Atheism as a 'religion'
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21-09-2014, 01:38 AM (This post was last modified: 21-09-2014 07:39 AM by Draxironos.)
Atheism as a 'religion'
Okay, a little background.
After finding out I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome as a child but never told about it until recently, I've been scanning the internet for various sources pertaining to AS as well as the opinions of other aspies on it. In my search, I stumbled upon this blog, 'The Warped Lens of Perception', by Kristopher Hoffman. I read through his blog posts about caring for aspies and found it very informative as well as entertaining. I dug through the blog, reading older and older posts until I stumbled across this little gem.

http://wayoutonthecorner.blogspot.com/20...-here.html (warning: NSFW..ish image)

In part of this post, Hoffman insists that atheism is a religion and to demonstrate this, he observes it through the lens of the Seven Dimensions of Religion as laid out by writer Ninian Smart. Now, I realize that this post is from 2012, but I can't help but pick apart this post. So, here I go.

'1) Narrative. Religions have stories that explain the nature of the universe and our part in it. Evolution is a story about how we came about from the cosmos.'

Evolution does not explain our origin from the cosmos. It simply discusses how life, once it was present, became what it is today. You are looking for something along the lines of abiogenesis (which doesn't even have a standard model) or the Big Bang theory. Furthermore, in this context, evolution is compared to the creation myths of various religions. However, there is fundamental difference between creation myths and evolution. It's called evidence. Creation myths arise from the folk tales of belief systems in an attempt to explain our presence, typically with little to no evidence backing that claim. Evolution is built upon evidence derived from our findings regarding life on Earth. Atheists don't even necessarily believe in evolution. The
Raëlian movement is technically atheist due to their lack of belief in any deities, yet they believe that we are the result of scientific experiments by extraterrestrials.

'2) Experience. According to Smart, there are two aspects to this. First is the events that happened before the religion was founded. Charles Darwin's observations and the book (by his grandfather Erasmus) Zoonomia. Faith is included in this "dimension".
Smart also seems to include “faith” as part of the experiential dimension. The word faith is often taken by Atheists to mean an blindly believing the impossible. According to Hebrews 1:11 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Most atheists put faith in science. The World English dictionary defines faith as "any set of firmly held principles or beliefs." By that definition, the most faithful people I have met are atheists.'

Okay, let's use the WED's definition of faith. I can only assume that 'firmly held' means an unshaking belief in. If that is the case, then atheists still don't have 'faith' in science. Science is malleable. It changes whenever new discoveries are made that disprove old ones. It's why we don't still believe in a geocentric system. It's why we don't accept Lamarckian evolution. We don't hold science to be unerring. Science will be wrong. It will admit it is wrong. Then it will take known evidence and formulate a better conclusion. Now, let's look at Zoonomia. Zoonomia was a medical book. Yes, its writings had some impact on Darwin's theory of evolution, yes Darwin took ideas from his grandpa's book and incorporated them to explain certain things, but its not like it formed any basis for the rise of an atheist 'faith'. Atheism existed before Erasmus. Atheism was not 'founded' after the oublication of Zoonomia. And how the hell does one found a lack of belief? I'm picturing Carl Sagan walking down Mt. Sinai to an eager crowd, and proudly proclaiming "The gods have bestowed to me knowledge for the ages, that we as their chosen to spread the word to all the land that we don't believe they exist!"

'3) Social. Social This covers the structures present within. In atheism, this starts with the researcher, who posits a theory, then proves it experimentally, passes it on to his colleagues who confirm it, then it is passed on to the instructors, schools, text books and television. A lot like modern Christianity. Like many religious orders, scientists hold conferences and come together to share their knowledge and faith and decide what should be believed... I still, for the record, believe Pluto is a planet.'

No, it is not a planet. It is a dwarf planet. Our own moon is bigger than it. Secondly, are you trying to frame the scientific method and peer review through the lens of a church hierarchy? We only pass down to the masses theories that are backed by enough evidence. The people do not have to accept it as inarguable fact. People should question things. It's part of critical thinking. We do not force you to believe that evolution is true. We are not holding sermons to preach to the unwashed masses. And the bit about science conferences being like cardinal meetings? Once again, we only believe what the evidence points to, but we will never accept anything as absolutely indisputable. Everything is disputable, even evolution. It explains a lot, but it is not perfect.

