrained persecution of Christians" is coming about because of the blatant hypocrisy of many who identify as Christian but refuse Christ's teachings. I don't mind being persecuted for believing that it is moral to love others unconditionally. I don't mind being persecuted for believing in a God who would take a piece of himself, put it on Earth, make it a him, sacrifice him and reclaim him afterwards to save a bunch of living entities made in his image from getting what they deserve. I DO mind being persecuted for being seen as associated with people who protest something that, in the end, will only change the world for the better.

          • ZenDruid

            So, let's invert it. Do you condemn the abuse that happens in the Catholic church and the cover up that [inevitably] follows?

            FTFY.

    • Alithia

      It already has, dude.

      • Alithia

        To clarify, marriage was traditionally considered "The union of one man and one woman, usually in a church" That would mean that the term "gay marriage" is literally impossible, like "dehydrated water". That means that if a man and a man, or a woman and a woman went into a church, performed a ritual with a pastor or priest, vowed in the figurative presence of God to be faithful to each other to the end of their lives, exchanged rings, liplocked and left, it would still not be marriage. Yet people are asking for gay marriage to become legal, which means to them, marriage is the same as it was before, only without "one man and one woman". If they do not already believe it is the case, they are then trying to change the definition. Whether it happens or not is irrelevant. Whether it conforms to the rest of this site is irrelevant. Whether the OP decides to kick me out for saying so is also irrelevant.

  • Michael Murray

    If he had been asked, “Are you a Buddhist?” or “Are you a Muslim?” or “Are you a Hindu?” he might well give the same answer: “No, I am an atheist.”

    This suggests that being an atheist is analogous to being a Christian, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Muslim, or a Hindu.spine"

    So if you say to someone "would you like a beer" and they reply "no I'm a Muslim" does that suggest that being a Muslim is a choice of beverage ? Seriously ?

    Atheism can be defined in different ways, but for purposes of this piece, I will be using the term “atheism” to refer to standard western atheism—that is, to the view that rejects the existence of God or the gods, that there is no afterlife, and that the material universe is all that is real.

    In other words what is often called "strong atheism" many of us would define atheism as "weak atheism" or the lack of a belief in any gods rather than an explicit rejection.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_atheism

    So not much point in continuing if we can't agree on the definition. One final remark

    Things that aren’t religions under this definition include mathematics, boatbuilding, the culinary arts, square dancing, and virtually all of the other things we normally don’t consider religions.

    You haven't met some of the mathematicians I know. I'll bet there are square dancers out there who think it's a religion.

  • Corylus

    On the other hand, if he was instead presented with the question, “Are you a Jew?” he might again reply, “No, I’m an atheist.”

    He might also reply that "I am a secular Jew": thus making clear the distinction between identity and practice.

    This article really is very strange indeed. When I see anyone stretching words and arguments beyond their utility in this fashion I step back, and ask myself:

    Why would this person want this proposition to be true?

    I can think of all manner of reasons for someone wanting atheism to be a religion, i.e., emotional, practical, cynical, political, ideological etc. etc.

    Not being a telepath (rather frowned on in certain circles) I am not going to pick one of the above, I merely offer them for general consideration.

    • BenS

      Not being a telepath (rather frowned on in certain circles) I am not
      going to pick one of the above, I merely offer them for general
      consideration.

      I knew you were going to say that.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        LOL

  • primenumbers

    Atheism is an opinion on religion. It says to you Akin - "you're wrong".

    Define atheism as a religion and everyone on this planet is religious. Now what use is the word religious if it applies to everyone - it's just become a synonym for "human".

    The only time atheism is a religion is when it comes to human rights and freedom of religion, and that's only because the religious under the correct definition of the word seek to remove rights from atheists. Such a definition here that includes atheism is great as it's a testimony to the hatred and oppression of atheists worldwide.

    • CBrachyrhynchos

      True, and there's a bit of a double standard involved there. Atheists are equated to the religious only when it comes to painting us as equally faith-driven, irrational, or ill-mannered.

      Suggest instead that atheist groups should be permitted to sponsor military chaplains or boy scout troops, be included in interfaith activism and events, create our own structures for fellowship, and be recognized as doing charity work during disasters and the idea of equality doesn't go very far.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Atheism is an opinion on religion. It says to you Akin - "you're wrong".

      In the case of general religion, I would put it closer to "we don't believe you." In some specific religious cases (such as six day Creationism) we have falsifying evidence and can confidently say, "you're wrong."

      • primenumbers

        Are the logically contradictory properties of their creator deity enough to make them wrong, or are their proposed properties so incoherent as to lead to the "we don't believe you" response?

        • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

          Do you mean like a God who is Infinitely Merciful and Infinitely Just?

          Where an Infinitely Just God punishes all sinners. And an Infinitely Merciful God who forgives all sinners?

          In order for God to be both Infinitely Just and Infinitely Merciful there must be a way by which God can demand payment for the penalty of sin (Justice), and whereby God can also save mankind from having to pay it(Mercy). The answer is the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This act of sacrificial Love satisfied the infinite qualities of Divine Justice and dispensed the infinite graces of Divine Mercy.

          • Susan

            Word salad.

          • Alithia

            if you are calling this a word salad, you have never seen a real one...

          • Michael Murray

            Just so you know there are a whole bunch of people who you are replying to who have been banned and will therefore never respond here. On the theist side Rick DeLano for example. On the atheist side the list includes at least

            Andre B, Andrew G, Argon, Articulett, Ben Posin, BenS, Danny Getchell, Epeeist, felixcox, Geena Safire, Gwen, Ignorant Amos, Jonathan West, josh, MichaelNewsham, Mike A, Noah Luck, M. Solange O'Brien, Paul Boillot, Renard Wolfe, Rob Tisinai, stanz2reason, Stjepan Marusic, Susan, Zen Druid.

            Many of the latter you can find on the website here

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.com

          • Alithia

            Well then. That explains some of the lack of discussion. For what reasons were they banned?

          • Michael Murray

            It's a matter of dispute as is the number of atheists banned and if they were warned. The site has terms and conditions of course.

          • Alithia

            If you were violating the term and conditions, you were violating the terms and conditions, but I would not be surprised if the moderators banned them for having views that oppose there. Many of us Christians tend to be a hypocritical lot, I must admit.

          • Michael Murray

            If you were violating the term and conditions, you were violating the terms and conditions,

            If that was true the world wouldn't need lawyers :-) There is always the question of interpretation. For example

            While it’s true one topic often leads to another, some comments veer too far from the original idea and may be removed.

            What is "too far" requires a moderator subjective decision.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't think there is a better reply to this than Feynman's

            “It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Well, perhaps the earth is a stage...

            A spectator looking from near the Sun could see my deeds of an hour ago. A spectator looking from near Sirius could see my deeds of eight years ago. The more distant a spectator the farther back deeds can be seen. In fact if this is a stage, then the "play" of good and evil is eternally captured in the cosmos. Every good deed and evil deed I have performed is there... still ...till the end of time.

            If I was large enough where my left eye was at the sun and my right eye was on the earth, I would exist at the beginning and at the end of every solar event that terminated at the earths atmosphere. I would be the alpha and omega of that small microcosm. Now if God is as He says... the Alpha and the Omega of the universe. He can see the beginning and the end of every event, by virtue of the fact that he is omnipresent.

          • Susan

            Now if God is as He says...

            So far, it's just humans saying that an incoherent, unevidenced being of their choosing said something.

            Unless you have evidence to show otherwise.

          • Susan

            The stage is too big for the drama.

            Yep.

          • Michael Murray

            10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars when all you really need are the sun and the star of Bethlehem. It does seem a tad excessive.

          • Susan

            10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars when all you really need are the sun and the star of Bethlehem. It does seem a tad excessive

            In showbiz terms, never open with your showstopper.

          • Susan

            Is that a septillion?

            A septillion suns?

          • epeeist

            A septillion suns?

            A hundred billion galaxies each containing a billion suns. Do you know Sagan's comment from "Pale Blue Dot"?

            How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?" Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way." A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

          • VelikaBuna

            How much greater is the one who has brought all this into the existence. Sagan is just talking from ignorance about what Catholic concept of God is, so he knocks at the straw man. And some are impressed by this ignorance of Carl Sagan.

          • Emmet

            So which religion does do this? He says "hardly any major religion" - which is the one or ones that do stress this?

          • Alithia

            More than once in the Bible, God has outright boasted of the magnificence of the Universe he created. He has used the stars to remind his people that their little concerns are not difficult for him. If Sagan really thinks religious people have said they did not want the Universe to be so grand, he has either not met Christians who have read the Bible or he's only met Christians who do not believe in it.

          • Alithia

            If the only stars were the Sun and the Star of Bethlehem, there would be no choice but to know that it happened, and therefore there would be no free will.
            And if you are talking about need, God didn't need to create humans in the first place. Excessive doesn't mean anything if there are no resources to conserve. If I were omnipotent and alone, I would probably make a bunch of inevitably useless things. I assume you would too. Even if you say, made physics, it would be inevitably pointless as it would serve no real use.

          • Michael Murray

            I am sure non-believers could think of reasons to non-believe even with only one star in the sky besides the sun. I would just say "well obviously they pick that star because that's the only one". What happens to people who see a miracle ? Have they lost their free will ?

          • Alithia

            There are quite possibly reasons for the stars beyond my comprehension. Also as you've said, people who see a miracle will still find ways to doubt. It's difficult to argue with an argument you've just refuted.
            In the Bible, God boasted multiple times about the abundance of stars he created. I don't see how the fact there are a lot of stars somehow refutes his existence. Though he could certainly have used other things, he used the stars as an example to Abraham on how his descendants will exceed plausible counting methods of his time.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't see how the fact there are a lot of stars somehow refutes his existence.

            I don't think it refutes it but, for me at least, it is one aspect of the picture I think science gives us of a the universe and our place in it. I think the universe is large and our place in it essentially accidental and without purpose. Or to put it as Richard Feynman did

            http://www.strangenotions.com/is-atheism-a-religion/#comment-963960718

          • Alithia

            And yet, to those that read the Bible, the stage was considered part of the drama. I think there was at least a few references to the fact that stars are really, really far away, but I honestly don't remember.

            One plausible and relatively used interpretation is that the stage is so grand for the reason for us to marvel at the one who set it up, even if thousands of years later, we are able to explore large parts of it. Relatively recently, science predicted that the universe would collapse on itself eventually because of entropy and the way Newtonian gravity works. Apparently now, they are rethinking that statement because observations have lead to the conclusion that the universe is not, in fact slowing down. Looks like a relatively easy way to have the vastness of the universe at least partially keep up with humanity's ability to explore it.
            i am not saying that you are wrong, I am saying that, like you, I see it as one aspect of how science does not contradict Christianity at all. We were meant to realize how small and insignificant we are, one way or another.

          • epeeist

            and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil

            Even this is too grand. One might characterise this god as overwhelmingly concerned with what people do with the tackle inside their underpants.

          • Susan

            One might characterise this god as overwhelmingly concerned with what people do with the tackle inside their underpants.

            And strangely unconcerned with almost everything Yahweh made. I mean almost EVERYTHING.

            Just 'cause of humans. Specifically catholic humans.
            Why the prehistoric fleas, for instance?

            http://www.nature.com/news/super-sized-fleas-adapted-to-feed-off-dinosaurs-1.10135

            Or black holes?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_holes

          • epeeist

            Just 'cause of humans. Specifically catholic humans. Why the prehistoric fleas, for instance?

            One of my contentions has (tongue-in-cheek) been to claim that if the universe is fine tuned then it is for pubic lice. They can't exist without us.

          • primenumbers

            Your example is a good one, your defence of it weak.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          In that case I give them a break and just inform them that what they assert makes no sense.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        Let's see the falsifying evidence.

        Please be very sure it is scientific evidence; that is, obtained experimentally as part of a truly risky crucial test of the hypothesis.

        Now I predict you won't have the goods.

        Let's see if *that* prediction is falsified.

        It is certainly falsifiable.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          Let's see the falsifying evidence.

          Is it your position that the creation account in Genesis 1 is literally true, or that it can't be proven false?

          Please be very sure it is scientific evidence; that is, obtained experimentally as part of a truly risky crucial test of the hypothesis.

          What do you mean by "experimental"? Do you want an experiment in which scientists start with nothing and prove God couldn't create a universe out of it in six days?

          It is simply not true that all scientific knowledge must be arrived at by repeatable experiments.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            What's with all this tapdancing and shuffling off to Buffalo?

            Q. Quine has made a scientific assertion, I have demanded his scientific evidence.

            Ought to be a very simple matter.

            "What do you mean by "experimental"?"

            I mean exactly what Popper means.

            "Do you want an experiment in which scientists start with nothing and prove God couldn't create a universe out of it in six days?"

            >> I want a scientific experiment that was a true, risky test of the hypothesis "the Earth cannot have been created in six days".

            One assumes Q. Quine has at least one.

            If he doesn't then *my* prediction is affirmed, and his assertion is falsified.

            "It is simply not true that all scientific knowledge must be arrived at by repeatable experiments."

            >> It is simply completely true that *no* scientific evidence can be held to corroborate *any* theory, unless it was obtained by a crucial, experimental test of some genuinely "risky" prediction of the theory; one which involved the possibility of *falsifying* it.

            *That* is "corroborating scientific evidence".

            Got any?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I mean exactly what Popper means.

            But why should anyone take Popper as the ultimate authority on corroboration and falsification of scientific hypotheses? Popper's stock is not nearly as high as it used to be.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Stock is irrelevant.

            Popper's view of science is the view of science of the greatest discoverers, and it is also the view of Einstein who, while not a discoverer, was a great theorist.

            Einstein sums up Popper's whole point in one admirable sentence:

            "No amount of experimentation can prove me right. A single experiment can prove me wrong."

            *That* is a scientist.

          • epeeist

            But why should anyone take Popper as the ultimate authority on corroboration and falsification of scientific hypotheses?

            Why should anyone take anybody as "the ultimate authority" on any subject?

            But why should anyone take Popper as the ultimate authority on corroboration and falsification of scientific hypotheses?

            Indeed. It is noticeable that those who make a knee jerk appeal to Popper rarely seem to have any more notion about his writings than "falsifiability" or to be aware of any other work on the philosophy of science.

        • ZenDruid

          It's more like, "We don't believe your storytellers any more. Knowledge has grown over the ages, and your storytellers are still stuck to their Iron Age brouhaha."

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thank you, Zen.

            That is not a scientific argument, which is exactly the basis of my prediction concerning Q. Quine's assertion above.

            So far so good......

          • ZenDruid

            ...And where is your science?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Hilarious.

            Q. Quine asserts:

            "In some specific religious cases (such as six day Creationism) we have falsifying evidence and can confidently say, "you're wrong."

            I ask to see this evidence.

            You reply:

            "And where is your science."

            My prediction is looking better and better......

            Q. Quine just doesn't have the goods.

            Neither does Mr. Nickol.

            Neither does ZenDruid.

            I am prepared to double down on this one.

            Any takers?

      • Susan

        In the case of general religion, I would put it closer to "we don't believe you."

        That is exactly what I mean if I ever call myself an atheist. The circumstances in which I have had to do so have been rare in my life, but I don't live in a place where it is such an in-your-face issue.

        The subject doesn't come up much where I live although it has an insidious presence which, in some ways is worse, but probably not in most ways.

        Atheism is nothing more to me than people making claims about things they want to call gods (whatever that means) and me not believing them, because they have given me no good reason to do so.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Thanks, Susan.

  • Andrew G.

    Oh look, someone else who urgently needs to read A Human's Guide To Words.

    The article degenerates into complete meaninglessness the instant it supplies a definition of "religion", because in spite of the author's claim to be interested in the reality, he makes no attempt to connect the definition to how people use the word.

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      The article degenerates into complete meaninglessness the instant it supplies a definition of "religion" . . .

      I agree. If you get to define religion in any way you want, then you can define it in a way such that anything you want to include as a religion is a religion.

    • Chicagoish

      When you use language like, "Oh look, someone else who urgently needs to read" you introduce a tone into the conversation that is completely uncalled for. Its bombastic and condescending.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

    Jimmy, above, does leave open the line of thinking that atheism is *not* a religion, so I'm going to assert that I think it is indeed not a religion. This is based largely on my very recent exploration of what it means to be a "deist" and how deists (particularly those like our founding fathers) self-identified.
    I tend to accept the idea that "religion" refers not just to belief in a God or gods, but also a belief based on something *more* than reason and nature. That some kind of special revelation is being asserted, revelation leading to specific truth claims regarding faith in the divine. Deists asserted belief in God the Creator from reason and nature and rejected "religious" sources such as sacred texts and special revelation. My understanding is that the preference was to claim deism as philosophy rather than religion...
    Thus if deists can describe their belief in God as "non-religion", then I think atheists can as well....

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      You have a good point, Jim. Also, there have been some cultures who believed in a creator deity who sacrificed itself to provide the "stuff" to make the world. Little attention is paid to deities who aren't still around, or are believed to have made the world for a different purpose and don't pay any attention to (or, perhaps don't even know about) us.

      • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

        " Little attention is paid to deities who aren't still around"

        >> Seems quite reasonable to me.

        Not much action over at the Pantheon these days.........

        • ZenDruid

          Could have fooled me. Just the other day, I was having an interesting conversation with Minerva, when Discordia suddenly materialized, and

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I didn't say no action, Zen.

            But Im would be willing to wager that the adherents of Minerva and Discordia could get together for a national convention at the local Denny's and it wouldn't be the largest group in attendance this Saturday night.

          • ZenDruid

            Be careful for what you ask.;-)>

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I must confess to a fear of losing my wager concerning the Convention of Minervans and Discordianites which is consistent with zero.

          • ZenDruid

            Congrats! You won Pascal's Wager!

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            How much did you lose?
            ;-)

          • ZenDruid

            Same as what you won. Nothing.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Excellent. The very best outcome consistent with the stakes :-)

  • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

    There are nine comments so far, and I think Akin's post has already been demolished. It is interesting to me why religious people want to claim atheism is a religion. It often seems to me, ironically, an attempt to discredit atheism—to drag it down to the level of a religion, so to speak. The underlying message seems to be, "You are accusing us religious people of believing something we cannot prove, ultimately ungrounded in reality, but you're doing the same thing. We're accepting the existence of God on faith, and you're rejecting the existence of God on faith. So there!"

    It seems to me an essential component of a religion is a prescription for how one ought to live. Akin's definition is wholly inadequate.

    • Chicagoish

      No, the attempt is to show why some people suggest that atheism is a sort of religion, on common sense terms. Whether or not he's right (and I completely disagree with Aikin's reasoning on this one) is a different matter.

      You're reading into things.

      • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

        You're reading into things.

        I am speculating, which is why I said, "It often seems to me . . . The underlying message seems to be . . . It seems to me . . . "

        • Inge Loots

          I get the same feeling. Speaking from personal experience, it seems to me that the 'Atheism is a religion, too' argument is used to indeed show that Atheists do the same, but only call it differently. To me as an Atheist it felt almost like a way for the other person to avoid asking why I was an Atheist. A way of slamming the door and ending the conversation.

          As a Catholic, I still think a lot of fellow Catholics have no real idea why Atheists are Atheist. And too often I see Christians and Atheists both are trying to push the other party to adopt their worldview, and then the other party feels threatened and slams the door.

          This is why I think people should stop using the 'Atheism is a religion' argument. Because it's not an argument. Theism isn't a religion either.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Atheism is a metaphysical world view.

            It can be assessed on metaphysical grounds.

            On those grounds it is conclusively falsified in three very simple steps:

            1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

            2. The universe began to exist.

            3. The universe had a supernatural cause

            Now those three steps are defensible on strictly logical grounds, and on strictly scientific grounds.

            This is overwhelming evidence that the atheist metaphysical world view is not based on reason, but instead is based on the foundational rejection of reason.

          • ZenDruid

            The word of the day is 'metaphysical'.

            Atheists generally don't give a rat's patootie for metaphysics*, as it's merely another form of storytelling.
            ___

            * Except for them who have to study Plato and Aristotle

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Atheists don't give a rat's patootie for basic logic, either.

            But that simply means atheism is profoundly illogical.

            A useful thing to know.

          • ZenDruid

            You make the mistake of assuming Plato and Aristotle are the Alpha and Omega of logic.

            I notice it's a pretty common error in these parts.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Logic is a very simple thing, Zen.

            It isn;t partial to any religion at all.

            It is even willing to welcome atheists back into its fold, although they really cannot remain atheists once they accept the invitation.

          • ZenDruid

            You make the additional mistake of assuming that logic belongs to your in-group. (We call that dogma.)

            Just like that other assumption that 'marriage' is the exclusive property of your in-group.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Here is a bit of logic for you to consider, Zen.

            It is bulletproof.

            I predict you cannot refute it.

            This is certainly a falsifiable prediction.

            Let's see you falsify it.

            1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

            2. The universe began to exist.

            3. Therefore the universe had a supernatural cause.

            Refute any one of these if you can.

            I predict you can't.

            In fact I predict you won;t even try.

            Instead you will try some more of the ol' soft shoe...:-)

          • ZenDruid

            1. Everything that began to exist after the Planck epoch had a cause. Before then, NOBODY ON THIS BLINKETY-BLANK PLANET HAS AN HONEST CLUE of what really happened, or how, or why.

            2. The universe is the set of those things that exist.

            3. ORLY? No, you don't get to play the supernatural card. That's cheating.

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Zen said
            [---
            Everything that began to exist after the Planck epoch had a cause
            ---]

            But the Planck epoch too must have existed. Even if it was only a small duration of time, because space time is not the same as nothing. It is very much something that exists. It would seem logical that something must have caused the Planck Epoch to exist, even if you don't know what that something was.

          • ZenDruid

            Of course it's logical that something must have caused it. It is never honest science, however, to Make Stuff Up when you don't have any means of getting an answer.

            So, for the foreseeable future, whatever caused the Planck Epoch may only be treated with speculation.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Planck Epoch is a perfect example of Making Stuff Up when you don't have any means of getting an answer.

            The theorists Make Up the Planck Epoch as part of their inflationary paradigm.

            It doesn't help the atheists.

            The atheists cannot invoke the mystical Planck epoch, because the Planck epoch gives way to a period of inflation and that period renders this universe Ha0 >0.

            All universes which satisfy the condition Hao>0 begin to exist.

            1. Everything which begins to exist has a cause.

            2. The universe began to exist.

            3. Therefore the universe had a supernatural cause.

          • RagingTaipan .

            The problem here is three. It's simply not a fair conclusion to say that the universe had a cause therefore that cause must be specifically supernatural. With regards to creationism, from the scientific point of view, the answer to what caused the universe is nonexistent. But atheism takes that nonexistence, and says, "Until there is evidence to believe in the supernatural, there is no point in believing in the supernatural." Science is interesting and worthwhile because it is based on curiosity. Faith in a creator is intellectual laziness and lack of curiosity. Most of the people I meet who believe in a creator don't want to know more, they don't want to know where god came from. If I were a devout Christian, my curiosity would be too great to ignore the idea of something creating god. Beyond that, it's refutable by one and two. Fuck that, it's a paradox, unless you assert that the supernatural didn't begin to exist, it simply "existed" And no, you can't refute paradoxes.

            As a last-ditch effort, I will propose an addendum to your path of reasoning. 4. The supernatural cause must have begun to exist, and 5. Because of this, the universe must not exist.

            Quite frankly, I think that the logic you have points more to "the universe does not exist" than to "the universe was created by a creator."

            I'd be more willing to believe that the universe does not exist, and after examining your logical clusterfuck of paradoxes, I've nearly convinced myself that it doesn't. ;)

            #existenceisfutile

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Zen said
            [---
            It is never honest science, however, to Make Stuff Up when you don't have any means of getting an answer.
            ---]

            Ok, but whatever that cause, it could not be part of the natural order, since the universe did not yet exist. So claiming it was not natural but supernatural is a correct way of speaking about it. Science also seems to admit this because the Laws of physics do not all exist at the earliest moments of time. If the Laws of Nature began to take shape, that is then a progression away from what would be called the supernatural in the youngest moments of the universe.

          • ZenDruid

            Your logic is good here that 'supernatural' is a valid term, inasmuch as there is no 'natural' phenomenon to which we can ascribe the Grand Cosmic Kablooie. But instead of 'supernatural', cosmologists prefer 'quantum singularity'.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Poor Zen has a grave comprehension problem,

            The *singularity* cannot be past-eternal.

            It begins to exist.

            It has a cause.

            The cause is not part of the singularity.

            It precedes the singularity.

            Therefore the singularity has a supernatural cause.

          • ZenDruid

            Were you there? ;-)>

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The conclusion is not inductive, Zen.

            It is logical-deductive; that is, it is true no matter whether we were there or not.

            It is touching, however, in a way, to watch the atheist reduced to the very arguments for which he scorns the less sophisticated creationists.

            The creationists have it right by faith.

            The Thomists have it right by demonstration.

            The scientists have it right by mathematics.

            All agree.

            This universe is the result of a supernatural cause.

          • Michael Murray

            You need to define what supernatural is. There are various ways. You seem to be defining it as "things we don't know about yet". That's OK as long as you are clear that it used to include lots of things we now think of as natural.

            http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2010/11/01/is-dark-matter-supernatural/

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Supernatural= outside the domain of the natural.

            Natural= brought into existence at t=/>0.

            The cause of the universe is supernatural.

            Bulletproof.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Planck epoch is a metaphysical postulate.

            There is no scientific evidence of any Planck epoch.

            One cannot escape the devastating falsification of the foundational premise of the atheist world view by having recourse to Planck.

            Even should this metaphysical postulate be stipulated to, it does nothing at all for the atheist.

            Hao>0 is the scientific falsification of the atheist world view.

