Is atheism a religion?


WARNING: SOAPBOXY, OKAY TO SKIP

Short version: no.

Long version: noooooooooo.

 

Long version with elaboration:

The Oxford Dictionaries definition of religion is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”.

Given that atheism is the explicit rejection of that exact hypothesis…I probably don’t need to elaborate on that.

But even without a dictionary, atheism is not a religion unless your definition of “religion” is too broad to be of any use whatsoever.

Atheism is, by and large, devoid of the ritual that characterises faith. Atheists might attend speeches, but most of us don’t attend weekly sermons. There are no atheist hymns, although John Lennon’s Imagine and the Galaxy Song from Monty Python come close. Atheism doesn’t do feast days or prayers. Confession is between you and the cops. And so on.

(Okay, if you define religion as “an opinion on the nature of the universe” atheism probably qualifies, but by that definition, physics, agnosticism, and I-don’t-care-and-will-you-all-shut-up-entology are also religions, hence my point about “too broad to be of any use”.)

– OSM out

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2 Comments

Filed under Randomness

2 responses to “Is atheism a religion?

  1. I go with “atheism is an opinion about religion”. That gives us a place at the table when discussing religious ideas, without claiming that we subscribe to any.

    Then there’s all the useful analogies:
    Atheism is a religion like…
    …not collecting stamps is a hobby
    …bald is a haircolor
    …”off” is a TV channel
    …abstinence is a sex position
    I’m sure that there are many other good variations on this out there.

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