'4) Doctrine. Muslims have the Quran. Christians have the bible. Atheists have Unified field theory, string theory and evolution.'

Try this. Bring a whole bunch of atheists from various backgrounds. See if all of them agree that unified field theory, string theory, and evolution are all true. Atheism only asserts one thing: a lack of belief in a personal deity. That's all it believes. If it is a religion, then it is a single precept religion. It's not like atheists treat On the Origin of Species as a holy book the same way Christians treat the Bible and Muslims treat the Quran. It'd not like we treat the words within as divine truth. 'Darwin is my saviour, I shall multiply, vary, and let the strongest live.'

'5) Ethics. The bible, Quran, torah and other religious books are full of them. Scientific method, MLA citation and accreditation are those of the atheist. By not following these rules a religious person can and will be ostracized. The same is true for scientists and atheists... politically correct speech, proper lab procedures, giving proper credit in your work... fail to do these things and you are ridiculed and can lose your job, your friends and be forever discredited.'

Well, if you're not using the scientific method in science, then yes, you are approaching it the wrong way. Yes, accreditation is part of being a trustworthy scientist. Yes, you..wait, what? Politically correct speech? Three words: The Amazing Atheist. This guy is not politically correct. In fact, he's actually kind of a misogynistic arse. And he doesn't beat around the bush about it. Yet he is still an atheist. And what was that? Giving proper credit in your work? Yes, that is a good thing. It prevents plagiarism and makes one accountable. But don't do it and you'll lose your job, your friends, and be forever discredited? What the ****?Shocking In school, if I forget to add a bibliography to my essay, my paper will either be handed back and I'll be told to include one or I will receive a poor score on it. It's not like they'll expel me for it. How savage do you think the scientific community is? If one doesn't use the scientific method and is unaccredited, they'll just be considered an unreliable source of information. We don't excommunicate them or something. And how did you receive a job to lose in a scientific institution if you are unaccredited anyway?

'6) Ritual. On the surface, it seems atheism is lacking in ritual. Primarily because of it being a newer movement with a lack of history. Many Atheists do perform rituals however. Birthdays, and anniversaries, personal little rituals shared between lovers, valentines day, the public celebration of Darwin's birthday in February, paying taxes, watching their "Shows." In Autistics and Aspies, these rituals are even more prevalent in many cases.'

What? I didn't realize that birthday parties and anniversaries were atheist rituals, maybe because the religious do them too? Seriously, I've been to religiously-themed birthday parties before. The 'rituals' you're describing aren't for atheistic purposes. They are simply celebratory life events. And what is this about public celebrations on Darwin's birthday? His birthday is not some kind of atheistic holy day. We do not celebrate his birthday because we worship him, it's because he was a scientist whose findings helped revolutionize science and our thoughts about life itself. Do people who take a day off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day deify him? No! It's because what he did helped change America and led to the opening of civil rights for African Americans. Just because someone performs a ritual in this sense does not mean it is for religious reasons.

'7) Material. Buildings, texts, art, and the like. The things that people who wish to learn and advance in the religion will see, experience and visit. The Smithsonian, the Natural History Museum in New York, Origin of the Species, A Brief History of Time, artists renditions of extinct species... Atheism has them.'