          • Michael Murray

            Once you get back to the Planck Epoch you don't have space-time so you don't have time. No time, no before, no cause to exist etc, etc.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Which is of course absurd.

            One can define time as t=0.

            This does nothing for the atheist, since it is a matter of scientific demonstration that t=0 emerges from a singularity which is itself not past-eternal.

            That is, the singularity begins to exist.

            1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
            2. The universe began to exist.
            3. Therefore the universe had a supernatural cause.

            Bulletproof.

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            If no space time, how is it an epoch?

          • Michael Murray

            We observe the universe is expanding. So we expect that as you go back in time everything shrinks. It follows that eventually everything is so close together that quantum effects take over and destroy space-time. We don't have a working theory of quantum gravity to explain what happens. You can pretend that you can run time back until everything is zero-dimensional and call that time say ETZ = extrapolated time zero. That's what most people are saying when they say the universe began x billion years ago. Then the you could think of the Planck Epoch as being from EZT to whenever it ends. But really we don't know. Likewise we don't really know there was a Big Bang for a zero-dimensional singularity. We know there was an expansion from something very small.

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Yes, the epoch is a reference point to the beginning of time. But this reference point must be anchored to space time for it to have meaning. The alternative is a reference point to the eternal state which is not really an epoch.

          • Michael Murray

            We have a model of space-time shrinking at a certain rate and you can say "well at time t = whatever so call it zero" it has shrunk to nothing. But it's a model. In the real world we know that model breaks down at some time t = p > 0 which is the end of the Plank Epoch. Models aren't reality.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Sorry, Mike.

            Not a syllable you have written above is relevant to the question:

            Does the universe have a beginning?

            The universe *does* have a beginning.

            One can Extrapolate Time Zero all one likes.

            None of this is relevant, since the universe begins to exist, that is, it begins to exist after Extrapolated Time Zero.

            1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
            2. The universe began to exist.
            3. Therefore the universe has a supernatural cause.

            Bulletproof.

            The atheist's entire world view is demolished in these three simple facts, which were known with theological certainty from the beginning of humanity, and were known with metaphysical certainty eight hundred years ago, and are now known with mathematical certainty as well.

            Better late than never, I always say....

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Does the universe have a beginning?

            The universe *does* have a beginning.

            I am confused. I thought it was your position that the universe came into existence when God created the heavens and the earth and the sun and the moon and the animals and humans all within six days. But you cite scientific papers that discuss the Big Bang to prove that the universe had a beginning.

            It would seem that if modern cosmology is correct, and the Big Bang occurred about 13.8 billion years ago, God didn't create the heavens and the earth in six days. But you don't seem to accept modern cosmology, even though you cite its findings. You also cite a paper which concludes, "The third, although it is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past." However, you don't accept quantum mechanics.

            You don't seem to accept much of anything in modern physics, and you reject the developments in astronomy over the last 350 years. But you feel free to use anything from modern science to make your arguments.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I am confused."

            >> Yes.

            " I thought it was your position that the universe came into existence when God created the heavens and the earth and the sun and the moon and the animals and humans all within six days."

            >> My position is that neither you, nor Q, nor anybody else, has provided scientific evidence that would falsify such an assertion.

            I acknowledge the superiority of Ben S over the generality of posters here, in that he at least engaged the question, although he was not able to provide scientific evidence falsifying the assertion.

            But you?

            Q?

            Crickets.

            "But you cite scientific papers that discuss the Big Bang to prove that the universe had a beginning."

            > And...........? Is there a point hidden here somewhere?

            "It would seem that if modern cosmology is correct, and the Big Bang occurred about 13.8 billion years ago, God didn't create the heavens and the earth in six days."

            >> That is a very safe assumption.

            "But you don't seem to accept modern cosmology, even though you cite its findings."

            >> Distinguo. The observations are the observations. We observe redshifts whether we are Hindu, Scientologist, atheist or Catholic.

            Operational science is worldview-neutral.

            But, as Halton Arp famously put it:

            "All we have in cosmology is photons impacting our telescopes, and an x, y, and z axis. All else is interpretation."

            It is the *interpretation* of observations, as I never tire of attempting to assist you in coming to understand, that *always and in every case* involves the metaphysical assumptions of the interpreter.

            I interpret the evidence through the metaphysical world view of a Catholic; that is, I hold to the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers concerning Scripture.

            I have been expecting a much more compelling opposition to this metaphysical world view here, but instead I have found that the opposition is breathtakingly weak.

            I found much better opposition at TalkRational, but they are filthy blasphemers over there.

            "You also cite a paper which concludes, "The third, although it is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past." However, you don't accept quantum mechanics."

            >> The collapse of a quantum state is a datum independent of the Copenhagen interpretation.

            "You don't seem to accept much of anything in modern physics,"

            >> I accept all the actual observations of modern physics. Of course the standard consensus is wrong- after all it is collapsing in front of our eyes!- but that is because it relies upon an already-falsified assumption; that is, it relies upon the Copernican Principle.

            Since this is now observationally falsified, it is to be expected that the standard consensus will be in disarray for some time.

            "and you reject the developments in astronomy over the last 350 years."

            >> It is certainly the case that the foundational assumption underlying astronomy for the last 350 years is now known to be false, as a result of direct observational falsification.

            The Copernican Principle died, officially, on March 21, 2013, and if past similar experience is any guide, we shall be a while awaiting somebody to come up with a replacement.

            The Nobel Prize winners, tenured professors, peer-reviewed and peer-reviewers, who have established their careers on the basis of this false assumption, shall of course have to die off or retire first.

            Science, as Max Planck observed, progresses funeral by funeral.

            "But you feel free to use anything from modern science to make your arguments."

            >> Of course. The observations are freely available to all. In fact I paid for those observations. Got a problem with me using them?

            Well, I shall use them anyway, if it's all the same to you.

            Or even if it isn't.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "But this reference point must be anchored to space time for it to have meaning."

            >> Not necessarily. The atheist might argue that there exists an Extrapolated Time Zero, to account for the alleged "eternal quantum foam" which "eternally inflates", with one of those episodes resulting in our universe.

            In our universe, under this bit of metaphysical thinking, time comes into existence at the proverbial t=0.

            But that "t" is only relevant to our universe; there might be an Extrapolated Time Zero.

            But this solves nothing for the atheist.

            Extrapolated Time Zero, if it exists, is *not past eternal*; that is, the "eternal quantum foam" *cannot be eternal*.

            As Vilenkin shows, it is subject to quantum collapse, and hence *cannot be past-eternal*.

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

            Excerpt:

            "We discuss three candidate scenarios which seem to allow the possibility that the universe could have existed forever with no initial singularity: eternal infation, cyclic evolution, and the emergent universe. The first two of these scenarios are geodesically incomplete to the past, and thus cannot describe a universe without a beginning. The third, although it is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past."

            That last sentence, by the way, references the mathematical falsification of the eternal inflation theory.

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Hi Rick,

            Thanks for the explanation. I tend to think Extrapolated Time Zero is part of that domain of mathematical models that is invented rather than discovered. In other words, true in math but not in reality. I read recently that space time has a minimum resolution much like your lcd screen. In other words, you cant get meaningful information from between the pixels, because they are basic primitives you are working with. So it seems to me that if your basic primitive is a quantum of time divided by your Planck length. You either have something, or you have nothing. Not the infinite progression towards a theoretical zero, because a minimum resolution would not allow it.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Yes, the continuum does not exist in reality, more's the pity for Einstein and standard cosmology.

            But the quantum theory allows the elaboration of an hypothesis of a "quantum foam" which might pre-exist the "Hubble bubble" we inhabit.

            The relevant factor as far as the atheist world view is concerned, is that "quantum foam" cannot itself be past-eternal; that is, it begins to exist:

            1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
            2. The quantum foam began to exist
            3. Therefore the quantum foam has a supernatural cause

            It is a bad time for the atheists in one sense.

            A very good one in another- anyone who has adopted atheism based on the PR that it was a "scientific world view" is seeing that particular pillar crumble.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Sorry, Mike.

            Not a syllable you have written above is relevant to the question:

            Does the universe have a beginning?

            The universe *does* have a beginning.

            One can Extrapolate Time Zero all one likes.

            None of this is relevant, since the universe begins to exist, that is, it begins to exist after Extrapolated Time Zero.

            1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
            2. The universe began to exist.
            3. Therefore the universe has a supernatural cause.

            Bulletproof.

            The atheist's entire world view is demolished in these three simple facts, which were known with theological certainty from the beginning of humanity, and were known with metaphysical certainty eight hundred years ago, and are now known with mathematical certainty as well.

            Better late than never, I always say......

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Sorry, Charlie.

            This universe, whatever mystical hymns one might sing to the Planck epoch, is observed to expand on average.

            All such universes satisfy the condition: Hao>0.

            Any universe which satisfies the condition Hao>0 cannot be past-eternal.

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

            Excerpt:

            We discuss three candidate scenarios which seem to allow the possibility that the universe could have existed forever with no initial singularity: eternal infation, cyclic evolution, and the emergent universe. The first two of these scenarios are geodesically incomplete to the past, and thus cannot describe a universe without a beginning. The third, although it is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past.

            Funny how tough it is for the atheists to understand this simple point.

          • ZenDruid

            Funny how tough it is for the atheists to understand this simple point.

            Project much?

            A 'candidate scenario' is precisely that. No problem from my perspective. Just as long as it doesn't involve the monster under your bed....

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thanks, Zen. You have just acknowledged that the universe has a supernatural cause.

            I certainly hope some of our Catholic friends who have proclivities toward Nouvelle Theologie notice how Thomas Aquinas cuts through the entirety of the foundational premise of the atheist worldview like a hot knife through butter.

          • ZenDruid

            ...the entirety of the foundational premise of the atheist worldview...

            You have the bad habit of throwing around glorious-sounding tripe in an effort to look more erudite than you are.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            You have the bad habit of failing to demonstrate what you assert.

            I do not share this, however irritating you might find this fact.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            2. The universe began to exist.

            On what evidence do you base this statement?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The universe is observed to have expanded, on average.

            All such universes satisfy the condition Hao>0.

            Any universe which satisfies the condition Hao>0 cannot be past-eternal.

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

            Excerpt:

            "We discuss three candidate scenarios which seem to allow the possibility that the universe could have existed forever with no initial singularity: eternal infation, cyclic evolution, and the emergent universe. The first two of these scenarios are geodesically incomplete to the past, and thus cannot describe a universe without a beginning. The third, although it is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past."

          • Michael Murray

            Just like that other assumption that 'marriage' is the exclusive property of your in-group.

            The bill in the UK is through the House of Lords. Marriage equality is on the way there.

  • epeeist

    Atheism can be defined in different ways, but for purposes of this
    piece, I will be using the term “atheism” to refer to standard western theism—that is, to the view that rejects the existence of God or the gods, that there is no afterlife, and that the material universe is all that is real.

    When the Scalia piece was published it was pointed out by many, including myself, that her initial premiss was false. Hence the rest of her argument was undermined.

    The same is true here, the author is engaged in what in argumentation is known as "Humpty-Dumptying", i.e.

    When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

    Atheism simply is the lack of belief in the existence of gods, or in stronger ontological terms the belief that gods do not exist. It says nothing about the belief in purported afterlife, the position on the physicality or otherwise of the universe, the espousal of any particular ethical system. In fact it says nothing about any of the beliefs that an atheist may have or the rituals that they may or may not follow.

    As a result the whole argument simply fails. As some of my pupils might say "epic fail".

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      Does this mean you won't be joining the Secret Information Club?

    • Chicagoish

      So would Naturalism more closely align with Jimmy's original thesis?

      • epeeist

        So would Naturalism more closely align with Jimmy's original thesis?

        It would seem to me that "Naturalism" fails in exactly the same way (assuming you are talking about ontological naturalism rather than methodological naturalism), what positions on anything else that he names does it entail?

        • Chicagoish

          I'm being honest when I say that it feels as if atheists narrow the definition of atheism in order to avoid having to defend any particular positive metaphysical theory. I'll accept that "atheism" properly defined narrowly means the lack of belief in god or gods, but I've never really met anyone who was "merely an atheist". If atheism is a belief, it is held under the assumption of ontological naturalism, which does entail a set of beliefs, assumptions, rational deductive consequences (one of which would be atheism). So maybe it would be more accurate for Theists to engage naturalism and not atheism.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Naturalism and atheism are both falsified by the same argument, and it is bulletproof:

            1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause
            2. The universe began to exist
            3. Therefore the universe had a supernatural cause

          • BrianSheller

            Calling that which came before the universe "supernatural" does not equate the beginning of the universe as an act of any god.

            Define natural as anything existing within the universe, OK
            Define supernatural as anything outside the universe, OK
            Equate supernatural to the word god, OK
            Begin defining the word god and applying attributes to it and everything above goes from being OK to nothing but a fancy story born in the imagination of men, so what exactly is the point of this list you keep posting?

            By the way, nothing is bulletproof, you just need a better bullet.

            Even if this very simplistic list you keep reposting outlines some basic rule of universal existence, it lends nothing to the validity of any particular religion so what is the point that you're trying to make here?

  • Ben

    When I wrote this post there were only 10 comments (that I could see, who knows with Disqus), and this article was already shown to be ridiculous. I think the point is made. So if people are interested I'd rather shift the discussion as to trying to figure out why so many Christians want to have atheism considered a religion. Is it basically the same phenomenon where they insist until they're blue in the face that atheism requires as much faith or more as any religion? Is there some tacit admission in this article, that if atheism WERE a religion it should be treated less seriously? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • epeeist

      So if people are interested I'd rather shift the discussion as to trying
      to figure out why so many Christians want to have atheism considered a
      religion

      If you can find it in the oubliette that is Disqus you will find that I have remarked that there is a tendency by some theists to see everything through a lens of belief. There seems to be no realisation that there are other ways of approaching things.

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      Because if we convince you you're religious, it becomes really easy to convince you to leave your religion and join ours!

      Wait, no, that's not right...

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      Ben, I think that comes from a desire to shift the burden of proof (that we have discussed so much on another thread). They seem to feel better about being on an equal burden status with other religions, but when we come along and take the position that we have no necessity to believe anything they can't support with objective evidence, that they don't like.

  • VelikaBuna

    Atheism is a belief system, but probably not a religion because no god is involved.

    • Michael Murray

      I"ll just borrow this from eepeists excellent post in case you missed it:

      Atheism simply is the lack of belief in the existence of gods, or in stronger ontological terms the belief that gods do not exist. It says nothing about the belief in purported afterlife, the position on the physicality or otherwise of the universe, the espousal of any particular ethical system. In fact it says nothing about any of the beliefs that an atheist may have or the rituals that they may or may not follow.

      http://www.strangenotions.com/is-atheism-a-religion/#comment-962672401

      • Vuyo

        Is this a reasonable statement for an atheist to make?
        "I believe there is no god."

        • Michael Murray

          I'm not sure what you mean by reasonable ?

          My and many atheists definition is that an atheist is a person who holds no beliefs in gods.

          That is different to what you have said.

          • Vuyo

            Is it correct?

          • Michael Murray

            Is it correct?

            It's a definition. How do you measure it's correctness ?
            You will find it in some dictionaries but not in others. You will find it is the definition many atheists prefer.

            If you want to get philosophical try

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_atheism

            or for another perspective

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

          • Vuyo

            It's a statement.
            "I believe there is no god."
            Would you make that statement?"

          • BenS

            Depends on the definition of god. Definitions of god are something that most religious people avoid making like the plague.

            Lacking a credible definition of god, the vast majority of atheists would make the statement:

            "I do not believe in god."

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I would make that statement? So ?

          • BenS

            In some ways it's a meaningless statement because it implies that I know what a god is.

            Absolutely, it depends greatly on the definition.

            On the ol' Richard Dawkins belief scale of 0-7 (0 being absolute certainty a god exists and 7 being certainty it doesn't - Dawkins himself placing himself at 6.9) I would place myself at 6.9 for the 'concept' of god (i.e. I don't believe in it, but I'm open to the possibility) but at 7 for almost all definitions I've actually had from believers.

            For example, Kevin's definition of "A god that exists outside space and time yet interacts undetectably but distinguishably within the universe." I'm a flat 7. The concept doesn't even make sense. It's contradictory and illogical.

            For the idea of a superior being which was involved in some way in the past of humanity and judges us when we're dead, I'm a 6.9. I don't believe it exists but I can't rule it out and I'm open to evidence to the contrary.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Michael, I think it is not generally appreciated that one can be an atheist without participating atheism, even though I suspect that is the biggest case in the general population. Think of how this OP would differ if, instead of asking if atheism is a religion, it asked if not having faith in any deities was a religion?

        • primenumbers

          As people note below, to answer your question we'd need a coherent definition of god. Until we get such a coherent definition all we can be is agnostic. For any specifically well defined deity we can analyze that definition and perhaps respond in the positive and say "I don't believe in that particular God". But for all Gods, the well defined and ill defined ones inclusive, an atheist can always say "I lack a belief in God" with no further qualification necessary.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I very much like Penn Jillette's answer, which goes something like this. It about covers my opinion on God's existence.

            If you were to ask me in a debate, 'Is it possible that there is an elephant in your upstairs bathroom?' I would have to answer, 'Yes, it is possible'.

            But if you were to ask me on the street, 'Is there an elephant in your upstairs bathroom?', I would unhesitatingly reply 'No' without feeling the need to run home and check.

      • Chicagoish

        But this assumes that there is one simple agreed upon definition of atheism or even one TYPE or KIND of atheism. I know that many atheists want to present it that way because its neat and tidy, but that's simply not the case.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_atheism

        Just as an example.

  • Rationalist1

    If atheism is a religion why aren't we tax deductible.

    Seriously "Something is a religion if it has a position on the divine and/or the afterlife."

    Something is astrology if it has a position on astrology and the effect of planets at the time of one's birth. We are all astrologers now.

    • Michael Murray

      Nah. I'm an aastrologer. Or is that trologer ?

      • Rationalist1

        Too hard to say.

        I would think that any neutral thinking person reading Mr. Akin's tortured reasoning would want nothing to do with a religion whose proponent reason as such.

    • Chicagoish

      I argue the opposite. Atheists, out of principle, should always work on Christmas and Easter Holidays.

      • Rationalist1

        And Christians should work a 6 day work week like their God did.

        • Chicagoish

          He demands a day of rest. I love him so much I take two! :P

          • Rationalist1

            When people say Thank God it's Friday, I say, don't thank God, thank a union.

      • CBrachyrhynchos

        Well, since Easter falls on a Sunday, my workplace is already closed. WRT Christmas however, I'll stop warmly accepting invitations to celebrate with my family and friends, when they stop warmly inviting me.

    • Chicagoish

      By the way, when you say "why aren't we tax deductible" that makes absolutely no sense. Any non-profit organization (including atheist secular ones) is exempt from income and sales tax.

      • Rationalist1

        But religious get tax deductible almost by default and do not have to do any charitable work except educating its membership on the religion. I've been involved with several charity, both religious and non and it is much more complicated to set up a non-religious one, plus its leaders never get the clergy housing deduction.

        • Sample1

          Big Faith also has the privilege of blocking low-level IRS agents from conducting audits (requiring more senior IRS officials to take over) whereas 501(c) charities do not.

          Sean Faircloth's thin book, Attack of the Theocrats is packed with examples of unconstitutional religious bias in American Law.

          Mike

    • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

      Rationalist1 said-
      [---
      If atheism is a religion why aren't we tax deductible.
      ---]

      LOL :) Nobody is stopping the atheist from creating a not for profit charity.

  • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

    It seems to me that it is incorrect not only to say that atheism is a religion, but also to say that theism is a religion. While Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others can be classified as theists, theism is not their religion.

    • Rationalist1

      Neither is deism a religion, or pantheism. A religion, I would hope that religious people would agree, requires a set of teaching, practices and organization, otherwise it's just a strange notion.

      • Chicagoish

        As a Catholic, I absolutely agree with you here.

        • Rationalist1

          Good. I've seen this argument before and always thought it denigrated religions and religious beliefs.

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Also, I'm not sure what points the religious seeks to win by classifying atheism as a religion. Even IF you convinced an atheist he was religiously atheist, does that make it easier to "convert" him?

            Do you walk up to a Buddhist and say, "You're also religious! You should be a Christian, it's like pretty much the same thing!"

          • Rationalist1

            Like Fr. Karl Rahner's notion of the anoymous Christian

          • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

            Exactly. What purpose does it serve? Normally I'm not so utilitarian in my philosophy, but I feel like if we're going to dig way down into semantics and near-wordplay, there had better be some big points to win, otherwise I feel shallow and vapid for having gone there for the trouble of winning... nothing.

            I wish Mr. Akin had told us what the purpose of classifying atheism as a religion is. But as of now, I see none. You guys continue to be a-religious, and we will continue to strive to win you over (or back, as the case may be).

    • epeeist

      It seems to me that it is incorrect not only to say that atheism is a religion, but also to say that theism is a religion. While Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others can be classified as theists, theism is not their religion.

      Yes, there is a curious asymmetry there. While atheists have an equal opportunity lack of belief in gods, theists either believe in a single god or a particular pantheon and are atheists when it comes to other gods...

      • Emmet

        Not really. An atheist says there is no evidence for God.
        The phrase "...atheists when it comes to other gods" is a nonsense. It's like saying, "I eat bacon but I'm a vegetarian when it comes to other meats." It's absurd. Someone trying to score points against that vegetarian, talk him out of his stance, ends up looking foolish.

        Which I think might be the point/one point of saying atheism is a religion. If it is, atheists are wrong in a fairly fundamental facet of their worldview without even going into the deeper metaphysics of it. Therefore, score one for our team.

        Not saying I agree with the thesis put forward in the original post.

        • epeeist

          An atheist says there is no evidence for God.

          No wrong on your first premiss. An atheist lacks belief in gods, all gods not just the one with the equivocal capital G.

          Now the believer in, for example, Ahura Mazda does not believe in Ganesha, or Zeus, or Yahweh, or Quetzalcoatl or...

          So where am I wrong?

          • Emmet

            Sure. An atheist lacks belief in gods, if you want to put it like that.

            Where you're wrong: So a person can't be both a god-believer and an atheist - I know the modern atheist is often good at holding in his head two contradictory statements at the same time, believing both to be true, but come on, isn't it obvious that a person can't be atheist and theist at the same time?

            Where am I wrong with the vegetarian analogy?

        • Michael Murray

          Deeper metaphysics ? Do tell I love deepities.

          • Emmet

            Sure. If you make a statement like, "I see no evidence for any gods," you're making a metaphysical statement because you're making a statement about existence - about what is and isn't.

            But - do tell - you knew that already.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks. To me that's no different though to "I see no evidence for extraterrestrials", "I see no evidence for the Loch Ness monster", "I see no evidence for time-travellers" etc. They seem like statements about the real world.

          • Emmet

            Exactly. Which is what metaphysics is.

          • Michael Murray

            That doesn't seem to fit very well with the wikpedia definition

            Metaphysics is a traditional branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world,[1] although the term is not easily defined.[2] Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:[3]

            What is ultimately there?

            What is it like?

            A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysicist [4] or a metaphysician.[5] The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility. A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other. Another central branch of metaphysics is cosmology, the study of the origin (if it had one), fundamental structure, nature, and dynamics of the universe.

            Asking if something exists in the physical world doesn't seem to fit this.

          • Emmet

            Fair point. I should, in fact, have said that your questions there are different to the question about the existence of God, which is one of metaphysics because of everything else that flows from it - Nothing much flows from the question of whether or not Nessie exists.

        • BenS

          If it is, atheists are wrong in a fairly fundamental facet of their
          worldview without even going into the deeper metaphysics of it.

          It amuses me when people babble on about the 'atheist worldview'. It's so tiresome now, I can't even be arsed correcting them. It shows such a fundamental ignorance of what atheism actually consists of, it's painful to see.

          • Emmet

            It's because so many of your atheist confreres include their worldview - their "and" - within their "atheism". Include it loudly, and repeatedly, and with much bombast. "Atheist" has come to mean a whole lot of other things than merely the bare-bones definition that many espouse.

            Blame them, not me.

          • BenS

            Like whom? Whoever they are, they're wrong. The only people I've seen claiming atheism is something it isn't are the religious. Case in point, this article.

          • Vuyo

            Hi Bens, seriously asking. What would we call your worldview? Secular? Humanist? Naturalist? Can we put the atheist in a worldview box?

          • Emmet

            Good grief. Spend a minute or two reading the comments at Friendly Atheist or WWJTD to name just two atheist hang-outs. You'll see people arguing about what atheism is and isn't in most threads.

          • BenS

            Well, I'm not seeing it here and I'm not scurrying around the internet to find examples of people who are wrong. Sounds like rather a fruitless endeavour. My point still stands, those who are claiming atheism is something is isn't are, by very definition, wrong.

          • Emmet

            Like those who claim marriage is something it isn't.

          • BenS

            Yes, exactly like the Catholic church.

  • clod

    You can find a grand unified theory, but roses will still smell the same after you find it.

    Similarities and differences are both strange notions. I think we have much more in common in simple humanity than we have in our differences, whatever they may be. Why not concentrate on those? Otherwise what do you really want out of this, converts?

  • Inge Loots

    I have been raised by Atheist parents with only basic education. They are Atheists, because they reject the claim that there is a God, they don't believe in a god and they think people who do are backwards people.
    To the answer: "Are you a Muslim, Hinu, Christian?" they probably will respond that they are Socialist, since that is defining their actions and moral stances.
    Following Mr. Akin's reasoning, Socialism, Libarlism, Humanism and all those other things people use to define their moral stances are suddenly religions. They are not, nor is Atheism.

    In the same analogy: When a Catholic claims that her prayer to St. So-and-so has been answered and St. So-and-so has healed her, this doesn't mean that Saints now have been elevated to demi-gods who can heal people from their afflictions. It simply means that she, and many of her fellow human beings are very sloppy in their terminology.

    The fact that people are sloppy in their terminology doesn't make Atheism a religion.

    • Fr.Sean

      Nice point Inge

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      I was going to write something, then I read this and it pretty much sums up all of my thoughts on the subject. Beautifully put.

  • severalspeciesof

    There is no single right way or wrong way to use terms.

    and here in lies the crux of the problems that, IMO, I see popping up all over. When terms and their definitions are not pinned down at the outset of a dialogue, we get this OP, which is an excellent example of why many people hate labels, as the person who uses the label against or upon another, may not really know what that label means to the person it's being put upon...

    Glen

  • IkkOqs

    Is it just me, or does the whole article look like it's just the introduction?

  • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

    Interesting article! But I think Jimmy's working definition of religion is in trouble when we look at the etymology of "religion", which is always helpful for understanding the reality a word signifies: http://etymonline.com/?term=religion It seems to me that not even the second definition toward the end of the article is strong enough; "religion" not only "asserts" the existence of the divine or the afterlife, but is "bound" to observations, obligations, etc., in communion with that belief.

    Linking atheism with materialism (as a matter of course) also seems problematic. That's certainly often the case for leading atheists, but not always. Thinkers like Nagel, Chalmers, and Penrose are atheists, but believe that the material world cannot be all that exists, for good reason. Even Christopher Hitchens spoke of the transcendent, "inconsistent" with or even "beyond" the material.

    All that said, I would speak of atheism as a "world view" or metaphysic, as subject to characteristics of religious ritual and zeal as any other world view. In fact, even in the absence of religious belief, I'd agree with Dostoevsky that man strives for nothing "so incessantly" as to find someone (or something) to worship.

    • Rationalist1

      I would have thought that a definition of religion like that proposed by Mr. Akin would be an affront to religious people who hold that belief in a divine was integral to religion.

  • Fr.Sean

    While i appreciated the article i think the author missed on of the most important aspects to this discussion. Atheists often seem to convey they simply hold to science, reason and logic (and therefore some philosophy) while they will assert people of faith understand faith to be believing in something there is no evidence of or simply created ideas. Naturally i would assert faith isn't based simply on ideas but on historical events and revelation. but one of the questions to whether atheism is a religion is when much of what they believe veers off of science, reason and logic. when Professor Dawkins encourages his followers to see themselves as the "brights" this is a faith proclamation. when an atheists claims that there are potentially 10 to the 500 billionth power of other universes that we have no empirical evidence of this is a faith proclamation. when an atheists asserts that the world would be a better place if we could get rid of the idea of religion this is a faith proclamation. i think they only person who can claim they make no appeals to faith would be an agnostic, but if they really did make no appeals to faith, they would not be married, they wouldn't have a job they really would make no decisions i life because one has to make some leaps of faith when making a decision.

    if the conclusions some atheist make that aren't based on empirical evidence than in my opinion atheism is a religion, if not then you could say it's not a religion.

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      Some atheists hold to all the views you have mentioned, some to a few of them, some to none of them.

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi Vicq,
        i would agree, it's just that some atheists seem to go off on various ideas about what would benefit society that are there subjective opinion, they then seem to be drifting away from purely reason and logic. i would suspect it's those types of atheists that one may consider to be religious.

        • BenS

          That may well be true, but then it's not atheism that's their religion, it's 'whateverthey'rebabblingonabout'ism. The OP is trying to show that atheism is a religion, which it clearly isn't.

          There's nothing to say atheists can't talk an incredible amount of bollocks at times or hold wildly ridiculous views on a variety of subjects. They can. But that doesn't mean that atheism is a religion. :)

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,

            True enough, i just remember reading former articles or posts where atheist were commending the bennefits of logic and reason which i would agree with, but when they go off on other tangents or minimize people of faith to simply believing in things with no credible evidence i feel as though they've lost their credibility as only using reason and logic. Perhaps that's another topic all together. in other words, if when one incorporates none empirical evidence and subjective opinion into their belief system, is that belief system like a religion?

          • BenS

            I'm not sure what you mean by minimise but - although I don't have a shrink ray - I do look askance at people who believe things 'without credible evidence'. If there is no credible evidence, why believe it?

            You can incorporate whatever you like into your belief system but you have to accept that it won't be viewed particularly well by those who relying on more proven methods of acquiring knowledge (like, for example, the scientific method).

            e.g. Consider your own personal impressions of the following if you went to your doctor.

            "I think this new drug could help your condition."
            "Why?"
            "A Cochrane review showed it to be particularly effective in numerous trials with similar circumstances to yours."

            or

            "I think this new drug could help your condition."
            "Why?"
            "I was praying to Zeus and I had a vision of a bird that told me you should take it."

            One of those used credible evidence to form his opinion, the other didn't. Which do YOU consider to be the more credible doctor?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Ben,
            I guess what i mean by minimize is when i hear atheists compare Jesus to the "flying spaghetti monster" or "garden faries". i know one form of argumentation is to change the subject and perhaps a couple of ways to do that is to 1. to be inflammatory about your own points, 2. be dismissive about the others points. 3. insult the other's character, or 4 just outright change the subject. when i hear some people compare the validity of Jesus as being on the same level as flying shaghetti monsters or garden fairies it certainly seems to fall under number 2. (you haven't done that just trying to make a point).

            I know one of the arguing points of an atheistic perspective is to summarize a plausable explanation to an obvious question within humanity. the question is, why do so many people believe in God gods, or the afterlife? furthemore we have no empiracle proof of either so why is it that so many people believe in such things, to which to my knowledge there are two potential explanations. 1. the belief that there is a good originated from evolution as a means of attributing intention to natural phenomenon people could not explain, which dovetailed into a comforting notion of believing in spirits, afterlife etc. 2. there is a God and there is an afterlife and the God who is a creator placed those two questions within our being so that we would seek him out etc.

            One atheistic explanation is to say with so many religions they can't all be right. or one religion by nature disqualifies another's as being completely right, thus with so many perhaps they are all wrong.

            But i also think you could look at that through another perspective. with so many religions that have similarities, isn't it possible that most people of various religions did gleen or learn something of that God though a certain amount of openess to him. in other words, why don't some religions around today encourage really bizzare ideas? why do they almost all see the need or importance of similar things like; prayer, the golden rule, taking care of the poor or marganilized? or that our lives have eternal consequences? i could as well see the similarities as being like a group of doctors looking at an health summary of a group of a patient with say low blood pressure. one may say he or she thinks it's due to a faulty valuve, one may say it's due to an irregular heart beat or one may say it's due to low blood sugar. they may all be hinting at the truth and all may have some truth to them?

            Just to be sure, if i had heart trouble or a brain tumor i would not go to a Priest to just say a prayer over me and be done with it, i would go to whatever doctor specializes in that kind of medicine because i as a believer believe God has given each one of us gifts and talents to bennefit humanity. thus some have used their gifts and talents to improve their and humanity's knowledge of the human body and how it works, and i would thus believe perhaps the spirit would work through those doctors to heal me. similarily, i wouldn't go to a heart doctor if i was attempting to make sense of my father's death (my dad's still alive) but perhaps would go to a priest to understand how to deal with such a situation.

          • ZenDruid

            There's nothing to say atheists can't talk an incredible amount of bollocks at times or hold wildly ridiculous views on a variety of subjects. They can.

            I do that regularly. I usually try to give advance warning, if that makes any diff. But, you know, sauce for the goose....

    • Rationalist1

      "while they will assert people of faith understand faith to be believing in something there is no evidence of or simply created ideas." But can we at least agree that at least all religions except your fit this category?

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi Rationalists,
        I would agree with most of what you said with only one caveat. i don't believe all other religions are inherently wrong. i do believe the Holy Spirit working in the lives of people before the incarnation had some connection to the Holy Spirit. When people are compelled to have compassion or to be kind and loving then they are in a sense cooperating with the Holy Spirit. when an atheist responds to the compulsion to be kind and loving or to sacrifice some of their time or income to assist someone else in need then i do beleive they are responding to the Holy Spirit, but that is only my opinion, nevertheless, i don't by default believe all other religions are 100% false. other than that we would agree with pretty much everything of your assessment.

        • primenumbers

          That's rather a rationalization though, isn't it? Why would the HS work to spread religious confusion in this manner though?

          • Inge Loots

            Because humans have free will. They may get inspiration from the HS, but it doesn't turn them into robots that execute the will of the HS.
            The same happens with people who call themselves Atheists. Several of my Atheist friends are Atheist, don't believe in all the religious stuff, but DO believe their loved one is in heaven. The fact that they incorporate things that don't belong to the Atheist world view doesn't mean that can't be seen as Atheists.

          • epeeist

            The fact that they incorporate things that don't belong to the Atheist world view doesn't mean that can't be seen as Atheists.

            What's the "atheist world view" (it doesn't need the capitalisation)? There was nothing in the handbook about it when I joined the new atheists of the militant tendency (or was that the atheists of the new militant tendency, I can never remember. I only joined so I could get in to the secret volcano base and ride the monorail).

          • Rationalist1

            All atheists have in common is that we all don't believe in the same God.

          • primenumbers

            So the HS interferes with their free-will through inspiring them, yet doesn't alter their free-will. That seems to be a rather tough thing to do, to inspire someone to do things without effecting them.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Primenumbers,
            I'm not saying that the Holy Spirit has given certain people direct revelation of other religions. but if the spirit does place some seed of thought within us that there is a God, that our lives have eternal consequences and that there is an eternity than certain religions have placed beliefs on top of those instincts and that's why many of them differ. To my knowledge Judaism, and Christianity are the only one's that speak at length of miracles which would be some kind of evidence of a divine origin.

          • primenumbers

            That, my friend, is special pleading. There's plenty of super-natural miracle reports in all religions, and they all invent reasons or rationalizations for miracle reports from other religions.

            The utter chaos of religious belief on this planet though, would indicate if there is a deity intervening with regards to religious belief, they're either rather incompetent or actually desire such chaos.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Primenumbers,
            i realized i made an error when i made that statement. i was thinking perhaps mohammad had claimed to do some amazing things but those were largely dealing with himself. Judaism and Christianity have some miracles in the history of their scriptures as well as some claims of more contemporary miracles. but i realized i had made an error and that other religions also claim to have some miracles.

          • primenumbers

            I think miracle claims are common across religions. I think the spread of miracle reports (through time, across nations and throughout religions) points to they being a mis-attributed natural phenomena rather than a deity playing games with us to confuse us on the issue of the "correct" religion.

          • Rationalist1

            Not so. Probably one of the most prolific "miracle" workers recently has been the late Sathya Sai Baba. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sathya_Sai_Baba ). These "miracles" have been witnessed by millions, most of them still alive.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalist,
            I stand corrected. i was thinking of the primary religions and i know that Mohammad claimed to have done some amazing things but when i was thinking of the other primary religions such as buddhism or hinduism i was thinking Judaism and Christianity had some claims of Miraculous events. I should have thought before making such a generality.

        • Rationalist1

          I could equally say that when a religious person "responds to the compulsion to be kind and loving or to sacrifice some of their time or income to assist someone else in need then i do beleive they are responding to" to evolution and the advantage of empathy for one's local community helps one's shared gene pool propagate. At least evolution is a fact, the Holy Spirit is just speculation.

          • Inge Loots

            I was just answering a question, "Why would the HS work to spread religious confusion in this manner though?" that's all. The HS doesn't 'interfere' with someone's free will. He just adds options to the wide options people can freely choose from. It's up to people to make their choice.

            In the same way: 'Heaven' and 'Life after death' are not part of most atheist 'belief systems' if you want to call them like that. But many Atheists I know believe their dead loved ones are in Heaven. They choose an option that's not necessarily part of their belief system, but it doesn't mean they're less Atheist for doing so.

          • Rationalist1

            If many atheists you know believe their dead loves ones are in heaven then they're not atheists. Because to have a heaven you need a God. After I die with be the same as before I was born.

          • Emmet

            You said that all atheists have in common is that they don't believe in the same God. Here you add that they can't believe in heaven. What else is *essential* for an atheist to not believe in to make them a True Atheist?

          • BenS

            Here you add that they can't believe in heaven.

            Where god provides the heaven, lack of belief in god also includes a lack of belief in heaven by default. Unless they're positing a natural heaven (whatever THAT might be) then belief in heaven requires also a belief in god and therefore, they cannot be atheists.

            Simple.

          • Emmet

            So if they posit a natural heaven, they can still be True Atheists. Nice that they have your imprimatur.

          • BenS

            Why are you capitalising 'True Atheist'? You're making yourself look daft.

            If they believe in a heaven but not a god then, yes, they can be atheist because an atheist is a person who lacks a belief in a god. They can believe in anything else they like other than a god and still accurately be called an atheist. How simple do you really want it?

          • Emmet

            Sorry. Spent too much time on atheist blogs - must have imbibed the "True Christian" trope. You're right - it does look daft.

            Points for use of "daft" by the way - great word; not used nearly enough these days.

          • BenS

            And therefore an atheist can believe in fairies and still accurately be called an atheist.

          • Emmet

            Sure. Or astrology, or "good vibes", or angels, or killing people they disagree with, or whatever - because atheism is not a coherent worldview on its own, it always has to have that "and".

          • BenS

            Atheism isn't a worldview AT ALL. It's a lack of belief in a specific concept. That's it. Atheists can be ANYTHING apart from theists.

            And everything that is not a single descriptor of everything that person is has an 'and'. If you're catholic then you're catholic AND a man or catholic AND a woman. You cannot determine sex from the term catholic and therefore it also requires an and.

            I'm not sure what your point is, I'm afraid.

          • Emmet

            So the "Christians are atheists towards all gods other than God" trope can be put to rest then, if "[a]theists can be ANYTHING apart from theists"? I'm glad.

            My point is, when I say "I'm Catholic" I don't need an "and" - that phrase includes my worldview and way of life. An atheist, if they are to take your bare-bones definition of atheism as the base standard, needs that "and" - my point is simply that I find that more interesting than the "atheist"part of a person's identity statement.

            (And on a side note, I think I was getting at the fact that many (most) atheists seem to include a materialist/moral Darwinist/whatever you want to call it worldview within the atheist label.)

          • BenS

            Because to have a heaven you need a God.

            I think I'd have to sort of disagree here. It's possible that such a thing as an afterlife exists and that human souls go there after death. It's also possible that these souls and the 'afterlife' are natural functions of reality and therefore do not require a god.

            'Course the chances of this are slimmer than a catwalk model and the evidence that souls and an afterlife exist is precisely nil.

            Additionally, whether this afterlife is recognisable as heaven (which has connotations of bliss and contentment) depends on how flexible people are being with their words.

            Chances are, though, you're right in general - if these people believe in a 'god provided heaven' (i.e. where they were judged by a godlike entity as to whether they get access) then they are, by definition, not atheists.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalist,
            That i suppose could be true, but i still think the natural law as evolved as a way to encourages one's gene pool to propagate directly contradicts natural selection and survival of the fittest. if i want my genes to propagate than i see people of other communities as having competition for resources. having compassion from an evolutionary point of view for one's own community would make sense, but I don't think it makes sense on a global scale?

          • Rationalist1

            The great thing is that evolution is not normative. We evolved in small groups where practically everyone was related and it made sense to show empathy and compassion and help out fellow humans (one sees this is other animals too, especially primates).

            Now we live in communities where practically no one is related but we can use that predisposition, expand it to a larger community and effect positive change.

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalist,
            I have heard of that notion before but i'm still not sure it seems to stand up to the reason/logic test. i think we all have a sense of a moral right and wrong, or a higher truth that we aspire to that goes beyond simply chemical reactions in the brain. we often talk of truth as if we're trying to discover or discern what the right thing is to do, not simply decide in a subjective manner. I do think evolution can present a lot of logical arguments for many aspects of humanity but the natural law is where i think it falls short. in fact just about every atheistic conversion i've read of seem to occur largely because the explanations of the natural law from an evolutionary point of view do not entirely stand up to reason. the simply notion that i'm guided by propagating my genes means i am in competition with other human beings and yet i still feel the same compassion for an elderly individual who fell whether they are of my community or on the other side of the globe.

          • Rationalist1

            Fr. Sean - Most people, at some point in their life, have lower back pain. It's common and it's because we are descended from primates who didn't walk upright like we do and our backbones haven't evolved to efficiently handle bi-pedal motion. Like our bad backs, human empathy is informed by our evolutionary past (and informs us on why other primates act emphatically towards other in their group).

            It's not the entire story, we are not prisoners to evolution but it helps us understand. Witness you not propagating your genes and many sexually active people using contraception to not propagate their genes.

            We do use our chemical based mental faculties to attempt to discern right from wrong. We use experience, science, discussion, philosophy, concepts of rights, etc, to help evolve our morals. ANd we know we will not be punished for eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, indeed to impair that quest is anathema.

          • Emmet

            How come evolution has failed us in not giving us evolved backbones? I can't work that out right now.

          • Michael Murray

            What does an evolved backbone mean ? I assume you are asking why evolution doesn't give us improved backbones. I would assume because there is no evolutionary pressure to do so. For most our existence as homo-sapiens we would reproduce and raise our young before lower back pain became an issue.

          • Emmet

            Why? Why aim to use that predisposition to effect positive change in the community? Why not just get yours?

            I try to make a positive change in my community because I see that I'm a member of a body, and because I love my fellow humans and so want what is best for them, for their own good and for the good of society - because I see that there is an objective standard of the good, the true and the beautiful.

            An atheist will say the same thing (apart from the objective standards), sure, and I believe them, I know they're sincere - but the logic of their ethics breaks down under the question, "But why?"

          • BenS

            I try to make a positive change in my community because I see that I'm a member of a body, and because I love my fellow humans and so want what is best for them, for their own good and for the good of society

            And you're saying the logic of atheists breaks down because, when asked 'why' they say "Because it's how I'd want to be treated myself." instead of "Because I want a reward after I'm dead."?

          • VelikaBuna

            Hmmmmmm....another straw man example. Christians do good because that is what they were created for and that is how they resemble the Creator. People who do "good" out of ulterior motives as your straw man suggests are fake and false, and they will be exposed.

          • Susan

            Oh, for Pete's sake.

          • BenS

            Christians do good because that is what they were created for and that is how they resemble the Creator.

            So... atheists WEREN'T created to do good and don't resemble the 'creator'?

            And when an atheist does the same kind of good as a Christian it's, what? Where are you going with this?

          • Emmet

            "It's what"? It's maybe an unexpected entrance into heaven.

          • BenS

            The point being that isn't why atheists will be doing those good works as they almost certainly won't believe in a heaven.

            So, a Christian is doing the good works because they were created to do it and an atheist is doing it... why?

          • Emmet

            Exactly. Why? Because we've evolved to be altrusitic? Because it feels nice? To impress chicks? To gain status, or power? Because it's good, and right, and just?

          • BenS

            Well, personally, if I cared why they were doing it, I would ask them and then decide whether I took their answer at face value.

            You seem to say you'd ask them and then, regardless of what answer they give or how sincere they are, you would say their logic breaks down because they're an atheist. Makes me wonder why you'd bother asking, to be honest.

          • Emmet

            Because I'm curious, and because I think Socrates' method is a good one for helping people clarify their thoughts and perhaps realise where they're a bit wonky.

          • VelikaBuna

            Atheists were in deed created good and resemble the creator, but they deny the source for their goodness, by denying the Creator, instead they credit themselves as the source of goodness.

          • BenS

            Ah, so atheists are all liars. Gotcha.

            Also, I have no need to deny something there's no evidence for, I simply don't need to accept it. If god can't be arsed providing proper evidence for his existence then he can't get upset if people don't believe in him.

          • VelikaBuna

            Everything that exists is evidence. No evidence is a bogus claim. There is no evidence if one shuts off the mind. You don't need to accept anything, that is true, but what you accept or not, does not alter the truth.

          • BenS

            Everything that exists is evidence.

            Yes, that's right. It's such brilliant evidence that most of the top scientists are religious. No, wait, it's that other thing. A baseless claim.

            'Everything that exists is evidence for god' is only true if your concept of evidence bears no resemblance to the scientific definition whatsoever.

            I counter it with 'Everything that exists is evidence for space ponies.'.

            Kerpow! Take that!

          • VelikaBuna

            Cannot be space ponies...it can be space pony.
            There can be only one God.

          • Michael Murray

            But natural law says ponies are social animals and live in groups. So space ponies would be correct I think.

          • BenS

            Only one god might apply to YOUR god, but space ponies can exist in herds. That's because they're BETTER than your god.

            It's also interesting that you think the number of ponies is the biggest flaw with my argument...

          • VelikaBuna

            I know you were trying to be cute, but instead of causing controversy over the obvious attempt at ridicule, I confirmed that which was correct, of course with a slight modification.

          • BenS

            Well, maybe in your mind you did, but you didn't address the main issue in that saying 'everything is evidence for X' you're essentially making an unevidenced statement that has been beaten to death on these forums alone, never mind in general.

          • VelikaBuna

            Every scientific endeavor in trying to comprehend the physical order and structure of things, inevitably leads into unknowable or unmeasurable or contradictory or unexplainable. Study of physical is a path that points always beyond. That is why likes of Dawkins and Krauss and their ilk, always appeal to metaphysics when science reaches its end, they appeal to imagination, and non science. Science cannot comprehend nor measure essence of anything, it can measure, weigh, the effects on a certain scale, but that is about it.

          • BenS

            Every endeavour in knowing anything eventually leads to the unknown of we know everything. If science currently had all the answer... it'd stop.

            That's not to say things are unknowable, or even make sense. Like asking what happened 'before time'. The question itself doesn't make sense. We can potentially point to when time started and perhaps even discover how it started... and people are attempting to do that.

            The answer of 'god did it' is a terrible answer. It explains precisely nothing and then poses the issue of where the god came from.

            And measure the 'essence' of something? Well, if you can't put some kind of measurement on it or detect it all... it doesn't, for practical purposes, exist. So, pointless positing it, really.

          • Emmet

            What?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            OK, I'll agree for the sake of discussion that my sense of right and wrong comes from a God who created me.

            So when I read in a purportedly holy book about "good" things that God has supposedly done, I can test those things against my God-given sense of right and wrong.

            And if the actions of the God in the book appear wrong, then I can properly reject that book as untrue.

          • BenS

            I like this approach.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The error here is elementary.

            If you had read the Bible you would notice that God is not judged by you.

            The contrary is the case.

            It is easily established even on merely human grounds:

            The son does not decide whether to respect his father based upon the son's moral calculus of the validity of his father's actions.

            My own father seemed very stupid when I was twenty but he suddenly got a lot smarter when I turned 35.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            My dad seemed to have it right all along.

            He led by example, never doing anything which he would not want me to do. And therefore he judged himself by the same standards he applied to me, every day.

            He was an atheist for all our time together, by the way.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            May God find otherwise.

          • Emmet

            I don't do it because I want a reward after I'm dead. I do it for the reasons I listed above. Object to what I do say, not what you want me to say.

            Your answer gets you into murky territory. I'm a teacher. Sometimes my behaviour management systems mean I hold students in at break, or make them repeat an assignment, or sit in the coridoor.

            Why treat them like this? Because it's how I want to be treated myself? OK - I like people to do things to help me reflect on my actions, and this seems like a fair way to do that. But now we get into "fairness" - what is that? Why be fair? Why not just hit the students with a cane?

            The "whys" continue, and - in my experience - the *honest* atheist can't answer them. It gets down to "well, just because" or "that seems right to me" or, chillingly "what is good is what the majority decide is good" or even more chillingly, "The good is what the strongest decide is good."

          • BenS

            I don't do it because I want a reward after I'm dead. I do it for the reasons I listed above. Object to what I do say, not what you want me to say.

            You said the logic breaks down when you ask 'why'. If your answer is the bit I quoted then how come you can use that as your answer but atheists then have to provide a 'why'?

            It gets down to "well, just because" or "that seems right to me"

            So... 'because it seems right to me' is not a valid response but 'because god has told me what is right and wrong and I don't have to figure them out myself' IS a valid response?

          • Emmet

            No, it's not a valid response - what does "right" mean? (And round we go again.)

            Yes, God tells us what is right and wrong, and so does our natural reason. The figuring out is about how we can live that out in our own little world.

          • BenS

            No, it's not a valid response - what does "right" mean?

            Use the same definition as for when god is telling you right from wrong - the only difference is who's making the decision. Unless your definition of 'right' is 'whatever god says'; if it is, you're a terrifying person.

          • Emmet

            What does it mean for you though - forget about what it means for me. How do you decide on what is right and wrong? Is it right to castrate a sex offender, for example? Does the "how I want to be treated" thing work there?

          • BenS

            A hugely complex question that has been addressed before and, for the purposes of this, it doesn't matter. If your definition of what 'right' means isn't 'what god says' then we will each be determining our own definition of what is right using our own upbringing, social influences and thought processes.

            'Right' is subjective.

          • Emmet

            So if the State decrees that castration of sex offenders is right, would you agree it was?

          • BenS

            I do not take my own personal understanding of right and wrong solely from the state. There will be some overlaps but what the state considers right and what I consider right are unlikely to be identical.

            That's so obvious, I'm not even sure why you asked.

          • Emmet

            How do you go about coming to a consideration of what is right? If the State, and the majority, said, "It is right and good that sex offenders are castrated" and you thought it wasn't, to what authority would you appeal?

          • BenS

            Why do I need to appeal to some authority? I'm capable of deciding for myself what is right. Aren't you?

          • Emmet

            Sigh. How do you decide for yourself what is right? What do you base that decision on?

          • BenS

            How I personally do it is not relevant. What is relevant is that I, and others, are capable and do decide for themselves. Given that there is no objective 'right', quite HOW someone determines what is right is irrelevant. 'Right' is subjective.

          • Emmet

            It's very relevant if the way they determine what is right is along the lines of, "I've got the power. I determine what is right and you agree with me or else."

          • BenS

            Now you're building up a massive straw man for what reason, I cannot fathom and do not care.

            You've gone from people deciding for themselves what is right to forcing those opinions on others. Quite a leap.

          • epeeist

            You've gone from people deciding for themselves what is right to forcing those opinions on others. Quite a leap.</blockquote.

            You are not saying that there are organisations that claim that they should be able to impose their ethics on other people because they know these ethics are somehow absolutely correct?

            Go on, you're kidding us, obviously simply untrue.

          • Emmet

            Let's go back a bit. I'm asking, absent an external standard of goodness, how do you personally decide what is good and right?

            Absent an objective good, in the end might makes right. An honest atheist will agree with that. A dishonest one will refuse to follow the evidence where it leads, will refuse to follow the logic where it draws him, and will continue with some sort of inarticulate ethic of morality which may just be turned against him at some point in the future.

          • BenS

            Let's go back a bit. I'm asking, absent an external standard of goodness, how do you personally decide what is good and right? Let's go back a bit. I'm asking, absent an external standard of goodness, how do you personally decide what is good and right?

            Which I have already answered with 'it doesn't matter'. There is no right answer.

            Absent an objective good, in the end might makes right.

            No. Because whomever is having the might applied against them probably won't consider it right. So the one with the might might consider it right, but to the ones without might it wouldn't feel right, right?

            Right is subjective. Not that difficult.

          • Emmet

            But it does matter how people make their decisions on what is right and wrong. If it doesn't, no-one has any right to tell someone else their actions are wrong. The State has no right to lock people up for crimes, no wife has the right to tell their cheating husband he's in the wrong, no employer has the right to fire their employee for continually turning up late.

            To take an issue brought up in this thread: some say that it is good to change legislation to give same-sex relationships the same status as marriage. Many say it's not good. One of those two camps must be right and one must be wrong, because it's a fundamental of logic that two opposing statements of truth cannot both be true.

            This is not that difficult.

          • BenS

            One of those two camps must be right and one must be wrong, because it's
            a fundamental of logic that two opposing statements of truth cannot
            both be true.

            Not if the question - and therefore the answer - is subjective.

            What's your favourite colour?

            What's the favourite colour of the guy next to you?

            What's the favourite colour of everyone in your city?

            There can only be one true answer and it must be the same for everyone.

            Unless, of course, the answer is subjective...

          • Emmet

            Sure. i thought it was clear that we were talking about facts, not opinions. I get the feeling you're having a lend - let me know if that's the case and I'll stop replying. I can't be bothered.

          • BenS

            The whole point I'm making, that you seem to refuse to acknowledge is that these things AREN;T FACTS.

            'Good' is not a fact, it's a subject value assigned to something. Some people think mushrooms taste 'good'. I think they taste like nightmares. The 'goodness' of the taste of mushrooms is not a fact.

            'Right' is not a fact in the way you're using it. I think it's right that homosexuals should be allowed to get legally married. You do not. These are opinions on the subject.

            Morality is not a fact. People have different moral sets. There are no facts about morality because of all these different morals stances.

            What is 'right' and 'moral' IS just an opinion, but you seem unwilling or unable to grasp that.

          • Emmet

            So my opinion, as the first (self-appointed) Lord Protector of the New United States is that you should be put to death because you don't worship Christ. Is this just? Is it good? Is it fair? Why or why not?

          • BenS

            Go for it. I don't live in the US, it's a religious shithole.

            Is this just? Is it good? Is it fair?

            Not to me. Not to me. Not to me.

            Why or why not?

            Because I don't want to be put to death.

            That was easy. Ask me one on sport.

          • Emmet

            :) to the last line. I'll pay that one.

            So not just, fair or good to you then. What does justice mean if it's different for each person? How does any justice system function?

          • BenS

            So not just, fair or good to you then.

            No, but clearly it was fair, just and good to YOU as lord protector of the new US. Which neatly illustrates my point that it's subjective.

            Justice is different for people. Justice in the UK is not the same as justice in Saudi Arabia. Even within countries, people have different measures of justice. For example, mafia families have their own codified set of laws and implementation of justice that differ from those provided by the state. It's not illegal according to the state to touch a football with your hand but doing so on the football pitch will get you warned and eventually sent off.

            You know why?

            That's right, boys and girls. Because justice is subjective.

          • Emmet

            No, as Lord Protector it's not only just to me, it is just to all my subjects. There's no "to me" it is just: it is just, end of story. How do you go about convincing your friends, who are wavering about joining the resistance movement because the propaganda is starting to sound good to them, that this is not just or right? The laws say that heathens deserve death. The majority says that heathens deserve death. Artists - painters, writers and film-makers - and thinkers - philosophersand academics - say that heathens deserve death. Everybody says that executing citizens who don't bend the knee to Christ is right, just and proper and is good for society and, indeed, for the heathens themselves. What do you say to your friends?

          • BenS

            No, as Lord Protector it's not only just to me, it is just to all my subjects. There's no "to me" it is just: it is just, end of story.

            Then you're using a definition of 'just' that is nothing like what it actually means. You're simply enforcing something and then claiming it's just. What you actually mean is 'it's the law'.

            What do you say to your friends?

            I would say... why are you still living in a religious shithole? Come to Europe.

            The flip side of all this, of course, is if I Lord High Poobah of the Theocratic US and decided atheism was the state lack of religion and all Christian were to be put to death.

            You would then, it seems, need to shrug and go 'Well, that sounds just to me!' and merrily trot along to incineration camp six. Correct?

          • Emmet

            No, I mean it's just. It is the law, but that's actually irrelevant. It is just.

            You said, "Then you're using a definition of 'just' that is nothing like what it actually means."

            But according to you, just means whatever I want it to mean. What does it actually mean?

            __
            "... Correct?"
            Not correct. I would fight the injustice of it - people can't be put to death for their religion or lack of it. That's not just.

            I think you've misunderstood me if you think that I would shrug my shoulders and go along with it... where did we lose the track?

          • BenS

            No, I mean it's just. It is the law, but that's actually irrelevant. It is just.

            ...

            Not correct. I would fight the injustice of it - people can't be put to death for their religion or lack of it. That's not just.

            So on the one hand you're saying it's just.... and other hand you're saying it's not just.

            Do you even know what you're saying, at all?

          • Emmet

            Oh good grief. The fiction of the Lord Protector etc is separate from my comments about the injustice of your example.

            Let me put it differently.

            The Lord Protector of the New United States of Amurika decrees that Catholics will be rounded up and shot at dawn. Legislation has been changed, people expected this, the majority celebrate it.

            I, an atheist member of the Resistance, work might and main to hide Catholics from the police and to help smuggle them out of the country to safety, because I know that this decree, couched in muddle-headed rhetoric about justice, peace, security and "terrible charity", is unjust because no man deserves to die simply because of the religious beliefs he holds or doesn't hold, despite the state, the majority, the etc & etc all saying it is indeed most gloriously just, an idea whose time has come, an idea whose opponents are ignorant and delusional, an idea that is on the right side of history.

            Point is, I'm appealing to something outside of myself - an idea of justice that's objective, that isn't measured against the prevailing ideology of the day, or my own upbringing or beliefs, but is external. I might not be able to say just where it comes from, but it's certainly not just what i feel is right.

          • BenS

            Point is, I'm appealing to something outside of myself - an idea of justice that's objective, that isn't measured against the prevailing ideology of the day, or my own upbringing or beliefs, but is external.

            Yes, I got that. What I'm saying is that there is no evidence that such a thing exists. There's no evidence that an objective standard of justice or morality exists, never mind anything that this comes from.

            Firstly, you would need to show an objective measure of justice exists. This, you cannot do... because it doesn't.

          • Emmet

            Sure. That you assert that doesn't make it true.

          • BenS

            Of course not. But look around at all the justice systems in all the societies in the world. Answer me this.

            Are all the justice systems in the world identical?

            The answer to this is also the answer to:

            Is justice objective?

            You can provide the answer yourself so I'm not asserting it.

          • Andrew G.

            I'm reminded of the scene in Asimov's The Caves of Steel where the robot R. Daneel is asked to provide his definition of justice (which turns out to be "the state that obtains when all laws are followed", a definition which the humans present reject as useless).

            Equating the objectivity of "justice" with the identity of justice systems only makes sense if your definition of "justice" is, or is equivalent to, "the ethical computation performed by a justice system".

            If on the other hand you define "justice" independently, then differences between justice systems might simply indicate that some of those systems are wrong in an objective way.

          • BenS

            Good point. Putting the problem of defining justice to one side, the issue then is how to determine what the objective justice is and how we know what we've determined is true.

            Not only has this not been done, I don't think it can ever be done - so the concept of justice can't climb above the basic swilling of subjectivity to become objective.

            I mentioned somewhere else on these forums that an objective morality only makes sense if we not only show it actually exists... but also that we know exactly what it is. An objective morality that cannot be known conclusively is neither use nor ornament. It becomes, to all intents and purposes, subjective again.

          • Emmet

            So the authority to which you appeal is yourself. How do you know yourself is correct in what it thinks is right and wrong? (And round we go again.)

          • BenS

            We're going round because you are not listening. I've said before and I've said again, there is no 'correct' answer as to what is 'right'. There is no way of telling if you are correct regardless of WHAT method you use to decide what is right because there IS no correct answer.

            Got it now?

          • Emmet

            So who are you to tell me that I'm wrong about marriage being only between one man and one woman, if you're not sure that what you think about marriage is right? If there's no correct answer, why do atheists call me a bigot for saying that it is impossible for two men to get married?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            [W]hy do atheists call me a bigot for saying that it is impossible for two men to get married?

            I wouldn't necessarily call you a bigot. I would say you are in denial. Come to New York and I will introduce you to two men I know, and also two women I know, who are married. It's like the ancient joke

            First Person: Do you believe in infant baptism?
            Second Person: Believe in it? I've seen it done!

            No sane person disputes that, in jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is permitted, two men or two women who complete the paperwork and go through the ceremony are legally married. Whether they are married according to you or the Catholic Church is one thing. But they are legally married. Period.

          • Emmet

            Sure, they're "legally married". Whatever that means. Who knows, these days, when the word "marriage" means whatever people want it to mean?

          • Michael Murray

            It means what the government of the country you are living in has declared it to mean. That is not the same thing as it meaning whatever people want it to mean.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Sure, they're "legally married". Whatever that means.

            Don't you know what legally married means? While there may be some advocates of same-sex marriage who want it acknowledged that two men or two women can be married "in the eyes of God" (whatever that means), basically the struggle for same-sex marriage is for legal marriage. There is simply no question that states have the power to join two men or two women in legal marriage if they so choose. It wasn't even an issue in the recent Supreme Court decisions.

          • Emmet

            I'm sure you're aware we're arguing about semantics. Marriage is the union of a man and a woman. A legal, state-sanctioned union of two men or two women (or three men or two women and one man - I mean, why stop at just two people? Isn't that discriminatory? What about love and equality?) with the same rights as a married couple might be *called* "legal marriage" but isn't in fact marriage.

            I'm sure you've heard this before.

          • Michael Murray

            Married for most people means "legally married". Had the ceremony, got the certificate.

          • BenS

            I'm me, obviously. If we have two different views of marriage then we both might think they're right. What's so difficult to comprehend about that? Once you've made that profound leap of thinking, consider then that if I think I'm right and your views disagree, I might actually say I think you're wrong. Imagine! And, get this, you can even do that too! Amazing!

            As for why some atheists call you a bigot? Ask them. I'm not the Grand High Poobah of Atheists. I don't wear a shiny hat and speak for all the people who don't believe in god.

          • Emmet

            We both might think they're right, but they can't both be right. Amazing! "You mean to say two opposing statements of opinion can't both be right? Incredible!"

            If it's not a good that same-sex unions now have the same status as marriage in many places in the world, we've made decisions that are/will be detrimental for society.

            We'd want to be pretty sure, when making decisions that affect the family, and thus society, that we know what is right and what is wrong.

            It's intellectually lazy, dishonest and ignorant to say, "Hey! It doesn't matter what's right! Just go with the flow."

          • BenS

            We both might think they're right, but they can't both be right.

            Yes, they CAN both be right because they're subjective. That's the whole point.

            Are you seriously telling me that if you ask two people what their favourite colour is.... one of them is wrong?

            If it's not a good that same-sex unions now have the same status as marriage in many places in the world, we've made decisions that are/will be detrimental for society.

            Good to whom?

            We'd want to be pretty sure, when making decisions that affect the family, and thus society, that we know what is right and what is wrong.

            Right and wrong... to whom?

            It's intellectually lazy, dishonest and ignorant to say, "Hey! It doesn't matter what's right! Just go with the flow."

            It's intellectually lazy, dishonest and ignorant to think that 'matter' applies to everyone in the same way.

          • Emmet

            You're talking about preferences. I'm talking about facts. The colour of the sky is not open to opinion. If one person says it's blue and one says it's not blue they can't both be right. If one person says the American flag is made up of the colours red white and blue and one says the colours on the flag are pink green and orange, they can't both be right.

            If one person says marriage means the union of one man and one woman and another says marriage is the union of anyone (including siblings, or a parent and child, or multiple partners) who loves another (or others) and wants the state to recognise that in the same way as the traditional union of one man and one woman... guess what? They can't both be right. Rightness here is not subjective. (To be a little simplistic,) one person appeals to the authority of fuzzy notions of love and equality and one appeals to the authority of the common good and of children's rights. There is a right and a wrong - but no-one in this debate is saying that "whatever you think is right is right".

            I think, if you don't see that, we're arguing two different things somehow.

          • BenS

            I think, if you don't see that, we're arguing two different things somehow.

            No, what's happening is that you've decided that YOU are right and everyone else is wrong. It's funny how, when you try to show how some things are facts, you immediately go to the physical (like colours and the composition of a flag) but then try to translate this idea to concepts.

            That simply doesn't work. Colours can be measured, flags can observed. Measure 'marriage'. Measure 'children's rights'.

            For moral stances, because they are SUBJECTIVE (please read and absorb this word, you seem to keep skipping it) there IS no right and wrong that universally applies.

            You think marriage is just between a man and a woman. You think you're right. I think you're wrong. Our opinions are just as valid because they are mere opinions.

            If you want a definitive answer you need to show what the answer is and how it was arrived at. For something like the concept of marriage, you cannot. All you can is put forward a pile of subjective opinions to explain why YOU think you're right - that's not the same as providing the right answer.

            If you think it's possible, prove to me that marriage can only be between one man and one woman using only fact.

            I await this eagerly.

          • Emmet

            The measure of marriage is that it is the only union that can naturally produce children. If you could only take your blinkers off, you'd realise that's pretty hard fact. A union of a man and a woman can beget children. The state thus gets involved in this union - why else would it care about what relationships citizens have? - because it recognises that strong and ordered families produce a strong and ordered society.

            Tell me: why does the State get involved in marriage at all?

            And if you think it's possible, explain why marriage can be between anybody, using only fact. (By the way, how do you define "fact"?)

          • BenS

            The measure of marriage is that it is the only union that can naturally produce children. If you could only take your blinkers off, you'd realise that's pretty hard fact.

            What? So you're telling me that human beings cannot produce children unless they're married?

          • Emmet

            Let me clarify. I'm sure you knew what I meant. A sign from biology that marriage should be only between men and women is that a sexual union of a man and a woman is the only union that can naturally produce children.

          • BenS

            But marriage has nothing to do with the ability to naturally produce children. People can produce children naturally without being married so marriage has nothing to do with it.

            You can use that same kind of mangled logic to say "A sign from biology is that only women can actually give birth to children, so only women can get married."

            It's a non sequitur.

          • Emmet

            But the state encourages marriage. (We're talking here about marriage, not about people who aren't married. You bringing that up clouds the issue. Stay on track.) The question is, why?
            Why encourage the union of two people - of the same sex or opposite sexes - and hold it up as praiseworthy and give it special rights and privileges? Why is that union different, in the State's eyes, to a year-long commitment between two people who have no intention of staying together or of producing children?

          • Michael Murray

            A more topical example might be what if you disagreed with the current state discrimination against homosexuals with regard to marriage. What would you do ? Presumably you would organise, write letters, campaign etc.

          • Emmet

            How about the current state discrimination of siblings with regard to marriage? Three people with regard to marriage? What would you do - fight for "equality"? If not, why not?

          • Michael Murray

            In that case what is illegal of course is a sexual relationship between siblings and the marriage laws are a consequence of that. I guess I am some kind of consequentionalist, or I would be if I could spell it. What matters for me is balancing the various impacts of the law in terms of who suffers. In this case it seems the possible birth of a genetically damaged human has to be weighed against genuine suffering we may inflict on the couple. I would err on the side of the current law. I do have reservations with all the artificial insemination we are doing though. What do you do with a couple who meet, get married, and then discover through genetic testing that they share a common donor father and so they agree not to ever have children ?

          • Emmet

            What do you do indeed?

            Can. Worms. Open.

          • BenS

            As a side note, I have no problem at all with three people getting married, if they so wish. I don't see the harm.

            What does irk me is when morons then expand this beyond the scope of willing and informed creatures deciding to marry and then going "Well, pretty soon a man will marry a badger and a hatstand!". Those people need a quick course in critical thinking and a slap. Not necessarily in that order.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            If siblings are not carrying defective genes, there is no chance that offspring will suffer any problem. The National Institutes of Health has a line of mice that they supply to researchers, mice who have no significant genetic variation. That means that when mice from this line mate, it is as if one is mating with its own clone, but with just the sex chromosomes at odds. This is much more genetically closer than siblings, but works fine because no genes are carried by either parent that pose any risk to offspring.

          • epeeist

            How about the current state discrimination of siblings with regard to marriage?

            That one is fairly easy to deal with from a consequentialist point of view. In Britain 30% of babies born with disabilities are from the 3% of the population that have first cousin marriages. The proportion would be higher with sibling marriages.

            Three people with regard to marriage?

            This is the standard slippery slope argument when it comes to same sex marriage. If one allows same sex marriage then why not polygamy, or marrying a squirrel or a toaster.

            Neglecting polygamy and concubinage in the bible, is there a biological propensity towards polygamy or toaster-marriage in the same way as there is a biological basis for homosexuality?

          • Emmet

            So we make laws about marriage for the good of the children - good. Where's the evidence that calling same-sex unions marriage is good for children, or not harmful for children.
            And if it's only about the fear of producing children with disabilities, what about two brothers marrying? What's your reason against that?

            I didn't make a slippery slope argument. I didn't say, "If this, then that." I did say, "If it's about love and equality, what about two siblings who love each other and want to marry, or three people?" Why are you discriminating against them? Are you a bigot or something?
            It's nothing to do with a "biological basis" (what does that even mean, anyway? Is that to do with natural selection?).

          • epeeist

            I am going to respond to you slightly out of order from your post.

            Firstly, thinking more closely one could also make a deontological case as well as a Rawlsian one for not allowing marriage between close relations. I am not sure how one could apply virtue ethics though.

            Now the "biological basis". Contrary to some of the more homophobic rantings homosexuality isn't a "life style". It does have a biological basis, try reading some of the papers here for more details.

            As for three people wanting to be married or two brothers, or a man and his dog or his toaster this is a different argument. If someone cares to frame it then it should be considered on its merits.

            As for two married gay people bringing up children, given that same sex marriage is fairly new then studies are going to be scarce. However there are a number of studies of same sex parents bringing up children which I will leave you to read.

          • Emmet

            "It does have a biological basis, try reading some of the papers here for more details."

            Sure. And some people are trying to re-define paedophilia (source from a minute or two in the shallow end of the internet http://www.salon.com/2011/08/17/pedophilia/ ) so that it can be considered simply another preference with a "biological basis".

            What if the Church is right, and the "biological basis" for these things is original sin, and they are disorders (amongst a whole raft of other personal disorders) that appear in the population and should be treated as such? That is, with encouragement and help towards a life of virtue and chastity?

            --
            If an intense personal love commitment is all that matters, what possible argument could there be against two brothers getting married if they share that commitment? Or three people?
            You're not saying.

          • Michael Murray

            And some people are trying to re-define paedophilia (source from a minute or two in the shallow end of the internet http://www.salon.com/2011/08/1... ) so that it can be considered simply another preference with a "biological basis".

            Obviously they will try. It makes sense from their warped perspective. But it will never work. Children can't consent and that's the end of the story for me. If you have a biological urge to do something another person doesn't consent to do doing you need to either control it or suffer the social consequences.

          • Emmet

            But if the State decided, as a result of people demanding "equality" and that "their love be recognised" that, say, 8-years-old was an appropriate age for consent? Brought in legislation, decreed that "childhood" meant "a state that finishes at the age of 8"? Or if the notion of "consent" was dispensed with altogether as an anachronism and an example of "medieval morals that shouldn't be forced on 21st Century people"? What then? Presumably, you'd fight against that. I hope you would. To what authority would you appeal?

          • ZenDruid

            The people that demand that prepubescent children should be considered adults, are typically extreme religious males. The State, in every civilized country anyway, sees a need to protect the young from that.

          • Emmet

            Sure. If you say so. I mean, a guy on the internet said that it's typically religious males, so it must be so. It's beside the point anyway.
            What makes a country "civilised"? Is there an external standard up to which you hold a country and decide whether it is civilised or not? Who or what made this standard?

          • ZenDruid

            What makes a country "civilised"?

            In this specific sense, a civilized community protects children from predators, two-legged or otherwise.

          • Emmet

            Very few civilised communities around then, seeing as abortion is legal in most parts of the world.

          • epeeist

            Very few civilised communities around then, seeing as abortion is legal in most parts of the world.

            You would prefer it to be illegal and done in back streets with all the concomitant dangers?

          • ZenDruid

            Embryos are not children. Fetuses are not children.
            Why is a private reproductive choice a social justice issue?

          • Emmet

            A gratuitous assertion deserves a gratuitous counter-assertion: Foetuses are indeed children. Surely, in the 21st century, with the scientific tools available to us with which to look inside the womb, the man who asserts that a foetus is not a child is a fool.

            What are they if they are not children?

          • ZenDruid

            It's called a child after it's born. Before birth, no.

          • Emmet

            Sure. If you say so. Physiologicaly, it's exactly the same five minutes before birth as it is five minutes after. You're saying the trip down the birth canal magically transforms it from a "something" into a child. That's some kind of crazy woo you're peddling there, mate.

          • Susan

            What are they if they are not children?

            Fetuses?

          • Emmet

            Sure. And a foetus is what? A human being or something else?

            The very first line of the article to which you link: "This article is about the stage of human development."

          • Michael Murray

            I love it when it we talk abortion and foetuses here because the same thing happens every time. There is a resounding deafening silence about one important human being involved in the process who might also have some rights.

            At least some Catholics know what I"m talking about

            http://www.catholicsforchoice.org

          • Sample1

            Heavenly sent shoots and roots awaiting grafting into Yahweh's tree of life?

            Mike

          • Emmet

            What?

          • Michael Murray

            I can't imagine them getting sufficient support for this to ever happen. Who would ever agree to consent being dispensed with. Everyone wants to retain their right not to consent. I would appeal to universally agreed rights of the child.

          • Emmet

            Support? A dictatorship doesn't need support.

            Where do these "universally agreed rights of the child" come from? Are they "universally agreed"? How do you know?

          • Michael Murray

            Support? A dictatorship doesn't need support.

            You didn't say anything about a dictatorship. You said

            if the State decided, as a result of people demanding "equality" and that "their love be recognised"

            That sounds like the State reacting to something people are demanding. Now we are talking dictatorships ?

            Where do these "universally agreed rights of the child" come from? Are they "universally agreed"? How do you know?

            You could try the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. You could hunt around the UN site. The right to give consent for any human, child or adult, before someone messes with your body is pretty universal.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ... say, 8-years-old was an appropriate age for consent?

            That does come up when we address the issue of the marriage of Muhammad to a 6 year old girl. Muslims are not too happy to explain the morality of that today, even though from their religion, the holiness of the Prophet should make it all okay.

          • Emmet

            So was it _objectively wrong_ for Muhammad to marry that girl, or not?

          • BenS

            There is no objective answer to that question.

          • Emmet

            So anybody can say it was OK then, and you have no place saying otherwise.

            If a guy got your sister pregnant and then dumped her, would you just say, "No worries. You think that's OK, that's OK bro."

            Or would you say, "What you've done is wrong, and you need to make amends"?

          • BenS

            So anybody can say it was OK then, and you have no place saying otherwise.

            Sigh. Pay attention. EVERYONE has the opportunity to say otherwise but there is NO objectively right asnwer.

            If a guy got your sister pregnant and then dumped her, would you just say, "No worries. You think that's OK, that's OK bro."

            Again, you're confusing the idea that there is no objective answer with people not having their own subjective answer.

            Or would you say, "What you've done is wrong, and you need to make amends"?

            Was it wrong, though, that's the question. Did my sister intend to pursue a relationship or did she just use this guy as a sperm donor? Maybe he got her pregnant and then dumped her because she tried stabbing his mother in the face.

            Regardless, what I would do in the situation is down to me, isn't it? I get to decide what, if anything, I would do about it and take the necessary action. Do you know why? Because everyone's view on the situation is..... subjective!

          • Emmet

            Sure you get to decide. But is it right or is it wrong? Your sister thought the guy loved her - he told her so. She thought he wanted to live together. Does that make it clearer?
            Where do you get off telling him it was wrong to lie to her? It was right for him, and he's stronger than you, and has several big friends who know where you live. So was it right or wrong, what he did?

            I don't care what you do - it is indeed down to you. But I want to know, not what you will do, but was it right or wrong? It can't be both - it's one action (or series of actions). There's not "two ways of looking at it", it's not "a complicated situation", it's right or wrong. Which is it?

          • BenS

            Sure you get to decide. But is it right or is it wrong?

            That's the point.

            Where do you get off telling him it was wrong to lie to her? It was right for him,

            THAT'S THE POINT!

            You've just said it was right for him and you seem to be telling me that it was wrong for me so you've just said RIGHT THERE that it was right in his view and wrong in mine.

            Hence subjective.

            But I want to know, not what you will do, but was it right or wrong?

            You've answered this yourself. It was right to him and wrong to me. There IS no objective answer. You'll get there in the end.

          • Emmet

            But it's either right or wrong. Which is it?

            Is abortion right or wrong? Put it another way: for the good of individuals and of society, should it be allowed or should it be banned? Is telling someone you love them when you don't, so that you can get into their pants, right or wrong? Put it another way: should this be celebrated or condemned?

          • BenS

            But it's either right or wrong. Which is it?

            Good lord, this is hard work.

            It can be both right and wrong AT THE SAME TIME depending on who's considering it.

            You've said it yourself. To him it was right and to me it was wrong.

            THERE IS NO OBJECTIVE ANSWER.

            What's so difficult about this concept that you fail to see it?

          • Emmet

            What is so difficult to you about the concept that something can't be both right and wrong at the same time?

            Why do we rightly condemn murderers? Because murder is wrong - it doesn't matter one whit that the murderer thought his actions were right.

          • BenS

            What is so difficult to you about the concept that something can't be both right and wrong at the same time?

            Because it can, because morality is subjective.

            If you're going to claim something is objectively wrong then you have to prove it. So go ahead and do that.

          • Emmet

            Tell you what, I'll prove that morality is objective if you prove that morality is subjective. You go first.

          • BenS

            Aztecs thought human sacrifice was moral as it was a long established tradition and the universe needed to be sustained by the ritual spilling of human blood.

            I think this is immoral.

            Here's the definition of subjectivity:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjectivity

            My feelings and beliefs on this moral issue are different from the Aztecs and therefore morality is, clearly, subjective.

          • Emmet

            Tell you what again, this is happening in my house:

            http://xkcd.com/386/

            So in spite of the fact that you're wrong and I need to do something about it, I'm going to sign off and hit the fart-sack if it's all the same to you.

            Thanks for a civil conversation - I enjoyed it. I'm planning to soon go cold turkey on commenting on blogs - I'm slowly realising that I don't have time to do everything I want to do in my day and there are many things in my life that are much higher priorities than debating atheists on the internet - so this was an enjoyable way to finish up. Cheers.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            So was it _objectively wrong_ for Muhammad to marry that girl, or not?

            I don't think "objective morality" is a coherent concept and so the question is without meaning. A system of morals can be constructed in an objective way from a set of assumed postulates, and some may think those postulates to be so obviously true as to be "objective," but I don't think that is honest, even as much as I might like the resulting system.

          • Michael Murray

            If an intense personal love commitment is all that matters, what possible argument could there be against two brothers getting married if they share that commitment? Or three people?

            I don't feel an urge to examine every possible hypothetical social issue. There seems to be no demand for brothers to marry. There is a great deal of demand for same gender couples to marry and no good reason for stopping them doing so. So let's sort the same sex issue and deal with the other if it arises.

          • Emmet

            Why not sort it now? We're all about equality aren't we, about not discriminating? Why be bigots just because there are very few siblings who want to marry? Equality for all, and all that, you know?

          • Michael Murray

            Are there any siblings that want to marry?

          • Emmet
          • Michael Murray

            What if the Church is right, and the "biological basis" for these things is original sin, and they are disorders (amongst a whole raft of other personal disorders) that appear in the population and should be treated as such?

            You would need to establish that original sin is a real thing to even begin to get traction with that.

            What makes some variant of human behaviour a "disorder" with all the implications of treatment and "wrongness" rather than just a normal variation of human personality, a quirk if you like.

            I've got lots of quirks but I'm only bothering to get a few treated. My criterion is if it causes me or others distress. What's yours ?

          • Emmet

            Surely original sin, to paraphrase Chesterton, is one of the few aspects of the Catholic faith which can be definitely proven? Look around you. Look at all the cruel and stupid and lazy things people do. We all know we should do good and avoid evil, but how often do we succeed in that aim?

            Something's disordered if it deviates from order: from virtue; from justice, chastity, courage, truth, honesty, prudence and so on. Simple definition. Something like homosexual acts, or like fornication, or like kleptomania, or like a habit of lying - these all depart from right order and as such are disordered and a person inclined to such acts for whatever reason should, for their own good and the good of society, work to overcome the inclination.

            Easy to say, hard to do - and of course we look at the plank in our own eye first.

          • BenS

            Look around you. Look at all the cruel and stupid and lazy things people do.

            That's evidence for cruel and stupid and lazy acts, not original sin.

            Something's disordered if it deviates from order: from virtue; from justice, chastity, courage, truth, honesty, prudence and so on. Simple definition.

            You think that's a simple definition? Firstly, each of those things needs a definition itself, secondly, each of those things needs be shown to be the 'right order' (a rather odd term it has to be said).

            Given that the VAST majority of people lie or have lied at some point in their lives, it would seem that honesty is not the order at all. Someone who is only ever honest could be argued to be disordered, given that those people will form a far smaller percentage of the populace than homosexuals. But if you're not using frequency of traits as a rule for what's ordered then what are you using?

            Seems to me you've picked a list of traits that you consider noble and arbitrarily declared everyone else disordered. Well, let's arbitrarily stick atheist in there as well, shall we?

            If you're not an atheist, you're disordered.

          • Michael Murray

            If you're not an atheist, you're disordered.

            Makes sense to me. The perfect ordered state would be belief in no gods. Departures from that would be disordered.

          • Emmet

            But isn't the fact that humans throughout all of history, and still today, have worshipped God or some kind of god a bit of a clue to you that worship of God is a natural part of being human?

          • Michael Murray

            We've kept slaves for almost all of history. Is that ordered ?

          • BenS

            Actually, we've kept slaves for all of history. There are still slaves today, we just don't like to think about it. Millions are still in forced servitude and human trafficking is still rife, especially in sex industries.

          • Emmet

            Why is forced servitude wrong?

          • BenS

            To the owner of the slave, it isn't. The slave owes him a debt and therefore the owner owns the slave until it's paid off. The owner considers it just and proper.

          • Emmet

            So why is it wrong?

          • BenS

            To the owner of the slave, it isn't. The slave owes him a debt and
            therefore the owner owns the slave until it's paid off. The owner
            considers it just and proper.

          • Emmet

            But you seemed to be saying it was wrong.

            "Actually, we've kept slaves for all of history. There are still slaves today, we just don't like to think about it. Millions are still in forced servitude and human trafficking is still rife, especially in sex industries."

            Why don't we like to think about it? Is it wrong, or is it right? Why?

          • BenS

            Humans throughout all of history have murdered. Is murder ordered?

          • Emmet

            No. Humans throughout history have agreed it's not.

            Humans throughout history have also had a sense that the person who doesn't believe in God or the gods is a bit off.

          • BenS

            Humans throughout history have agreed it's not.

            Some humans have agreed it's not. Others have agreed it's fine.

            Because it's... that word. Starts with S. Sausages? Sauerkraut?

            Subjective!

          • Emmet

            Can you give me an example of some humans who've said that murder - that is, the killing of an innocent person - is OK? You must have some in mind.

          • BenS

            Matthew 2:16-18

            Herod didn't seem to have a problem with it. You and I possibly might.

            Of course, the problem is the definition of 'innocent'. The catholic church went around murdering and burning people in Europe for 'crimes' that we wouldn't bat an eyelid at today.

            "Oh, she's a witch? That's interesting. Hey, does she weigh the same as a duck?"

          • Emmet

            So that bit of the Bible is historical fact then? How do you know? Nice to see a Bible-quoting atheist around these parts. So Herod then. One guy. One guy in power, doing what he wants, slaughtering those who might get in the way of that power. Did the people around him, I wonder, back him or oppose him? The point being, by "humans throughout history" I obviously meant "human societies" - citing the evidence of one power-hungry butcher doesn't help your case, you know. Any other evidence?

          • BenS

            Actually, it does. You said 'give an example of some humans' and I did. I chose Herod because it amused me, I could have chosen Hitler (with the caveat that I'm not Godwinning myself), I could have chosen societies that practiced ritual sacrifice of innocents to appease their gods, any number of societies that committed or attempted genocide, the catholic church on its witch pogroms, armies that sacked cities, raping and killing people inside - there are gazillions of examples.

            It's literally occurred right throughout history. If you think it hasn't then you're woefully unaware of human nature.

          • Emmet

            So we come to the definition of "innocent" - in pretty much all (I think - I'm no historian) the examples you've cited above, those doing the killing said that the killed were not innocent.

          • BenS

            If no-one can be killed who is innocent then murder doesn't exist. Congratulations.

            Or....

            Innocence - and therefore guilt - is subjective.

            You'll get there in the end.

          • Emmet

            Is atheism a trait? I thought it was the result of brave free-thinking. Do you mean to say you were just born that way?

          • BenS

            Everyone's born an atheist.

            As to why people are atheist, there are many different ways. Some reach it by reason, others by apathy, still others by default.

            What's this got to do with anything?

          • Emmet

            What's your evidence for the statement that everyone's born an atheist? Nice glib little slogan, but is there any evidence for it?

          • BenS

            No newborn child has a concept of god in much the same way as they don't have a concept of skyscrapers or celebrity bear wrestling on ice.

            These concepts need to be introduced to them.

          • Emmet

            How do you know that a newborn child doesn't have a concept of God? You have no basis for making that claim other than that you start from the a priori position of "There is no God", and want that to be true.

          • BenS

            No, I don't, but this has been covered to death in countless times before and I can't be arsed going through it all again.

            Suffice to say, the default position is that something is NOT going to have a concept that hasn't been introduced to it, otherwise babies will be full of all the knowledge of the word instantly from birth.

            As they're not, we work from the assumption that they do not have these concepts.

          • Emmet

            Sure. Engineering, polar bear ice-wrestling, the structure of the sonnet, sure. But if God is who we say he is - that is, a creator who knows his creations, isn't it actually quite likely or even most probable that a baby will have a concept of him?

            If you start from the position of "There is no God" your answer will be "no". I get that - you don't have to go over it for me. But starting from that position is not a given, is it?

            Your assumption that a baby has no concept of God is just that, an assumption. Even it was true, having no concept of God doesn't make a person an atheist - according to your laboured definition of atheism above, a person has to actually have a concept of God to be an atheist, so your statement that "all babies are atheists" is a hollow, empty, tired platitude.

          • BenS

            But if God is who we say he is...

            If.

          • Emmet

            Yes. A rhetorical device that assumes the following, couching it in a way that recognises the listener doesn't share the same belief. It's a courtesy. Don't read too much into it.

          • BenS

            Yes. A rhetorical device that assumes the following,

            ...

            Your assumption that a baby has no concept of God is just that, an assumption.

            So you complain about my assumption and then build your entire post around a sentence starting with 'If'....?

          • Emmet

            Read it again without the "if". Here, let me do it for you. (A course in critical thinking would help you achieve the same result as me cutting-and-pasting.

            God is who we say he is - that is, a creator who knows and loves and is in relationship with his creations - so isn't it actually quite likely or even most probable that a baby will have a concept of him?

            If you start from the position of "There is no God" your answer will be "no". I get that - you don't have to go over it for me. But starting from that position is not a given, is it?

            Your assumption that a baby has no concept of God is just that, an assumption. Even it was true, having no concept of God doesn't make a person an atheist - according to your laboured definition of atheism above, a person has to actually have a concept of God to be an atheist, so your statement that "all babies are atheists" is a hollow, empty, tired platitude.

          • BenS

            Allow me to counter with your own words.

            God is who we say he is...

            ...

            Your assumption that a baby has no concept of God "God is who we say he is" is just that, an assumption.

          • Emmet

            I don't understand that - can you put it differently?

          • BenS

            Even it was true, having no concept of God doesn't make a person an atheist - according to your laboured definition of atheism above, a person has to actually have a concept of God to be an atheist,

            Dunno where you pulled this nonsense from.

            If someone doesn't have a concept of something then they obviously lack a belief in it. And as an atheist is someone who lacks a belief in god, anything that doesn't have a concept of god and therefore lacks a belief in it must necessarily be an atheist.

            You're proving to be very hard work. I'd like you to go on a course for critical thinking, please. It would make this much easier.

          • Emmet

            And same to you. We're no different to most internet commentators, then.

          • Michael Murray

            My children were.

          • Emmet

            You know this how?

          • Michael Murray

            When my oldest first went to school he came home at one point and said "whose gwod" ? I took this to mean that prior to this point he hadn't met the concept. Bit hard to believe in gods if you have never met the concept.

          • Emmet

            Mm. But can a person who has no concept of meat say they are not a meat-eater? Or do they have to have a concept of meat to do so? Were your children born atheists, or did you see evidence that they had no concept of God?

          • BenS

            But can a person who has no concept of meat say they are not a meat-eater?

            If they have no concept of meat, they have clearly never eaten it. Ergo they are, by definition, not a meat eater.

          • Emmet

            To use the word "meat-eater" they have to have a concept of meat. Good grief.

          • BenS

            THEY wouldn't use that term to describe themselves, would they? Because they have no concept of it. However, WE would use the word to describe them. They would still not be meat eaters regardless of whether they held the concept or not. They would not be meat eaters by the simple definition that they don't eat meat. They don't need to understand this themselves for it to be true.

            This is the point. You don't need to hold the concept yourself to actually BE what the concept describes.

          • clod

            The Chinese had the Tea concept 3000 years before us Brits. It wasn't fair at all.

          • clod

            Once the concept was revealed to us, we had to bag it.

          • Michael Murray

            I think the strain is showing.

          • clod

            Thank you Darjeeling...

          • Sample1

            This conversation reminds me of the plaque in a kitchen that I recently saw while exploring some medieval Catholic ruins. It detailed the imaginative, Pythonesque, ways Catholic Leaders plopped protein onto the dining tables during fasting times by simply calling some mammals and birds fish (like beavers and even the barnacle goose who shared the same environment as fish so therefore were fish). Yet another error fixed by science.

            Mike

          • BenS

            I always found this kind of stuff amusing and also rather naive.

            Kind of like the eruv that Jewish communities erect.

            God has given us a rule. Instead of following this rule, we'll do our absolute level best to get around it. No meat on certain days? Redefine it as a fish. Can't carry things outside the home? Throw some string around a city and declare the whole thing your home.

            This is supposedly an all knowing, all powerful god they worship; do they really think he's going to be fooled by such blatant dishonesty?

            They'll get to heaven and he'll be there, holding a barnacle goose by the neck and saying "Fish? REALLY?".

          • Michael Murray

            Human ingenuity. I assume you've seen Shabbat elevators

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shabbat_elevator

          • BenS

            It's madness, isn't it.

            Like ovens that come on at set times and what have you.

            What, at all, is the point of having the rules if you're just going to circumvent them like that?

            It's things like that this that makes me think that these people don't really believe, right at their core.

            I mean, if I believed in an all knowing, all powerful god who would chuck me in hell for not following the rules... I'd follow the bloody rules! Not just to the letter, but the spirit as well. No working on that day? I won't redefine work to mean something else or try to game the system, I just wouldn't work.

          • clod

            Fish definitely tastes better on Fridays though. ;-)

          • Michael Murray

            My last relic of Catholicism: fish and chips on Fridays. That and a strange propensity to come to Catholic websites :-(

          • Michael Murray

            Another one who doesn't know the definition of atheism.

            atheism = holds no belief in gods

            OK your move is you argue I don't know what atheism means. Sorry to sound snarky but I've had this discussion so many times.

          • Emmet

            Sure. Or atheism = seeing no evidence for the existence of gods.

            Which definition is correct?

          • BenS

            The one he gave you.

          • Emmet

            Not according to many atheists. Why is yours better than theirs?

          • BenS

            Are you just taking the piss now? You asked for a definition of a word and you were given the correct one. If you don't like it then by all means you redefine it however you like, we'll just ignore. But just bear in mind that you get all teary eyed whenever anyone attempts to define marriage as something you don't like so when I redefine 'Catholic' to mean 'potato' you'll likely get even more upset.

          • Emmet

            My poijnt is, many atheists swear black and blue that the definition I've given is the only definition of atheist.

          • BenS

            Atheists can be wrong too. Tell them to look it up.

          • Michael Murray

            Have you got an example of someone who "swears black and blue" for a different definition. There are are variety of ways of refining the definition of atheism such as these

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_and_positive_atheism

            If you really like you can call what we think is atheism weak atheism.

            Maybe this link should be included on this site somewhere. I seem to have posted it a dozen times in the last 24 hours.

            For a different perspective try

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectrum_of_theistic_probability

          • Michael Murray

            I gave you a definition. Why would I give you the wrong one ?

          • Michael Murray

            Sure people do bad things. There is a little bit of a hop, skip
            and a jump to get from that to the Catholic notion of original sin.

            Something's disordered if it deviates from order:

            So it's disordered if it's disordered. I kind of figured that.

            Something like homosexual acts

            I never did understand this obsession with what people do when they are having sex. That seems pretty disordered to me.

          • Emmet

            Sure. Seems like a bit of a jump to get from my comment to an obsession. Did you see that the bit you quoted above was in a list of disordered acts, as many not to do with sex as to do with it? Are you obsessed, that you picked out the one to do with sex? See how stupid that sounds?

          • Michael Murray

            In fact two of the four things you cited are about sex. Mote ? Beam ?

          • Emmet

            Mm. Two of four. Does that mean "as many about sex as not about it"? Two = two, doesn't it?

          • Michael Murray

            Glass half full or glass half empty? Mind you given we were discussing marriage equality I must admit your homophobia sort of jumped out at me.

          • Emmet

            Homophobia meaning what - hatred of people with same-sex attraction? You've decided I hate homosexuals based on what?

            Good grief. Pull your head in.

          • Michael Murray

            Something like homosexual acts, or like fornication, or like kleptomania, or like a habit of lying - these all depart from right order and as such are disordered and a person inclined to such acts for whatever reason should, for their own good and the good of society, work to overcome the inclination.

          • Emmet

            Homosexual acts are disordered. So is fornication. So is theft. So are masturbatory acts. So is lying. So is slander. So is greed.

            According to your criteria, I hate fornicators, thieves, masturbators slanderers, greedy people and liars. I put a label on people based on their acts, and hate them for that label.

            I don't think you know me very well.

          • BenS

            Homosexual acts are disordered. So is fornication. So is theft. So are
            masturbatory acts. So is lying. So is slander. So is greed.

            You have asserted this. You have not shown it.

          • Emmet

            You're asserting they are not. You have not shown this.
            Two can play that game, right?

            I'm asserting it because according to my worldview they are. if you're actually interested you can go and find plenty of stuff on the internet that goes into the background of the assertion better than I can.

          • BenS

            You're asserting they are not. You have not shown this.

            Actually, I'm not. I'm just challenging your assertion that they are.

            I'm asserting it because according to my worldview they are.

            Oh, well, in that case if you can't actually back them up then your assertions are worthless.

            "Gays can't get married because gayishness is disordered!"
            "How do know it's disordered?"
            "'Cos I said so!"
            "Right you are."

          • Michael Murray

            Of course I don't know you very well. I'm going by what you post. You say that perfectly natural acts are in the same league as lying and theft. Why would you say that ? It looks to me like you are trying some form of "guilt by association".

          • Emmet

            What does "perfectly natural" mean?

          • Michael Murray

            Something's disordered if it deviates from order

            So what about miscegenation ? That leads to all kinds of people with mixed racial characteristics ? Do you think that's disordered ?

          • BenS

            'Order' seems to be some kind of moveable feast that varies from 'whatever the majority of people do' to 'whatever I personally like', so I think we could really do with a watertight definition of order.

            Wonder if we'll get one.

          • Emmet
          • Michael Murray

            Call me cynical but it seems to me it's an attempt to wrap some shield of reason around a bunch of prejudices. Most religions have lists of things you can't do. It goes with the territory. Catholicism takes that list and declares everything on it to be "naturally disordered". Make sure the things most of us agree are wrong are on the "naturally disordered" list and you are off and running. Guilt by association.

          • BenS

            If you're cynical then so am I because that's more or less exactly my interpretation of it. Disordered, in this case, becomes synonymous with 'Things I don't like.' (or, perhaps, 'Things I'm told I'm not to like.')

          • Emmet

            No. Isn't the idea of race something of a myth?

          • epeeist

            And some people are trying to re-define paedophilia (source from a minute or two in the shallow end of the internet http://www.salon.com/2011/08/1... ) so that it can be considered simply another preference with a "biological basis".

            Why did you link to a comment piece rather than a discussion of actual changes to the DSM such as the one that is linked to in the text. There you would have found that it is still classed as paraphilia and that there are not plans to stop it being illegal.

            What if the Church is right, and the "biological basis" for these things is original sin

            It is a useful phrase "original sin", it seems you can apply it to almost anything.

            Let's ask a question. Imagine I ask you to put your hand in a bag full of marbles and ask you to pick one out. There is one red one in the bag, all the rest are blue. I think you will agree that there are a lot more ways of picking a blue one out than the red one.

            How many ways can you be wrong about the cause of paedophilia and how many ways can you be right?

          • Sample1

            Love triangles work the Holy Trinity!
            In reply to:

            Or three people?
            Mike

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I would ask that at least filthy blasphemies not be allowed to remain on this site.

            Good heavens, let the blasphemers go over to their den at TalkRational.

            As a Catholic I come to this site specifically on the expectation that filthy blasphemies of Our Lord will, at least, be disallowed.

          • Sample1

            I find it weird that mutual love practiced between three Persons is worshipped, but three human beings practicing consensual love (with or without sex) is implied to be filthy.

            I'm raising a moral objection in a conceptual manner which upsets you. These things happen. I stand by my post. If Yahweh feels I've violated TOU, He is welcome to flag me and I'll reconsider.

            Mike

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I have already flagged it for Him.

            If the blasphemies are allowed to remain, then I will conclude that they are allowed under the policies of this site, and respond accordingly.

          • severalspeciesof

            Sample, I think you just made someone go all a quiver...

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I stand by my post. If Yahweh feels I've violated TOU, He is welcome to flag me and I'll reconsider.

            Mike, I know there are folks who consider the expression of atheism to be blasphemy at the start (I don't think this site would be allowed in many Islamic countries). Those folks would not want to be here and discuss these things with us. When missionaries go into places where another religion is the central culture, they may have to put their reactions to what they think of as blasphemy on the side, just to get along at all. In order for this site to work, I would think that the religious people are going to have to expect that atheists are going to express ideas against religion. I recommend we do that honestly, but not antagonistically, if possible. Having a "no blasphemy" rule on one side is as impractical as having a "no unsupported faith" rule on the other.

            If you think that trinitarian theology is analogous to multiple human love situation, then that is your opinion and you should be able to express it as an opinion, here, where we are trying to understand each other. At the same time it would be no surprise that religious folk would express opposing opinions.

          • Sample1

            The irony, I would argue, is that a claim of blasphemy is really an ad hominem in disguise and therefore is the true violation in forums like these.

            You know, Quine, that concepts can't experience insults. And you know it's uncivilized to restrict the freedom to attack ideas. There have been thousands of posts on this site, and I can find hundreds that would meet someone's criteria for blasphemy. And yet the comments keep rolling in. The latter is one of the main reasons I've remained an active reader of this site; there does appear to be a genuine freedom to allow for the expression of ideas, no matter how upsetting they may be provided that they are not directed personally to other interlocutors. I very much applaud this in what must be a difficult venue to moderate.

            Mike

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            I guess a charge of blasphemy could be an insult if the subtext is that only a bad person would blaspheme. Even if an insult, it would not be ad hominem unless there was a further subtext along the lines of asserting that someone bad enough to blaspheme must, therefore, be presenting a fallacious argument. But on the other hand, you might consider that it is just an observation about a statement, and neither an insult nor ad hom.

            On the second part, I agree and am also glad offending opinions are not restricted. As I indicated above, it could not work otherwise.

          • Sample1

            it would not be ad hominem unless there was a further subtext along the lines of asserting that someone bad enough to blaspheme must, therefore, be presenting a fallacious argument.

            I don't follow. An ad hominem is specifically not attacking the argument (even a fallacious argument), but rather the person. Are you saying there has to be an argument present and then ignored for an ad hominem to be a usable fallacy? That would be a good correction but there was an argument offered: love triangles. Rather than address why that might be unsound, it was ignored in favor of an immediate appeal to the blasphemy charge.

            But on the other hand, you might consider that it is just an observation about a statement, and neither an insult nor ad hom.

            I don't see a compelling reason to think that occurred here.

            Mike

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            It is an insult to call your opponant, say, "an idiot." It is ad hom to say "he is an idiot, so therefore he is wrong,"

            Calling an argument wrong because it is blasphemy, is only non sequitur on its face, without a subtext against the person. I think the usual rhetorical reply is, "So what?"

            I don't see a compelling reason to think that occurred here.

            I was writing about the general case, and in this case you are entitled to your own view re insult.

          • Sample1

            Ah, I see it. Got it. Thanks Quine.

            Mike

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Glad to help. :-)

          • epeeist

            I don't follow. An ad hominem is specifically not attacking the argument (even a fallacious argument), but rather the person.

            But simply attacking the person does not necessarily make the argument fallacious.

            If you can show that the person advancing the claim is biased, is an untrustworthy source for the claim or whose behaviours or commitments are at odds with the claim then an attack on the person is perfectly valid.

          • Sample1

            But simply attacking the person does not necessarily make the argument fallacious.

            Agreed.

            If you can show that the person advancing the claim is biased, is an untrustworthy source for the claim or whose behaviours or commitments are at odds with the claim then an attack on the person is perfectly valid.

            Agreed.

            Mike

          • Max Driffill

            What are "filthy blasphemies?" Are there non-filthy blasphemies? Isn't SN about talking to folks who don't take the crime of blasphemy seriously?

            Given the insulting way in which the views of atheists are often dealt with on this site it seems like thicker skins ought to be grown all around.

            Also, I believe that any god worthy of such a title should probably be able to handle insults without worry from his followers.

          • severalspeciesof

            Sure. And some people are trying to re-define paedophilia

            Like the bishops did when they ordered the study about sex abuse? When they changed the age of what is considered pedophilia from 13 years of age to 10 and under... see: http://mirandaceleste.net/2011/05/24/a-worthless-and-dangerous-report/

            Glen

          • Michael Murray

            In Australia the raising children and getting married issues have been treated separately. We've had adoption by homosexual couples for some time in various states but still lack marriage equality.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_adoption

          • Michael Murray

            So we make laws about marriage for the good of the children - good.

            Interestingly there are a lot of people in the world who don't seem to think marriage is necessary for raising children.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legitimacy_(law)#Extramarital_births

          • Emmet

            Sure. I never said it was necessary. However, why does the state get involved in marriage at all? Why does the state care who a person wants to have a lifelong commitment of love with?

          • Michael Murray

            There are various legal situations like inheritance or medical decisions for next of kin where its important to know who the legal next of kin is. In Australia you can establish a de facto relationship legally for most things but being married is easier.

          • Emmet

            Is that by any stretch of the imagination the main reason? If it was, shouldn't two spinster sisters who've lived together for thirty years, own a house together and are deeply committed to each other with love, be able to get married so that medical decisions are easier, and so they can pass the house easily on to their nephew? Or would the answer instead be to re-write medical and inheritance legislation rather than re-defining marriage?

            What would you say is the main reason the state gets involved in marriage?

            (Edited)

          • Michael Murray

            Is it right to castrate a sex offender, for example?

            How does not being an atheist help you with this ?

          • Emmet

            Because I think that a man is a human, not an animal. A creation, not a random result of evolution. A being with dignity. A concept of justice that doesn't include an offense against that dignity. That's some of it.

          • Emmet

            How does being an atheist help you with it?

          • Michael Murray

            Saves me having to think about what god might want.

            I was actually wondering how you apply that theist perspective to this particular issue. Did you have in mind physical castration or chemical ? Are you seeing this as punishment or an opportunity to allow the offender back in the community ?

          • Emmet

            Do you actually think Catholics sit around going, "What might God want?"

            I don't apply a "theist perspective" to anything. I apply a Catholic perspective, which is another way of saying that I apply reason.

          • Michael Murray

            Having been one once. Yes.

            But you only apply reason if it doesn't lead to you decide there is no god. That's what theology is all about one.

            Axiom 1: There is a god

            OK now let's reason about god.

          • Emmet

            Sure. I don't. God wants us to do good and avoid evil, basically. Let's just get on with it.

            Reason led me to God, and now leads me to right action.

            Your axiom is: there is no God. OK, now let's reason about life without God.

          • Emmet

            No, I don't base my decisions on "Whatever God says". Sorry to disappoint.

          • BenS

            I'm glad. There are those who claim that whatever god says is good because god says it. Meaning that if they wake up one day, convinced that god has spoken to them and murder the first born of everyone they find, off they will likely trot to do it because god said so and therefore it must be good.

          • Emmet

            That's why Catholics talk about the primacy of the well-formed conscience.
            If I woke up and it seemed to me that God was telling me to go kill the first-born, or if my bishop or the pope told me to do similar, I'd go to the doctor in the first instance and the police in the second, not the gun shop, because my conscience would say, "Hang on just one minute there, boyo."

          • BenS

            If I woke up and it seemed to me that God was telling me to go kill the first-born, or if my bishop or the pope told me to do similar, I'd go to the doctor in the first instance and the police in the second, not the gun shop, because my conscience would say, "Hang on just one minute there, boyo."

            This then means god cannot command you to do such things and, should he change his mind again about what's acceptable behaviour, none of you would listen to him. Which means whatever method you're using to determine right and wrong trumps your god's.

          • Emmet

            How would I know he'd changed his mind?

          • BenS

            If his new commands contradict previous ones. For example, if the command 'thou shalt not kill' was replaced with a new one of 'kill, if you like'.

            But yes, how do you reliably know anything about god?

          • Emmet

            Where would these new commands come from? Falling out of the sky inscribed on a stone tablet? How would I know the new command of "kill, if you like"?

          • BenS

            How the devil should I know? Maybe it's a voice in your head, maybe it's a new prophet. Maybe it's an edict from the church.

            Unless your stance is 'God will never again issue a human being with a command' then some mechanism will exist for your god to do so. That.

          • Emmet

            But you're the one drawing the hypothesis. "If your God issued a command." Since you're the one making the hypothesis, you need to make sure it's complete. What is "a new prophet", given that Catholics believe there will be no more public revelation? How can I be sure a voice in my head is God? How does the Church go about issuing "edicts"?

            If you want to do a thought experiment, you need to put a bit more thought into it than you've done here - or there are too many questions and it doesn't work and there's no point.

    • Rationalist1

      Science can speculate all sorts of things (that's part of how it makes progress) but ideas like the multiverse do not make it into accepted science until there is evidence.

      I happen to believe there is life on other planets. I believe it is reasonable, but have no evidence for it, and would require incontrovertible evidence for it before I accept it as a fact rather than an assertion. When it becomes a religion and not a hypothesis is when I start telling people how those aliens want us to act, to believe and who to have sex with.

      • Emmet

        That would become unreasonable, sure. People would rightly ask, "How do you know how those aliens want us to act etc?", and you wouldn't have a reasonable answer.

    • primenumbers

      "people of faith understand faith to be believing in something there is no evidence of or simply created ideas" - that's a bit of a mis-characterization. Faith is not necessarily believing something with no evidence (it can be, but it doesn't necessarily have to be), but it is more accurately characterized as weighting positive evidence more heavily than the evidence can actually hold, while also applying lower weight to disconfirming evidence than it can stand. The creates a bias in the user of faith's assessment of evidence thus leading to a belief when a neutral assessment of the evidence would not.

      On the issue of faith being "simply created ideas", that is what I refer to as "imagination" when I ask how revelation is distinguishable from imagination. If there's no reasonable method of distinguishing between a revelation that actually is from God and someone's imagination, then citing revelation is as good as citing imagination.

      • Fr.Sean

        Hi Primenumbers,
        your assessment seems accurate. I've heard some atheists speak in a way that they almost convey people of any faith just believe ideas that were based on some imaginary person or that a specific faith has not historical roots. i for one believe Mohammad Existed, but i don't believe most of what he said as revelation.

        When filtering through various religions to distinguish whether one is true or has validity i do think one naturally needs to look at the source. Because i am Catholic i do believe God revealed some things to the Jews that was then written down from an oral tradition. furthermore, i do believe Jesus really is the son of God thus once i make that conclusion i can then conclude that much of what he said and did is divine revelation. but you are right (in my opinion) that if one does not believe he is who he says he is then everything he said and did would have no meaning to it. one might need to evaluate what he said and did to conclude if he was the son of God, but there's no sense speaking of his words as divine revelation if they haven't first established that they believe he was God's son.

        • primenumbers

          It's easy to talk of religious faith resting on "no evidence", but I feel that's often just a short hand for "no credible evidence", or "no evidence that is strong enough to cause me to believe", or "no evidence that outweighs the disconfirming evidence".

          Obviously there is some evidence, but what is important is not so much whether there is evidence or not but how much does it weigh, and is your judgment of it's weight accurate (and a similarly fair assessment of the weight of disconfirming evidence).

          It's certain to rub the religious up the wrong way to claim "you have no evidence" for such a belief, and it shuts down the conversation before it's even began. That is not productive. What makes for a good discussion is to show to the religious that they should rationally be placing more weight on disconfirming evidence and less weight on confirming evidence. One way to do that is to examine another religion or belief that they don't believe in, to look at the evidence for an against and apply the same arguments to their religion. When their epistemology of faith is shown to produce wrong results in the case of every religion other than their own, it's time for them to admit that faith is not a reliable epistemology, and for them to take the consequences of that to their own beliefs.

          • Rationalist1

            Back when I was religious, I read an article by the Biblical scholar Fr. Raymond Brown. I forget what the article was about (probably the Gospel of John) but I remember the last paragraph where he said that it was important to question and test more rigorously evidence that supported your position than evidence that opposed it. I've always thought that that was good advice.

          • primenumbers

            Indeed it's good advice. I try to use it myself with my work because you do get "attached" to your own theories and inventions.

          • Rationalist1

            It;s why I could bever go back to a religion because I always want to question everything and refuse to assent to unquestionable authority.

          • Fr.Sean

            Rationalists,
            I think it's healthy to question authority, but i think often people confuse how we as Catholics view that authority. when a bishop speaks about something or even writes a letter, perhaps makes a decision about an issue we do not believe his decision or letter is infallible, but when Bishops gather in a council we do believe the council has the protection of the Holy Spirit when something is taught. in fact, i can't quite remember the exact event but i remember hearing that a former pope i think from around the 11th century was going to teach something that went against the tradition of the Church. the night before he instituted his position he died. If questing bishops or popes about the decisions they make is keeping you from an objective evaluation of the faith than please don't let that hinder you.

          • primenumbers

            I don't see how that explains to the to-and-from with the nature of Jesus issue in the synods of the 300s.

          • Max Driffill

            Are nuns at council protected with the Holy Spirit when they attempt to reach some profound spiritual conclusion? If not why not? Why do nuns have no say in the religious practice of the Church?

          • Rationalist1

            "Are nuns at council protected with the Holy Spirit when they attempt to reach some profound spiritual conclusion?" Of course not, nuns are women.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Nuns have a say in the religious practice of the Church- some of them have become Doctors of the Church.

            Nuns do not hold the office of bishop, or priest, or deacon, because the sacrament of Holy Orders can only be validly effected in a male.

          • Max Driffill

            I"m not sure the Women Religious are as impressed with this situation as the men of the organization are.

          • Rationalist1

            One wonders if it had have been the other way around would men religious have been as impressed as well.

          • Emmet

            Asked a few have you? Young women are joining orders in significant numbers - all the ones I know personally are quite impressed with this situation.

          • Sage McCarey

            "Nuns do not hold the office of bishop or priest or deacon because the sacrament of Holy Orders can only be validly effected in a male." Really? Which group of bishops decided that?

            Listening to you, Mr. DeLano, is just like listening to the fundamentalist Baptists I grew up with. You are so sure you have all the right answers and your mind is so closed. Your other statement that made me lol is this one:

            "God will not permit a Pope to bind the faithful to error in matters of faith or morals.

            This is the single and sole constraint upon human free will which exists in this world."

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            Sage said-
            [---
            Really? Which group of bishops decided that?

            ---]
            Jesus Christ. He chose 12 apostles to lead the New Israel as they stood in place of the 12 patriarchal tribes of the Old Israel. He did not give the Church the authority to ordain women.

          • Emmet

            What do you define as "religious practice"?

          • Rationalist1

            I realize that, but Catholics are required to believe in all teaching that their Church has authoritatively proclaim. They cannot, and you certainly cannot as a priest, dissent from one teaching in the Catholic Catechism.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            If the Catholic Church is what She says She is, then it is completely reasonable to believe all that She has received as certainly True from God.

            So the issue is not whether one is free to question; one is certainly free to do so in all matters which are accessible to human reason, and are not contrary to God's direct revelation.

            If God has indeed provided a direct revelation in Christ, and founded the Church as its defender and guarantor, then human reason is immeasurably enhanced and empowered thereby.

            Empirically, this would be consistent with the fact that science, as a developed method, arises first within the civilization brought into being as a project of the Catholic Church; that is, Europe.

          • BenS

            i think from around the 11th century was going to teach something that went against the tradition of the Church. the night before he instituted his position he died

            So.... rather than using his immense power and vast intellect to educate the poor fellow, god just killed him?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            God will not permit a Pope to bind the faithful to error in matters of faith or morals.

            This is the single and sole constraint upon human free will which exists in this world.

          • ZenDruid

            I am constrained from practicing my free will by my inability to grow wings or gills at the times when they would be useful.

          • Mikegalanx

            I remember hearing that about John Paul I- "Wrong choice, try again"- but always took it as an irreverent joke.

          • Max Driffill

            Its precisely this kind of rationale that seems so at odds with morality to many atheists and agnostics. Your god, apparently couldn't be bothered to correct a pope while making a concordat with the Nazis, but over a matter of as banal and easily correctable as a mistaken interpretation or teaching, this same god is motivated to kill.

            How is this moral again?

          • Fr.Sean

            Hi Rationalists,
            I would agree with your two proceeding posts. i too really appreciated Brown he was a very gifted exegit and i agree one should look at both sides of an argument to get to the truth. i can't help but think if in fact Jesus was the incarnation of God, then I as a Christian does not have to feel insecure about looking at contrary evidence. i tend to think the truth always has a way of surfacing so it's a healthy approach to look at both sides of the coin in an objective manner.

          • Rationalist1

            "then I as a Christian does not have to feel insecure about looking at contrary evidence." Except for the conjunction "if" in the first part of the sentence.

          • ZenDruid

            Any statement of faith that requires the word 'if' is wishful thinking.

          • josh

            That's a good thing if it encourages you to look at contrary evidence, and a bad thing if it encourages you to dismiss or rationalize away said evidence.

  • severalspeciesof

    Something is a religion if it has a position on the divine and/or the afterlife.

    Let's see how far I can stretch this to point out that this is a simplistic definition, one that doesn't have much use for here (if anywhere)...

    "OMG, this cheesecake is absolutely divine. It's to die for!!!!"

    There you go, a birth of the new religion: "Cheesecakism" (and it's double positive to boot!!!)

    Glen

    • BenS

      I'm in. Just tell me how much I need to tithe!

      • severalspeciesof

        No tithing, you need to give 100%...

        Sorry, no getting around this either as it's a dogma... ;-)

      • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

        Have you seen Cheesecake Factory prices? That should give you some idea.

        Just another corporate religion...

    • Rationalist1

      This will be a another religion where all the worshiping goes to waist.

      • BenS

        That was a cheesy comment...

        • Rationalist1

          That would be one religions whose practices would be easy to swallow.

          • BenS

            As long as they're not half baked...

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      New York Orthodox, or chocolate chip heretic??

      • BenS

        Chocolate chip is not even worth feeding to the dogma.

    • Michael Murray

      Blessed are the cheesecake makers

      • Rationalist1

        Well, obviously it's not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of desserts.

        • severalspeciesof

          I sense a heretic here...

        • Michael Murray

          A religion where everybody gets their just desserts. Excellent.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

      I have known people who do seem to have made a religion out of wine collection and consumption.

  • ZenDruid

    The Mickey Mouse Club is a religion.

    A group of pubescent boys with pictures of Bettie Page is a religion.

    Other than that, I was so much looking forward to a one-word essay:

    "No."

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      The Mickey Mouse Club is a religion.

      Fun Fact: The Mickey Mouse Club is the only known religion that assembled for worship five days a week—Monday through Friday—and had no formal requirements for Saturday or Sunday.

      Hymn

      It's time to twist our Mousekedial
      To the right and the left with a great big smile.
      This is the way we get to see
      A Mouse cartoon for you and me.

      Meeska! Mooska! Mouseketeer!
      Mouse cartoon time now is here!

      That was from the pre-Vatican-II Mickey Mouse Club, before it went totally astray.

      • ZenDruid

        But everyone still gets to wear the silly hat.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          You mean, not just the Pope?

          • ZenDruid

            ;-)>

          • Rationalist1

            As for the Pope, he has his own emoticon. +O=-)

      • Vicq_Ruiz

        Glad to see you are standing up for the core faith here, and not the Goof Troopers or the heretical McDuckites.

  • robtish

    The prima facie fails. It would be like arguing this:

    If asked “Are you a mechanical engineer?” When presented with this question, an atheist may reply, “No, I’m an English teacher.” On the other hand, if asked, “Are you a industrial engineer?” he might again reply, “No, I’m an English teacher.” And so on.

    This does not, however, mean that teaching English can be seen as engineering.

    • Michael Flatter

      I think Mr. Akin's logic is flawed - but I disagree with the point you make here. The different disciplines of Engineering would be analagous to denominations in a religious context. While teaching English is not Engineering, the analogy that Akin is making is that they would both be "Professions."

      In that case Atheism would be unemployment or "I don't work" - a rejection of any vocation. Framed that way it is clear that unemployment is not a "Profession," illustrating that in rejecting religion Atheism cannot be a religion.

      • robtish

        You're exactly right except for the part where you think I'm wrong (sorry, couldn't resist :) )

        Seriously, I agree with what you say so much that I think it reinforces my point: English is not Engineering; both fall in the category of "professions." Similarly, atheism is not religion; both fall in the category of "beliefs about the existence of God."

      • CBrachyrhynchos

        I think muddying the waters even further is the fact that some religions are atheist or willing to tolerate atheism as a way of thinking about things within their communities. Which leads me to the suspicion that atheism isn't the same sort of "-ism" as Catholicism, but more analogous to theism, pacifism, and pacifism. Or other philosophical categories like monism or dualism. Philosophical monism certainly has implications regarding deity and the afterlife, but there's not generally a trend to say that monism is a unified religion.

        And it's interesting to me that this comes on the heels of news about the Silver/Coleman research which demonstrates that atheists in the United States probably can't be meaningfully treated as a monolithic group.

        • Emmet

          I think your comment points up what seems to be a truism to me - that atheism always includes an "and": atheism and monism, or atheism and materialism, or atheism and communism or atheism and anti-Catholicism or whatever. When somebody tells me they're an atheist, it's their particular "and" that I ask about first. That gets us to the guts of the conversation right away.

          • BenS

            Mine is atheism and millinery. What would you like to know about hats?

          • Emmet

            How come my new black cheescutter is fading so quick?

          • CBrachyrhynchos

            I'd say the same is true of theism as well. "There is at least one god" doesn't say very much on its own.

            But there doesn't seem to much of a recognition that "and" is radically different for different atheists.

          • Emmet

            Theism, sure. Catholicism, no.

        • Michael Murray

          And it's interesting to me that this comes on the heels of news about the Silver/Coleman research which demonstrates that atheists in the United States probably can't be meaningfully treated as a monolithic group.

          Interesting. Mind you they could have discovered this in a few weeks of browsing Richard Dawkins' site back in the good old days when the right wing libertarians where arguing with the left wing humanists.

          • CBrachyrhynchos

            I think that argument is still going on. But it's just shocking to me how critical discussion of atheism rarely strays from the same four authors, possibly throwing in Hawking or Grayling in for spice.

            So you end up with stories about atheist ministers (for lack of a better term) demonized on the house floor last month without anyone bothering to interview Epstein, Stedman, or anyone from Ethical Culture, or UU to see what they do. Stories about minorities in atheism that never reference Hutchinson. Stories that are just plain wrong about atheist charity work that completely miss Foundation Beyond Belief. What Dawkins wrote in twitter gets blog posts and editorials around the world, while published work by De Waal gets and Dworkin gets largely ignored.

  • Ben @ 2CM

    Here is one on how atheism is like religion:

    The believer looks at a thing that appears to be designed,
    but sees no designer, but will profess over and over “There must be a designer,
    there must be a designer”.

    The atheist looks at a thing that appears to be designed,
    but sees no designer, but will profess over and over “There is must be no designer,
    there must be no designer”.

    I’d say the former is thinking more rationally than the
    latter.

    • primenumbers

      No, we'll say "there is the appearance of design" and go no further because there is no further evidence. The appearance is design is only evidence for the appearance of design and no more. If you want to prove design, show me the designer.

      When we see a cloud, we don't say "wow, what a lovely design on that cloud", but when we see a plane pass in front of that cloud it's reasonable to say "wow, look at the sleek new design on that aircraft" not least because it stands in stark reflection against nature. If designed things are designed and as the theist contends that nature is designed, there is nothing un-designed and the word "design" becomes meaningless, and it also removes our ability to detect design. If we cannot detect design, then the theistic argument from design is dead.

      What we can honestly say is that some things have the appearance of design, but that not all such things are designed, and hence the only proof of design is to show the designer, not to infer a possible designer.

      • Ben @ 2CM

        Since God is being itself, it is not possible for there to
        be any more evidence that we already have. Existence itself is the evidence. You’re like a fish in the ocean that claims there is no such thing as water.

        • primenumbers

          "Since God is being itself " That's a wonderful proof by definition. And it's also a meaningless statement.

          • Ben @ 2CM

            You seem to be an authority on “meaning”. You know what is meaningful and meaningless. Does meaning really exist other than a relative human opinion? What evidence do you have for existence of “meaning”?

          • primenumbers

            You seem to think it's perfectly fine to engage in circular reasoning by defining your God as existing. Existence cannot be part of any meaningful definition of something as then it makes a mockery to say "this thing exists" or "this thing does not exist". To say God is existence is to either re-define God or re-define existence, but either way you're say ing "God is God" or "existence is existence", and while both statements are true, they impart no extra meaning for us, and hence they are meaningless statements, and hence my assertion that your suggestion that "Since God is being itself " is a meaningless statement.

          • Ben @ 2CM

            You make assumptions with no evidence “Existence cannot be part of any meaningful definition of something”. Interesting.

            God is outside of human definition (human limits). We use descriptions. Water is water and the ocean is the ocean, but what are we more apt we say? There is water in the ocean or the ocean IS water.

          • primenumbers

            It's not an assumption. The plain and simple logical consequences of allowing existence as a property are enough to render such use useless as circularity immediately ensues and it causes normal statements such as "x exists" or "x does not exist" to be rendered meaningless. Only things that exist can have actual properties.

            "God is outside of human definition", so you admit your definition of him must be wrong then?

          • Ben @ 2CM

            "Only things that exist can have actual properties". Does morality exist, does justice exist, goodness, love, beauty, happiness? Can you list the properties? Existence CAN be part of a meaningful definition of something.

          • Rationalist1

            Love exists as an action, not in the abstract. Can you describe a couple's love for each other without referring to their actions or thoughts towards one another?

          • primenumbers

            As explained above putting the existence of something into its definition leads to issues you have failed to address.

          • ZenDruid

            Existence is not a predicate. Existence is necessary before any predicates can be attributed to an entity.

            Otherwise, you're simply saying "God Is." Which means...?

  • CBrachyrhynchos

    "If he had been asked, “Are you a Buddhist?” or “Are you a Muslim?” or “Are you a Hindu?” he might well give the same answer: “No, I am an atheist.”"

    Which is the first place where this falls apart, because when I use the word "atheism" I'm being broadly inclusive of religious humanist movements such as Secular Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, Quakers, and Unitarian-Universalism.

    A prima facie counter-argument is to look at the antonym of atheism. Do we say that all varieties of theism can be described as a singular religion? Not usually. Therefore, it's probably not a good idea to equate all the diverse communities of atheism as a singular religion.

    And in fact, Mr. Akin is pulling something similar to a true scotsman here in limiting his argument to only a subset of atheists.

    • Max Driffill

      American Crow was just too beneath you eh?

  • Max Driffill

    I do grow weary of this atheism is a religion canard. I also find the lengths this author goes to shoehorn atheists into a religious category to be somewhat disastrous if sincere. I'm not sure how the rejection of religious conviction, and religious practice gets to be called religion, but such is what passes for higher criticism I guess.

  • Michael Flatter

    As a Christian, I would not describe Atheism as a religion. It is clearly not a religious sytem - in fact it defines itself as the rejection of the beliefs common to various religious traditions, while asserting no positive values on its own.

    Nor do I understand what Mr. Akin hopes to accomplish by making this point. If he defines the term "religion" to be something that includes Atheism, I suppose that he can do so. At the same time though, there are alternative definitions of religion that neccesarily preclude atheism. It is a linguistic questions - whether you decide to call it religion or irreligion it does not change what atheism is.

    Also I sense a tendency on the part of the Catholic apologists on the site to conflate Atheism with Secular Humanism. While the later is generally atheistic in outlook it is by no means synonomous with a rejection of the supernatural. I would say that the promotion of definite values and ethics by Secular Humanism brings it almost to the level of religion - but here I am unsure, and like I said I don't think it really matters.

    • primenumbers

      Even then, Secular Humanism would be a non-religious ethical system.

      • Michael Flatter

        In the 1961 Supreme Court Case Torcaso v. Watkins Decision, Justice Hugo Black said "Among religions in this country which do not teach what would generally be considered a belief in the existence of God are Buddhism, Taoism, Ethical Culture Secular Humanism, and others."
        There are certainly Secular Humanists who argue they should be accorded the status of a religion for Tax and legal purposes.

        • primenumbers

          Atheists and Secular Humanists etc. need to be treated as religions with regards to the tax and legal systems, to ensure we get our right to religious freedom and freedom of belief. However, this is because of how "religious freedom" is worded.

          Far better to embrace the secular ideal of everyone being equal under the law regardless of belief or lack or belief with no special privileges based on belief or lack of belief. Then atheism and secular humanism don't need to be a "religion" for legal purposes and atheists and secular humanists can get their fair rights.

  • severalspeciesof

    Well, one thing is for sure...

    This is the first OP that has a major majority on the same page... as in 'this is a poor OP'...

    Glen

  • Linda

    I understand the point the author is making today but it still feels like this post is a bit of a straw man, and kind of like its Antagonize the Atheists Day. It is interesting, though, as occasionally it seems some Atheists are so insistent on believing in only the material world or the scientific method as to be almost Fundamentalist in their world view. Is it possible to use the word Fundamentalist at the other end of the belief spectrum?

    • Michael Flatter

      I agree - but what many of the Atheist commentators are rightly saying is that "atheism" itself does not entail any particular view of the material world or scientific method. "Atheism" simply means the rejecting of Theism and the existence of Gods.

      • Linda

        Yes, I agree that Atheism is that rejection. But, based solely on some of the discussions I've read here, there is occasionally a back-and-forth that seems to boil down to: "I believe only what science has proved" which is similar to, but the exact opposite of: "I believe only what the Bible says." Which just seems in its odd way a bit Fundamentalist.

    • Rationalist1

      Atheists are not "insistent on believing in only the material world or the scientific method" but only we have no evidence of anything other than the material world and the scientific method has proven to be the best method for acquiring knowledge we've come up with.

      • Linda

        I don't believe all Atheists are this insistent, the same way that not all Christians are Creationists. However sometimes in these discussions and comments it seems that the only way some people approach the world and what they experience and believe is through science, which seems to me to be limiting, in the same way that a Fundamentalist insisting that the Bible should be taken literally limits his or her outlook and experience. I am not as well-read or philosophically educated about these things as others on this site and will defer to yours: is there a way to use the scientific method to prove love or truth or art or beauty or music? These all seem like things that most people agree exist in some way but I'm not sure how I'd go about proving they're there.

        • Rationalist1

          You show that love exists by looking at the actions of the two people involved. An aesthetic of music is possible and harmony at its fundamental level is mathematical. Is science the best way to explore these fields. Not necessarily but all those fields can be shown to exist.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I think Mozart is probably better equipped than any of the correspondents on this site to address the question of science as it relates to music:

            "Since scientia, ars nihil est".

            That is the world view of the Catholic civilization.

            It produces Mozart.

            We get.....what.....Aaron Copeland?

            The Beatles?

        • BenS

          is there a way to use the scientific method to prove love or truth or art or beauty or music? These all seem like things that most people agree exist in some way but I'm not sure how I'd go about proving they're there.

          These are mostly concepts and depend on their definitions.

          I'll start at the back and work forwards, much like I do when making love.

          Music exists as the vibration of the medium it's in (air, water, whatever). To say that some vibrations are music and others aren't depends on the definition of music. Is what is music to us, music to a beetle?

          Beauty, again, is subjective. I could find you beautiful... but a homosexual man may not.

          Art, also, is mostly subjective as to its value but can also be objective if you consider its intent. If it's intended to be art, it's art. Whether it's good or not is anyone's guess.

          And so on.

          You can, though, use the scientific method to determine what our species, on average, thinks of such things. If you were, for example, to do a study where people rank others on their beauty from 0-10, you can build a composite image of what most people would find attractive.

          For most part, the scientific method is useful to determine what things exist. Concepts are so fluid, so subjective and have no interaction in the real world that they're not really things science would bother with.

    • CBrachyrhynchos

      I'm not certain that it's reasonable to talk about Fundamentalism (capitalized) unless you can point to something equivalent to the 14 points of the Niagara Conference which is pivotal for defining that Christian movement in the United States. I think that the sloppy use of the term to mean whatever form of religious conservatism the writer is arguing against at the present moment is a bit misleading.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Consider this exchange:

    "Are you a blond?" -- "No, I'm bald."

    "Are you a platinum blond?" -- "No, I'm bald."

    "Are you a red-head?" -- "No, I'm bald."

    "Are you a brunette?" -- "No, I'm bald."

    Does this make "bald" a hair color?

  • ZenDruid

    There is a subset of theists who proclaim that they're not religious, but have a personal relationship with Jesus or God.

    Atheists can pretty much agree that having a personal relationship with Reality is where it's at.

    • Vicq_Ruiz

      It's not that the universe is temporary.

      It's that we got to see it.

  • Ben

    Remember kids, don't join a "secret information club" run by a Catholic.

  • Ben

    "Religion" is an artificial human-created category. Ultimately there will be fuzzy edge cases.

    Is Scientology a religion like Catholicism? A Catholic, or a German prosecutor, might argue that Scientology is a cult because it lacks some characteristics of the median member of the category "religion". A Scientologist, or a Scientologist tax lawyer, might argue the other way because Scientology shares some characteristics of consensus religions.

    Categories are artificial and human-created. When you ask if atheism is a religion, you're asking about the map, not about the territory.

    See also: http://lesswrong.com/lw/nm/disguised_queries/

  • reader_gl

    First Christian martyrs were sentenced to death for their "atheism" too: they didn't believe the Ancient gods of war, of art, of finance and commerce, of healthcare, etc. Now there are new gods in whom trust: lawyer for an indictee, banker for a startup, physician for who wants to "improve" face. Religion, r-e-l-i-g-i-o-n, remains. Perhaps, wouldn't it be better and wiser for the true atheist (who believes that the future is for the atheism, for Odysseys who will be as powerful as Poseidon) to take the reality as it is and chose the right God?

    • BenS

      What?

      • reader_gl

        oh sorry, I forgot the Internet, our common Big Brother

    • Rationalist1

      Has me convinced.

      • reader_gl

        you are on the right path

        • ZenDruid

          Yes, it's quite clear: Helios is the right guard...umm, the right 'god'.

          • reader_gl

            1 God, at the beginning of time, created heaven and earth. 2 Earth was still an empty waste, and darkness hung over the deep; but already, over its waters, stirred the breath of God. 3 Then God said, Let there be light; and the light began.
            Sorry, the sun is tertiary. Air, earth and water are secondary.

          • ZenDruid

            The ignorance of all natural processes is primary, in your worldview. Sorry, your favorite creation myth is stupid.

          • reader_gl

            well, this myth is proven and successful basis for many positive things. Which positive things Big-Bannnng theory may generate to the benefit of humankind?

          • ZenDruid

            well, this myth is proven and successful basis for many positive things.

            Go forth and overpopulate! Pointless suffering is God's precious gift to you! Ignorance is wisdom! Punishment is love! Love is shameful! Shame is humility! Guilt is piety! Fear is hope!

            Meanwhile, good physics managed to put the Curiosity rover on Mars within 2 km of its target, after a journey of over 1/2-billion km, with only one chance to get it right.

          • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

            And everyone in the control room secretly said "God! I hope it makes it!" :)

          • ZenDruid

            Yeah, those 'seven minutes of terror' are now iconic. I'm betting they were praying to Vulcan, or Boom-boom, or whomever the deity of explosive bolts might be. :)

          • Michael Murray

            Actually it's more ironic than that. According to a couple of books on the rovers they didn't pray to God but they did take in the odd lucky charm knowing full well it wouldn't make any difference. It's hard for humans not to be superstitious.

          • ZenDruid

            Oh yeah! The jar of peanuts!

          • reader_gl

            who says that love is shameful? perhaps those ignorant who try to remove the dundruff of the soul with high-precision guillotine?
            Questions of love is direct competence of any religion. Einstein can go shopping during the discussion of love.

          • OldWorldSwine

            Yes, clearly building remote control dune buggies is the whole point of our existence.

          • Michael Murray

            well, this myth is proven and successful basis for many positive things. Which positive things Big-Bannnng theory may generate to the benefit of humankind?

            What makes you think there is a connection between things being beneficial and things being true ?

          • reader_gl

            Do you think there is no connection?
            Thanks to religion the people have the opportunity to step out of material divergences, stay on proven ground, and decide what is true and which of many hypothetical truths (read Einstein) will turn out beneficial in the temporal world.

          • Susan

            What?

          • epeeist

            Thanks to religion the people have the opportunity to step out of material divergences

            Err, what? Imagine themselves out of "material divergencies" (what ever they are), step outside is altogether different.

            decide what is true and which of many hypothetical truths (read Einstein) will turn out beneficial in the temporal world.

            No, test hypothetical truths needs science not "material divergencies". Einstein was of course not a believer, though he may have been a pantheist.

          • reader_gl

            Ah, I see you believe that we are living in a homogeneous medium. Ok, imagine for a while that we live in a heterogeneous medium (environment) and live any sort of material divergence any moment of our life (our words are material too, as you might notice).
            An example of divergence is this exchange: you don't understand what is divergence and oppose the use of divergence as a method of testing (???), which in your opinion is alternative to science (I quote: no, test truths need science not "divergences"). ok.
            Please show how you'll solve this divergence (your not understanding) with the use of science, as per your above proposal.
            Good luck!

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        But convinced of what, I cannot say.

        • Rationalist1

          Isn't that the best way to be? :->

  • Christian Stillings

    Akin says "according to [x] definition of religion, 'atheism' (defined as [x]) is a religion." As long as his terms are consistent and his the relationships between his conceptual data harmonious, it's a valid argument. It's a valid argument even if [x reader] disagrees with his definition(s) or says "well I think this whole enterprise is stupid".

    I think Akin does well to point out that we should focus on the positive content of any belief and/or "belief system" and that we should apply terms like "religion" carefully in order to draw content-based connections between the content of different beliefs and/or "belief systems". He argues that, given the content of (his definition of) atheism, it meets the criteria for "a religion" given his definition of "religion". Again, if he's lining up the content correctly, his content comparisons are valid. I guess I don't understand why this piece is getting so much flak. Either his observations are valid or they aren't, but saying "well I disagree with his definitions!" doesn't really go anywhere as far as generating interesting or insightful conversation.

    Personally, I agree with Leah Libresco on that the real question should be "what do you believe?" Particularly with "New Atheist"-y types (some of whom populate the comboxes here), I observe a much stronger tendency to focus on what's being denied ("I don't believe in your sky fairy daddy!") rather than what's being affirmed ("[x] is my metaphysical perspective," "[x] is my opinion on how to approach 'marital ethics' in a societal context," and so on).

    • Ben

      For my part, I have no real objection to focusing on positive positions. But plenty of atheists do this, here and otherwise, and it seems pretty clear that what atheists DO believe in isn't a religion by any normal definition. That's a pretty basic point, and an important one if we are to have any meaningful conversation here between Christians and atheists--atheists aren't just a different option in a list of religions, but are doing something else entirely. Akin's article attempts to obscure this point, and does so through terrible, no good, wrong arguments; it deserves all the flak it gets. I just think that this particular article is so obviously wrong and bad that the commenters as a whole agreed on this piont pretty early, so it might be more productive to chew on why so many Christians make similar bad arguments trying to obscure this basic point. Not that I think it's that mysterious, really.

    • CBrachyrhynchos

      "As long as his terms are consistent and his the relationships between his conceptual data harmonious, it's a valid argument."

      I think that argument fails on two points. First of all his terms are not consistent because it depends on arbitrarily restricting the scope of atheism only to the sets that agree with his definitions. Which leads to the second point where he writes, "I’m interested in the realities behind the terms,..."

      So let's shift the question to "what do you believe?" Here is my challenge to any person claiming that atheism is "a religion." Where is the common creed, the common statement of values, the common ethos shared by most or all of the following groups (which are not mutually exclusive but good enough) ?

      New Atheists, Secular Humanists, Atheists who are part of religious fellowships (including Secular Jews, Humanist Quakers, Humanist Unitarian-Universalists, Secular Buddhists, and non-theistic pagans), Objectivists, Marxists, Ethical Culture, Atheism+, Existentialists, Apatheists, Ignostics.

      (Or, alternately, across Silver/Coleman's six categories.)

      If atheism is a unified religious view, it should be simple to point to something equivalent to the Torah, the Nicene Creed, the Four Noble Truths, the fundamentals of Islam, the Wiccan Rede, the Upanishads, or something.

      I think the Silver/Coleman work suggests that "standard western atheism" isn't standard, and I'm not convinced it's uniquely western.

      • Christian Stillings

        In conversation with atheist/non-theist/secular humanist/etcetera types, I think that "what do you believe?" is a question which might need to be asked of any number of individuals, and there's no guarantee that any individual's answers will be fully or mostly in agreement with any other individual's answers, which means that "groups" may or may not exist. However, asking the question is still a fully legitimate venture, especially since a "secular humanist's" moral/ethical code is probably much harder to guess at than a "religious person's" moral/ethical code. In my observation, most spelled-out secular ethical codes (ie, "Secular Humanist Manifestoes" and such) are vague to the point of uselessness, by which I mean there's very little content which could be implemented in an actual real-life system; "be nice to people" is a great starting place, but you can't draft legislation merely from abstract principles. When societies of an explicitly secular bent have been attempted in the last century, the results have pretty consistently been less-than-stellar, but there's always hope that secular thinking could provide us with feasible directives for how to live in communion with one another.

  • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

    Religion always purports to have a source of enlightenment whether public or private and a cosmology. Every atheist I have met also has a source for enlightenment and a cosmology. Any sufficiently rigorous discipline set upon reason and learning that also espouses a cosmology is indistinguishable from religion.

    • Michael Murray

      Every atheist I have met also has a source for enlightenment and a cosmology.

      Every atheist I have met has a navel. That navel is a not a result of their atheism.

      • http://www.credobiblestudy.com/ Irenaeus of New York

        I merely said that every atheist has both. I did not say it was caused by their atheism.

        However, because they are atheists, they do not use the same source for enlightenment or the same cosmology as theists.

        • Michael Murray

          I merely said that every atheist has both. I did not say it was caused by their atheism.

          So you are arguing that atheists are religious but that it's not caused by their atheism. Is that right ? So everyone is religious ? Or does the "sufficiently rigorous discipline" come into play so some

          What do you mean by a source of enlightenment?

          However, because they are atheists, they do not use the same source for enlightenment or the same cosmology as theists.

          I am not sure about the cosmology. From what I can tell reading his posts I think David Nickol would share a very similar cosmology to many of the atheists posting here.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            You mean David hasn't gotten the word yet that the Copernican Principle is false, and we are in fact privileged observers of the cosmos?

            http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/2013/03/copernican-principle-1532-2013-rip-why.html

          • Mikegalanx

            "You mean David hasn't gotten the
            word yet that the Copernican Principle is false, and we are in fact privileged observers of the cosmos?"

            While you have correctly rejected the Copernican Delusion, you are still, alas, under the grip of Outsiderism.

            "When the Light of the Endless was drawn in the form of a straight line in the Void...
            it was not drawn and extended immediately downwards,
            indeed it extended slowly — that is to say, at first the Line of Light began to extend and at the very start of its extension in the secret of the Line it was drawn and shaped into a wheel, perfectly circular all around."

            All power to the Templi Resurgentes Equites Synarchici !!

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Umberto Ecco is a very important author.

            Every Catholic should read not only "Foucault's Pendulum", but also, at least, "The Name of the Rose" and "Baudolino".

            It is through semiotics that the Lodge most effectively subverts the intellect and will of the more intelligent among the weak Christians.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Here's how all this seems to me. You invite people to play a game of your own invention. You make up the rules, keep score, and act as referee. Then you crow about being intellectually and morally superior to just about every person and every institution in the world because nobody can beat you at your game. The only authority you recognize is the Church, and really not even the Church, because you recognize only official teachings of the magisterium, but you are the sole interpreter of what is and is not a magisterial teaching.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Here is how it seems to me. Mr. Nickols remains aghast that his posse refuses to ride to his rescue despite weeks of increasingly plaintive calls for assistance. Since he is manifestly unable to prevail in debate, he wishes to shift the focus ad hominem.

            His great problem with me is that I do in fact believe everything the Catholic Church teaches as necessary for salvation, including the (quite extensive) teachings which he rejects.

            He does misrepresent me, but of course this is nothing new.

            The truth is quite simple: I believe every dogma of the Catholic Church, whether defined by the extraordinary magisterium, or present in revelation and infallible under the ordinary magisterium.

            I recognize a few crucial areas where magisterial teaching is in tension with other teaching.

            I resolve these matters by having recourse to the highest level of magisterial teaching on the question, and/or that teaching which conforms to a unanimous consensus of the Fathers concerning interpretation of Scripture.

            It is a surprisingly durable and consistent world view when defended against modernists and atheists, and it certainly has proven more than adequate to meet any challenge either have thus far been able to bring here.

            I expect it to be significantly more widely-held in the future, than it is just now.

            This certainly renders me totally unacceptable to the atheist, and to his more-than-just-occasionally congenial co-thinker; that is, to the modernist.

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      "Any sufficiently rigorous discipline set upon reason "

      >> Atheism is disqualified here.

      " that also espouses a cosmology is indistinguishable from religion."

      >> A dangerous and truthful observation, which requires of us the frank admission that the Catholic Church has in fact espoused one and precisely one cosmology.

    • Emmet

      I like this comment. Statements about *what is* and *what isn't* always include a cosmology by default. Too many atheists don't seem to do the heavy lifting to uncover that cosmology.

      One comment I read on an atheist blog a few years ago still stays with me: "...then Dawkins set me free!"

  • Isaac Clarke

    Now we do have a bulletproof explanation of the origins of the universe.

    It was created by a homicidal baby, Stewie Griffin, and his dog, Brian, during a teleporting, time-travelling journey which went wrong. They were trapped outside space-time so had to create a universe in which they could exist. All so very simple I saw it "re-enacted" on a cartoon called Family Guy.

    BTW, the same cartoon shows us the true form of Satan... That of a giant rooster, locked in an eternal battle with the Father, Peter Griffin.

    Anymore questions?

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      Yawn.

      • Isaac Clarke

        I hope you covered your mouth, it is good manners after all, and you do tend to let your ejaculations go unchecked.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          I certainly covered my mouth, it was too late to cover my eyes.

          • Isaac Clarke

            Unless you're Superman I won't worry about the damage your eyes can do.

  • Sample1

    When someone of faith, like this author for instance, wonders strongly whether atheism is a religion or not, what you've got is a person who is not totally happy with the word religion (an interesting finding in its own right) or, at the very least, someone who hasn't thought their position completely through.

    Atheism is not a virtue in Catholicism (Canon Law 2125: Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion) while religion is (James 1:27)

    Yoking religion to atheism is a mistake. It attempts to create a monstrous cousin-ship in order to justify what really is an addiction to faith and therefore the inability--like an alcoholic suspicious of anyone ordering a diet coke in a bar-- to accept that there are clean and sober people in the world getting along just fine without Yahweh and his silly threats.

    Mike

  • Loreen Lee

    Definition of Religion. To 'bind' oneself to God.

  • Passerby

    I have a problem accepting your generalised definition of religion. According to it, the occult, paranormal, parapsycholology, ghost-hunting, even horror movies, can be considered a religion.

  • VelikaBuna

    This is for fellow Catholics who believe the teachings of the church can be changed.

    http://www.churchmilitant.tv/scripts/vort-2013-07-12.pdf

  • 42Oolon

    Atheism is not a religion it is a position on believing in deities. The way you get to atheism being a religion ins similar to asking someone if they play a number of sports and their answer leading you to believe that being a quadriplegic is a sport.

  • 42Oolon

    Atheism " rejects the existence of God or the gods, that there is no afterlife, and that the material universe is all that is real."

    Atheism has to do with deities, not necessarily the afterlife or the existence of non -material things. Being a good skeptic and applying critical thinking may get someone to be a materialist or an afterlife, but these positions say nothing, necessarily, about a person's beliefs in deities.

  • 42Oolon

    Your definition of religion in very narrow. Really you are talking about a subset of deistic beliefs. Under this definition, Scientology, Raeliamsim and some forms of Bhuddism are not religions, but atheism is. That is weird isn't it?

  • anilwang

    Jimmy, while I like your definition, if everyone makes up their own definition, no arguments on Atheism and religion will be settled.

    Let's get to the heart of the issue. If a group wants to paint religion as evil, then it follows that they will define religion so it excludes that group and you will not be able to change their minds. This goes for the New Atheists, but also "Spiritual but not religious", and "New Agers".

    As such, we'll be arguing over definitions rather than the issues themselves. Let's avoid this and just used agreed upon words such as "world view" and make derivations based on these common terms. Atheism is a world view as is Christianity and Confucianism and Stoicism. One's world view has a direct impact on how one lives, how one treats others, how one honors past generations, takes care of future generations, how one views animals and plants, honors the divine if one does so, and prepares for death and possibly beyond.

    Once one starts seeing this issue in terms of world views it becomes immediately clear that the terms Atheism and Christianity are too broad to be useful. There's just too much variation within these umbrella terms to warrant any conclusion. A committed Natural Law abiding Atheist might have more in common with a Traditional Catholic than a liberal modernist Catholic (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SsqzCDaS5uI for an example).

  • stanz2reason

    Is atheism a religion?

    Short answer, no.

    Long answer, no it is not.

    Next topic...

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    Here we have a problem that could be solved with 30 seconds and a dictionary.

  • SJH

    The answer is in your local bookstore. Atheist books are in the religion section.

    Mr. Akin is pointing out that language is how we define it. If a window were designed to be different from every other window, it would still be called a window as long as it lets light through a wall. If I called it a window, everyone I spoke to would know what I was talking about. In the same way, if I ask a person to what religion they belong, they might respond, "I am an atheist". Perhaps it doesn't fit the strictest definition of religion as my window analogy doesn't fit the strictest definition of a window but it certainly fits the common understanding.

    • epeeist

      The answer is in your local bookstore. Atheist books are in the religion section.

      Ah, so the place in a book store defines how language is used.

      Mr. Akin is pointing out that language is how we define it.

      If that is what he is doing then he is wrong, language is defined by how we use it.

      if I ask a person to what religion they belong, they might respond, "I am an atheist"

      In which case you would be begging the question by assuming they had one.

      But they might also respond that they don't have one. Which rather makes your claim that it is a religion moot.

  • Alejandro I. Sanchez

    I would not classify atheism as a religion because I define religion as having to do with the Supernatural, which most, if not all, modern atheists reject. But reducing atheism, at least in its modern configuration, to a simple and singular definition does not hold up under scrutiny. Some time ago I watched a debate between the late Christopher Hitchens and Dinesh D'Souza. Toward the end, if I recall correctly, of their debate Mr D'Souza brought up Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. This caused immediate anguish on the face of the late Mr Hitchens which was accompanied with some bemoaning. I don't say this with any malice but Mr Hitchens was clearly agitated with the mere mention of Blessed Teresa's name. Mr D'Souza instinctively used Mr Hitchens's expressions to further his point that -modern atheism (and I'm paraphrasing here) is not so much an intellectual ascent to a rational realization that there is no God/gods but rather a dissent from traditional Christian morals,- particularly those morals having to do with sex. I hardly noticed it before but it became clear after a brief investigation that for many atheists, especially younger atheists, the rejection of traditional Christian morals plays a big role in their atheism. Whether or not their views on sexual morality preceded their conclusions to the question of whether or not God/gods exist is subject to the individual. To be clear: I don't fully agree with Mr D'Souza's assumption. I'm not suggesting in the least that all or even most atheists are atheists because of disagreements with Christian morals. I've found no singular thread of reason not to take sincerely an atheists disbelief, but what I am saying is that modern day atheism has very much a cultural context that cannot be ignored. Much the same way that Veganism is not simply about abstaining from meats and other produce that comes from animals but includes an ideology or philosophy as well. There is even a type of proselytizing that many atheists engage in. You come across it frequently online when you read of attempts of atheists to encourage other atheists to engage believers in a way that might cause a believer to question, deeper, his or her own faith. No doubt this exercise is an effort to "plant a seed" of doubt in the believer to which in theory would eventually lead to skepticism and finally, disbelief. Again, atheism cannot be simplified to its definition. It is much more complicated than that. And for that reason I would categorize atheism in its modern manifestation as a kind of philosophy or ideology.

  • chris09

    I would really hesitate to call atheism a religion. It seems like materialist atheism (the sort of atheism referred to here) could be considered as a belief system of a sort, and that some others non-western forms of atheism could be considered religious (when they incorporate metaphysical aspects), but the definition of religion used here seems to be overly broad.

    When we think about religion, we tend to think of a belief system that accepts the existence of the metaphysical in at least some way. That has the strongest basis as a definition, given the etymology of the term. The origin of the word "religion" is rooted in a Latin term referring to binding two things together, in this case men and the gods (given that the term originated in a polytheistic society). While obviously such a strict definition as the Latin would be too restrictive given what we know about some religious beliefs in Africa or the Eastern world, it does give a good starting point for any discussion on the topic.

    Since materialist atheism and philosophical agnosticism (a belief that the existence of God is unknowable) don't express a belief in the metaphysical, it seems strange to classify them as religious by the typical meaning of the term. "Belief system" works somewhat better, since both of those are beliefs by any reasonable definition and do include aspects beyond simply disagreeing with the existence of God (atheism itself isn't a belief system any more than simple theism is, of course, but materialist atheism incorporates aspects beyond simple atheism).

  • Bellomy

    This is silly. It also can mean that Thomism is a religion. It posits that God exists, and that there is an immortal soul.

    Except Thomism is not a religion. It's a philosophy that can be applied to several religions.

    I'm sorry Jimmy, you're great, but this I think this is a terrible article. Atheism is no more a religion than theism is. Now MAYBE you would have a case if you tried to prove that, say, nihilism or existentialism was a religion. But pure atheism? I think there's a TERRIBLE case there.

  • Luigi

    This article was a big waste of words and time. You are overanalyzing words and their meaning. Atheism is just a word used to describe someone who doesn't belong to any religion or religious group. Period. Live with that and write something more insightful next time.

  • Matt McPherson

    Atheism is the belief that there is no God, or that there aren't and deities. However, in technical terms, people that claim to be atheist often mean that they are agnostic. It could very well be that atheism is a religion, however true disbelief in a higher power would be better described as being agnostic.

    • Psycho Gecko

      The problem is that agnosticism is often poorly understood such that people assume it is a middle position between theism and atheism when it really is unrelated to it. Atheism and theism deal with belief in deities. Agnosticism and gnosticism are about knowledge of deities.

      It's a common misconception and it seems you have bought into it. See, Gnostics think you can know for sure that deities exist. Agnostics think you can't. Atheists lack a belief in a deity. Theists believe in a deity. Seeing as most people who aren't sure a deity exists are then going to go around and actively believe in a deity, though, most people who ignorantly use agnostic as some sort of centrist label are actually atheists.

      Atheism just means someone lacks a belief in a deity. Ironically, you are right that most atheists are also agnostics, but that's merely because they aren't mutually exclusive views. Richard Dawkins himself is an agnostic atheist, just to give you the standard big name example of someone that most people think wouldn't fit this label.

      Agnosticism, though, has nothing to do with belief, so there's no way that agnosticism would be the description of someone that lacks belief in a deity. It's a great term for if don't believe it can be known if a deity exists, but by its very definition it deals solely with that claim about knowledge and not about any claims of belief.

    • RichShewmaker

      I am an atheist. Calling me an agnostic is insulting. Agnostic implies that I don't know. I am as certain that a god of whatever religion is a fictional character as I am that the same quality applies to Count Chocula or Kermit the frog. Now it's true that I can't PROVE that there is no God, but that falls in the same category of argument as the fact the you cannot PROVE that you cannot play the violin. It's irrelevant and does not make me an agnostic.

      • James kinsey

        Claiming you "know" there is no God when you cannot actually "know" is as bad as Christians claiming they "know" there is a God. The holding of either position is untenable. I don't "know" that there is nothing that has supernatural powers and does or did something god-like. I just really doubt it and am not going to pretend I believe just to avoid Hell.

        • RichShewmaker

          Is it untenable to know there is no Santa Claus?

  • http://trentdejong.com/ Trent DeJong

    Nietzsche would say that rationalist atheists and Christians are two sides of the same coin--they both believe things. Bill Maher would disagree, but who are you going to believe? http://trentdejong.com/is-atheism-a-religion/

  • Oliver Christopher Gomez

    Q: Do you eat chicken?
    A: No, I'm a vegetarian.

    Q: Do you eat pork?
    A: No, I'm a vegetarian.

    Q: Do you eat beef?
    A: No, I'm a vegetarian.

    Q: Do you eat veal?
    A: No, I'm a vegetarian.

    This suggests that being a vegetarian is analogous to being a consumer of chicken, pork, beef, or veal.

    And that, in turn suggests that vegetarianism is analogous to chicken, pork, beef, and veal.

    In other words, vegetarianism, too, can be seen as a type of meat.

  • Rich LaDuca

    When I am asked questions that are of the variety where my religiosity has any bearing...
    I don't answer with 'I'm an Atheist'
    I would reply (and have frequently done so) with something along the lines of - ~ I'm not a religious person... I'm not really a superstitious person... ~

    One cannot BE an 'Atheist', because 'Atheist' is not an action or a 'method'.

    It is a dismissal / decision. Just as is deciding to not drink a glass of Habanero juice... (No, thank you)

    One IS an Atheist as the default setting upon rejecting a specific claim.
    One is A-Habanero as the default setting upon rejecting the beverage.

    There is no belief as a criteria for this concept. No claim is made.

    • Dave

      Which is nonsense. There's nothing superstition with belief in a creator. The Five Ways of Aquinas show that theism is far more logical than atheism which explicitly denies certain fundamental logical principles by its rejection of a creator.

      The First Way: Argument from Motion

      Our senses prove that some things are in motion.

      Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion.

      Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion.

      Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).

      Therefore nothing can move itself.

      Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else.

      The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum.

      Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

      The Second Way: Argument from Efficient Causes

      We perceive a series of efficient causes of things in the world.

      Nothing exists prior to itself.

      Therefore nothing is the efficient cause of itself.

      If a previous efficient cause does not exist, neither does the thing that results.

      Therefore if the first thing in a series does not exist, nothing in the series exists.

      The series of efficient causes cannot extend ad infinitum into the past, for then there would be no things existing now.

      Therefore it is necessary to admit a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

      The Third Way: Argument from Possibility and Necessity (Reductio argument)

      We find in nature things that are possible to be and not to be, that come into being and go out of being i.e., contingent beings.

      Assume that every being is a contingent being.

      For each contingent being, there is a time it does not exist.

      Therefore it is impossible for these always to exist.

      Therefore there could have been a time when no things existed.

      Therefore at that time there would have been nothing to bring the currently existing contingent beings into existence.

      Therefore, nothing would be in existence now.

      We have reached an absurd result from assuming that every being is a contingent being.

      Therefore not every being is a contingent being.

      Therefore some being exists of its own necessity, and does not receive its existence from another being, but rather causes them. This all men speak of as God.

      The Fourth Way: Argument from Gradation of Being

      There is a gradation to be found in things: some are better or worse than others.

      Predications of degree require reference to the “uttermost” case (e.g., a thing is said to be hotter according as it more nearly resembles that which is hottest).

      The maximum in any genus is the cause of all in that genus.

      Therefore there must also be something which is to all beings the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection; and this we call God.

      The Fifth Way: Argument from Design

      We see that natural bodies work toward some goal, and do not do so by chance.

      Most natural things lack knowledge.

      But as an arrow reaches its target because it is directed by an archer, what lacks intelligence achieves goals by being directed by something intelligence.

      Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.

      Atheism has no grounding.

  • ChronicLunacy

    Let me make it easy for you: NO, IT IS NOT.

    • Snertly

      By the power of your will you shall make it so?

      • ChronicLunacy

        Are you actually stalking me now? This is really sad, troll.

        • Snertly

          Aw come on, you know the idea thrills you, but you're not really that interesting. Just a mass of declarative sentences.

  • Psycho Gecko

    And remember, folks, bald is a hair color and not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    • Dave

      I don't collect stamps but I don't preach about how I don't do so. Atheists preach about their atheism and about their belief that there is no god.

      • Sample1

        Atheists preach about their atheism and about their belief that there is no god.

        So? I am thankful they do. It helped me get exposed to new ideas and subsequently helped me to leave Catholicism and lead a faith-free life full of joy, wonder and satisfying understandings of why there is suffering in the world.

        Mike

      • Psycho Gecko

        Odd, given that atheism is the lack of belief in a god, not the belief that there is no god. You know, maybe if someone like you was a little less ignorant about what we actually believe (and didn't try to marginalize us so much), then we wouldn't have to constantly remind y'all about reality.

  • Sean Liu

    atheism is not really rejection of god and after life. Its rather keeping an open mind and saying that we don't know if there is one.

    • Nikkou Hitori

      ummm that would be agnosticism....

  • Morpheus

    What is real? How do you define 'real'? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then 'real' is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

  • RichShewmaker

    Atheists have no need to build temples, churches, synagogs, wats, or shrines to atheism.
    They have no need to gather together regularly to reassure themselves in their beliefs through hymns, sermons, choirs. comparing clothing, and collecting money for maintenance of those fine buildings or for payment of clergy or for missionaries to proselytize atheism.
    They have no more need to assert that "There is no God" than they do to assert that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are not real. (Some do get on a soapbox about atheism, but these are generally selling books (Dawkins), or entertaining (Bill Maher), or are defending Science against Creationists (Bill Nye or Neil Degrasse Tyson). You won't find young atheists in white shirts and ties knocking on doors to say,"Hello, my name is brother Joe. Do you have a few minutes to hear the wonderful story of Atheism?"
    The only time I feel the need to assert my atheism is when I get missionaries knocking on my door. My answer is, "No thank you, I'm an atheist." If they press for reasons, I'm glad to explain why, but I'm never going to argue with them or attempt to undermine their own belief systems. That would be rude or even harmful, and against my tenet of 'Live and Let Live" and freedom of religion.

    No atheism is NOT a religion. It has no God, no clergy, no congregation, no Catechism or Creed, no liturgy, and will never ask me to donate to the building fund or to support missions to Uganda.

    • Patrick

      Hello

      Atheism IS a religion- The United State Supreme Court has ruled it as such.

      That settles it as far as the thing needs to BE settled.

      Atheism is ABSOLUTELY a religion. TO ALL Atheists you believe in things you CANNOT prove.

      Religion is SIMPLY WHAT YOU believe to be the case. Religion has NO OTHER REQUIREMENTS OR STANDARDS to meet. Atheism is no more or less a religion than any other belief system.

      Atheists STATE that there is no God: Which implies they went and LOOKED AND investigated EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE at EVERY POINT IN TIME for God and found no God...which is IMPOSSIBLE. Atheists bear the burden of providing the evidence of their extraordinary claims- WHICH THEY CANNOT DO!

      A person who is not an Atheist (i.e. a Theist) say they BELIEVE there is a God...that's FAITH and not an extraordinary claim: So the Theist HAS NOTHING TO PROVE; PERIOD.

      Therefore Atheism IS a religion. So get over it.

      Patrick

      • James kinsey

        OK. If you want to say atheism is a religion and others say it isn't, what you are arguing is semantics. I don't CARE if you call my lack of belief in God, as presented in organized religion, religion. In fact, being recognized as a religion conveys lots of privileges that will doubtless come in handy. Now we of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster can buy our pasta tax-free!

      • RichShewmaker

        I am not familiar with the ruling of SCOTUS on the definition of atheism or of religion, but I doubt that their ruling has any relevance to this discussion. When courts define words, they refer to the use of the word in legal argument and those definitions may have little to do with everyday usage. What you are doing here is committing a logical fallacy called "Appeal to Authority." Look it up.

        That said, arguments about semantics are pointless.

        Get over it yourself.

  • Dan Klassen

    Religion is a belief in a god, or gods, or a system we should adhere to (or else, I guess. Mostly to me it seems a way to control people). Atheism is not that. If there are folks preaching their disbelief, I'm pretty sure it is because they are annoyed with the ignorance passed down through generations as if it was true.

    • Ken

      Interesting that you claim atheism is not a religion, yet you use the word "preach" to describe atheological evangelism. I suggest you read up on the First Church of Atheism.

  • Patrick

    Hello

    Atheism IS a religion- The United State Supreme Court has ruled it as such. Atheists needs to WAKE UP and smell the coffee.

    Atheism is ABSOLUTELY a religion. TO ALL Atheists you believe in things you CANNOT prove.

    Therefore Atheism IS a religion. So get over it.

    Patrick

    • therealvladtepes

      Definition of religion: re·li·gion || r'ldn n. collection of beliefs concerning the origin of man and the universe

      Nowhere do I see anything that has to do with believing in the DIVINE.

      If Atheism isn't a religion, then Buddhism should not be classified as one EITHER. The writer failed in this blog as real Buddhists do not believe in God NOR in the afterlife. Siddhartha Gautama is NOT seen to Buddhists as a god. Same way Dawkins and Carlin aren't seen as gods to atheists.

      You do not need the belief of the divine or the afterlife to be a religion.

      I concur: GET OVER IT. It is a strong belief of what you believe the origin of man in the universe is all about. Whether you believe in the unknown/divine or not..

  • Nikkou Hitori

    this entire article balances precariously on the definitions of religion and atheism provided by the author, and the idea that an analogy can be drawn between the two. the author even went so far as to validate his definitions by first casually mentioning that the meaning of words can change. based on the idea that these definitions are not in any dictionary, one can assume that the author's drummed up analogies have already been disproved simply by looking up a couple of definitions.

  • Patrick

    Hello

    Atheism IS a religion- The United State Supreme Court has ruled it as such.

    That settles it as far as the thing needs to BE settled.

    Atheism is ABSOLUTELY a religion. TO ALL Atheists you believe in things you CANNOT prove.

    Religion is SIMPLY WHAT YOU believe to be the case. Religion has NO OTHER REQUIREMENTS OR STANDARDS to meet. Atheism is no more or less a religion than any other belief system.

    Atheists STATE that there is no God: Which implies they went and LOOKED AND investigated EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE at EVERY POINT IN TIME for God and found no God...which is IMPOSSIBLE. Atheists bear the burden of providing the evidence of their extraordinary claims- WHICH THEY CANNOT DO!

    A person who is not an Atheist (i.e. a Theist) say they BELIEVE there is a God...that's FAITH and not an extraordinary claim: So the Theist HAS NOTHING TO PROVE; PERIOD.

    Therefore Atheism IS a religion. So get over it.

    Patrick

    • David Nickol

      The argument that atheism is a religion seems to me often to be religious people saying to atheists, "You're just as clueless as we are!"

      You seem to be saying that not believing in God is on the same intellectual "level" as believing in God—and that is a very low intellectual level, the level of making claims for which there is no evidence. Atheists don't know any better than religious people whether what they believe is true. They are all equally blind. So why do we keep getting "proofs" of the existence of God on Strange Notions and defenses of Catholicism. If the beliefs of atheists and religious people are equally unsupported by any facts or evidence, what is the point of discussing atheism or religion?

      • Patrick

        David

        I didn't start this debate...one of the Atheistic posters did: I merely cite the fact that:

        "Atheism IS a religion- The United State Supreme Court has ruled it as such."

        Atheists, to my thinking, are just as free as anyone else to believe what they want to believe.

        BUT, on many occasions I've heard an Atheist say: "There IS NO GOD. This is a declarative statement that this is a FACT WELL beyond the point of discussion...which implies that it has been proved...which is impossible.

        I was born a Buddhist. I spent many years as an Atheist myself. I changed my mind. You can do as you want, but I've heard all this stuff before.

        By all means believe what you WANT to believe.

        Peace And Good Health Be With You

        Patrick

    • Wald0

      I believe my wife loves me, is that a religion? You seem to think Atheists believe there are no gods, when they actually don't believe there are any gods. Don't being the key-word in that sentence. Atheism is a lack of belief. If Atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair colour, health is a disease, and abstinence is a sexual position.

    • James kinsey

      Because the Supreme Court said it makes it true? The Supreme Court also says that corporations are people. Let's invite Exxon-Mobil out for coffee.

  • Patrick

    Hello

    Atheists are still stunned by Madalyn Murray O'Hair's theft of their money. She, her son and a couple of other crooks stole the money. They had a falling out as to who gets how much when it came time to divide up the loot. So Madalyn, her son and one of the crooks were killed and the bucks were taken by a fellow in on the theft. Why not steal it? There's no MORAL code that tells Atheists not to steal and kill...why should there be? Madalyn Murray O'Hair was the victim of her own dishonesty, greed and philosophy.

    There is no "right and wrong" among Atheists, after all, is there?????? Why should there be?

    • David Nickol

      Atheists are still stunned by Madalyn Murray O'Hair's theft of their money.

      That is not how Wikipedia tells the story, but even if Madalyn Murray O'Hair had been a scoundrel, let's compare her to Fr. Marcial Maciel:

      Marcial Maciel Degollado (March 10, 1920 – January 30, 2008) was a Mexican-born Roman Catholic priest who founded the Legion of Christ and the Regnum Christi movement. Late in his life, he was revealed to have abused boys and maintained relationships with at least two women, fathering up to six children, two of whom he allegedly abused as well.

      Also, compare her to Fr. John Corapi.

      Or compare her to ex-priest Thomas Williams, whose exploits are partially summed up in the headline Former Priest who Fathered Child to Marry Daughter of Adviser to Pope.

      Or . . . let's see . . . compare her to the thousands of priests who committed sex abuse and their superiors, the bishops who covered it up.

      Of course, taking a Catholic (or an atheist) and talking about what terrible things he or she did tells us nothing about most Catholics (or most atheists) and tells us exactly nothing about Catholicism (or atheism). But just be aware that if you want to play this kind of game, others can play it too, and there are plenty of Catholics who committed grave misdeeds to use as bad examples.

      • Patrick

        David

        So what?

        I'm not a Roman Catholic either.

        "Play it" what?

        Wikipedia is about as authoritative as the Sunday comics.

        I merely stated the truth.

        Peace And Good Health Be With You

        Patrick

    • Wald0

      So, the only reason you don't kill or rape people is because a book to you not to, and you're afraid of God?

  • Patrick

    David

    So what?

    I'm not a Roman Catholic either.

    "Play it" what?

    Wikipedia is about as authoritative as the Sunday comics.

    I merely stated the truth.

    Peace And Good Health Be With You

    Patrick

  • Patrick

    Hello

    From the above article:

    "Atheism as Non-Religion There is, of course, a marked difference between atheism and the OTHER RELIGIONS. One could easily REVISE the proposed definition for religion so that atheism would be EXCLUDED.

    Atheists are struggling to become a "non-religion",

    WHY would they DO THAT IF THEY didn't ALREADY KNOW that Atheism IS a RELIGION???

    Peace And Good Health Be With You

    Patrick

    • Guest

      "Atheism as Non-Religion There is, of course, a marked difference between atheism and the OTHER RELIGIONS."

      And there in lies the oxymoron: "other religions"

      Thanks for that:)

  • neutralitygonemad

    Isn't anything.. not religious, agnostic or atheist. I don't dig on belief systems riddled with politics...

  • Wald0

    If Atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair colour, health is a disease, and abstinence is a sexual position.

    • James kinsey

      You left out "Not collecting stamps is a hobby."

  • grevyturty

    The non-belief in a god or gods is not a religion. Not playing sports is not itself a sport. Not playing an instrument isn't a style of instrument. Very basic, very simple. Only made complicated by people so fixated on religion they have to think in religious terms. Very odd/sad.

    • alvin

      Hi grevturty,
      The definition of religion.

      Merriam Webster says:

      : an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

      By this definition atheism is a religion.

      I have also seen the definition that religion is : Values , practices and beliefs USUALLY with a spiritual leader.

      Atheism still fits as a religion in this definition too because the spiritual leader is not necessary. Also I know some atheists still consider themselves spiritual and act as leaders.

      But yes by some definitions atheism is not a religion.

      Merriam Webster again,

      : an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods

      You are correct by this definition. since god is a necessary component of this definition, and atheism has no god and is therefore not a religion.

      Atheism is about no theism (no belief in god) but they do have beliefs

      and religion is about belief(s)(and values and practices) sometimes involving a deity.

      One more long definition" from Dictionary.com

      :a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially 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.

      Usually again does not negate the applicability and "especially" (more than usually) gets closer but still does not negate this definition being inclusive of atheists.

      So for the more general definitions of religion atheism is included.

      I think the more general definitions are more relevant to the way people actually behave while observing their own beliefs and interacting with other people.
      FWIW,
      Not eating meat is a dietary style.
      Peace,

      • grevyturty

        No, it is not a religion. It is simply non-belief. Atheism makes NO claims. You are either a bit slow or intentionally dishonest. Rejection of a claim is not a religion.

        • alvin

          " It is simply non-belief"

          "Your petitioners are atheists and they define their beliefs as follows" - Madalyn Murray O'Hair

        • http://www.netlinux.org.uk Graham

          "Atheism makes NO claims." -yes it does.

          It claims there is no god.

  • Steve Johnson

    Athiesm is a religion. They have an article of faith that cannot be falsified:

    "there is no God".

    Athiesm is not the conclusion of any real science because there is no test by which we can determine whether or not there is a god, or gods, or an afterlife. Religion is belief. Athiesm is belief.

    The only ones having a case for being a non-religion are those who say the one thing anyone can be sure of, which is "I don't know".

    Anything else must be religion.

    • JosephS

      I don't know for certain if a god exists (agnostic), but I have no reason to believe it does (atheist). See what I did there? I'm not religious.

      • Steve Johnson

        Agreed, and if you don't proselyte like certain loud atheists do you can hold onto a truly non-religious ideal.

  • Atheism is garbage

    Atheism is a religion........ It's a faith that god does not exist... It is still a viewing on god

    • M. Solange O’Brien

      Apparently you're not that well educated on atheists. Atheists lack belief in god - that's the defining characteristic. It is the absence of a faith position. That's all.

      • http://www.netlinux.org.uk Graham

        Atheists do not know for a fact that their position (no-god) is the reailty.
        They have faith in the belief that there is no god.

        I can claim gravity does not exist, but this is something which everyone accepts as a reality.

        So I can be a non-believer in gravity, but it would be irrational.

        An Atheist can have faith in the lack of any god but this cannot be anything other than faith.

        Therefore Atheism (defined by a "faith") is as much a religion as anything else faith-based.

        • Caravelle

          Read M. Solange O'Brien's comment again. She didn't say atheists have faith in the lack of a God. She said they lack belief in God. Notice the difference ?

          The position of the "lack" matters. For example:
          1) I have a belief that there are frogs in Amazonia (here I'm using "belief" as in "opinion", not necessarily "faith"). If you asked me "are there frogs in Amazonia?" I'd answer "yep, there are, a lot of them are really pretty even". If I picture amphibians in Amazonia I'm likely to picture a frog.

          2) I do not have a belief that there are green-and-purple spotted frogs in Amazonia. I'm simply not aware of the existence of such a frog there. If you asked me "are there green and purple spotted frogs in Amazonia?" I'd answer "I don't know, maybe?", and if you told me there were then I'd have learned something knew.

          3) However, I also don't have a belief that there aren't green-and-purple frogs in Amazonia; there could very well be, it's likely even given how they come in bright colors, though I've never heard of purple ones I'm not super-knowledgeable on the subject either. If you told me there aren't any green and purple spotted frogs in Amazonia I'd have learned something new too (I'd probably be fascinated - like, how do biologists know that?)

          4) I do have a belief that there aren't green and purple spotted kangaroos in Amazonia. Such an animal would be completely inconsistent with everything I know about kangaroos and Amazonia. If you asked me whether there were any such animal, I'd say "no", and if it turned out there were, I'd have to drastically re-examine my conception of kangaroos and of Amazonia.

          So this is to show that a lack of belief in X is different from a belief in a lack of X. The second one implies the first one so you can be in both situations, but you can also only be in the first, i.e. lack a belief in something's existence without having a positive belief that this thing doesn't exist.

          Atheism is generally defined a minima to involve only a lack in belief in Gods, not a positive belief they don't exist. The latter also exists (it's my position) but it's not universal to atheism. It's often called "strong atheism" (though I think some people confuse it with being 100% certain there is no God, which is another thing entirely)

        • Caravelle

          By the way, M. Solange O'Brien is banned from this blog, but she's interested in discussing what atheists believe here if you want:
          http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/estranged-notions-what-if-we-lived-in.html#comment-1664186260

    • JosephS

      I do not believe in unicorns. I bet you don't either. So what time will you pick me up for our non-unicorn believer church this weekend?

    • Stoshie

      Saying not believing in God is a "religion" is like saying not believing in unicorns is a "religion".

    • Michael Murray

      There are at least two definitions for the word atheism. I and many other atheists define atheism as just not holding a belief in gods. That is different to holding the belief that there are no gods. The Oxford dictionary says

      Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

      which includes the definition I hold. This definition also fits with the original source of the word

      late 16th century: from French athéisme, from Greek atheos, from a- 'without' + theos 'god'.

      "without gods" simple really.

  • http://www.lacourt-m.com/ MarilynLaCourt

    God did not write the dictionary. Words of themselves do not have meaning. People do. Check out "Words, Mere Muffled Muted Metaphors Mocking Meaning.
    A good example would be the "evolution" of the words, faith and trust. These words used to attribute different meanings. Trust used to mean believing something is based on evidence and probabilities. Faith means believing something based on faith alone. Our modern dictionaries do not differentiate between the two meanings.
    Go figure.

    Also, family values used to criticize gay men for their promiscuity. Now that they want to join the family values people they are criticized for wanting to enter into monogamous relationships and adopt children.
    Go figure.

  • netcontj

    Anyone who has no doubts is a believer.

    Thomas Didimus

  • JosephS

    Theism is a belief in god or gods. 'A' theism is (without) belief. If religion is defined by belief, than atheism would be without religion (aka for the thick headed - not a religion).

  • PinkFlying Menez

    Now, I'm sure there may be some good arguments concerning Christianity; this isn't one of them. It speaks entirely through hypothetical language, to prove that atheism is a religion. Except it doesn't prove anything, just the way in which atheism might be a religion. I hope that was the writer's intent, and even so, if it was, this blog seems rather pointless.

    Lettuce can be defined as a fruit, if the definition of fruit is this: anything containing plant-like material, therefore lettuce is a fruit. Think, lettuce isn't a strawberry, it isn't a banana, and it isn't an apple. Still a banana also isn't a strawberry, nor an apple. In fact, one could argue that lettuce is a negative fruit. Strawberries, apples, bananas, all contain seeds, and can thus be considered positive fruits. Lettuce, on the other hand does not have any seeds, and can thus be considered a negative fruit. Are you convinced yet that lettuce is a fruit?

    Therefore, if lettuce isn't a fruit, atheism isn't a religion.

  • http://www.netlinux.org.uk [email protected]

    So: I'm a Christian. Not playing any fence-sitting, non-commital, "devil's advocate" ->insert favourite cop-out phrase<- games here. I have 2 questions to the Athiests: What's an Atheist church? If you have decided there is no god ("Athiest"), why do you care about this site?

    O and: Is atheism a religion? yes

    "Agnostic Christian/Hindu/Muslim/..."? why not: someone who doesn't believe a god, but would consider it a possibility.

  • Zion Moulder

    "Atheism can be defined in different ways, but for purposes of this piece, I will be using the term “atheism” to refer to standard western atheism—that is, to the view that rejects the existence of God or the gods, that there is no afterlife, and that the material universe is all that is real,"

    Actually, no. Atheism comes from the two Greek affixes "a" which means "without", and "theos" which means "God". Therefore, we are left to conclude that a + theos = Without God. Being an atheist does not convey a person's beliefs regarding the afterlife, or anything else that isn't directly concerned with the existence of a God or gods. Furthermore, being an atheist does not necessarily imply the rejection of a God/gods. It simply implies that a person lacks belief.