Oh, yeah I totally see what you mean. By the way, I'm holding a sermon next Saturday at the Museum of Natural History in New York. It's titled, 'What Would Christopher Hitchens Do?' If anyone here lives in the Tri-State Area, feel free to join me on this joyous occasion. Dawkins is great!Bowing
That aside, what do you think museums are? Houses of worship for atheists? They exist to educate and entertain the public. Anyone can enter them to learn and experience, whether or not they hold religious beliefs. And as I said before, books that apparently refute widely held religious beliefs are not atheist holy texts. A religious person can accept Origin of Species and A Brief History of Time just as easily as an atheist can. And someone, please tell me, how does an artist's rendition of an archaeopteryx constitute atheist art? Great, now I'm imagining the Sistine Chapel if the ceiling were covered in paintings of dinosaurs. Is it now the case that if any institution anywhere attempts to educate the public about a theory backed by evidence, it is an atheist church? When someone or something tries to teach you something, they are not necessarily atheist. I've had many scientific facts taught to me by both Christian science teachers and skeptic scientists. Not once did they ever enforce any of it as indisputable truth. That's the beauty of science. It learns, it grows, it teaches, and when (not if) it is proven wrong, it accommodates. And you know what? You don't have to be an atheist to accept it. I think that's the main problem with this post. It conflates scientific thought with atheism. The two are not one and the same. The religious can be educated, the atheistic can be ignorant. Science is flexible, even with such touchy subjects as religion.

So, that's the end of my critique. Does anyone else have any thoughts about this blog post? Oh, and this is my first critique of anything like this. How did I do? Oh, and did I miss anything or get anything wrong?
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21-09-2014, 06:27 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
Yup. Pretty much spot on.

Given your intro, I was looking forward to a 'revelation' regarding AS and atheism.... so I'm mildly forlorn, now, at not getting answer to a question I didn't ask.

Good critique though. Thanks.

Yes

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21-09-2014, 06:31 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
(21-09-2014 01:38 AM)Draxironos Wrote:  Okay, a little background.
After finding out I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome as a child but never told about it until recently, I've been scanning the internet for various sources pertaining to AS as well as the opinions of other aspies on it. In my search, I stumbled upon this blog, 'The Warped Lens of Perception', by Kristopher Hoffman. I read through his blog posts about caring for aspies and found it very informative as well as entertaining. I dug through the blog, reading older and older posts until I stumbled across this little gem.

http://wayoutonthecorner.blogspot.com/20...-here.html (warning: NSFW..ish image)

In part of this post, Hoffman insists that atheism is a religion and to demonstrate this, he observes it through the lens of the Seven Dimensions of Religion as laid out by writer Ninian Smart. Now, I realize that this post is from 2012, but I can't help but pick apart this post. So, here I go.

'1) Narrative. Religions have stories that explain the nature of the universe and our part in it. Evolution is a story about how we came about from the cosmos.'

Evolution does not explain our origin from the cosmos. It simply discusses how life, once it was present, became what it is today. You are looking for something along the lines of abiogenesis (which doesn't even have a standard model) or the Big Bang theory. Furthermore, in this context, evolution is compared to the creation myths of various religions. However, there is fundamental difference between creation myths and evolution. It's called evidence. Creation myths arise from the folk tales of belief systems in an attempt to explain our presence, typically with little to no evidence backing that claim. Evolution is built upon evidence derived from our findings regarding life on Earth. Atheists don't even necessarily believe in evolution. The
Raëlian movement is technically atheist due to their lack of belief in any deities, yet they believe that we are the result of scientific experiments by extraterrestrials.

'2) Experience. According to Smart, there are two aspects to this. First is the events that happened before the religion was founded. Charles Darwin's observations and the book (by his grandfather Erasmus) Zoonomia. Faith is included in this "dimension".
Smart also seems to include “faith” as part of the experiential dimension. The word faith is often taken by Atheists to mean an blindly believing the impossible. According to Hebrews 1:11 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
Most atheists put faith in science. The World English dictionary defines faith as "any set of firmly held principles or beliefs." By that definition, the most faithful people I have met are atheists.'

Okay, let's use the WED's definition of faith. I can only assume that 'firmly held' means an unshaking belief in. If that is the case, then atheists still don't have 'faith' in science. Science is malleable. It changes whenever new discoveries are made that disprove old ones. It's why we don't still believe in a geocentric system. It's why we don't accept Lamarckian evolution. We don't hold science to be unerring. Science will be wrong. It will admit it is wrong. Then it will take known evidence and formulate a better conclusion. Now, let's look at Zoonomia. Zoonomia was a medical book. Yes, its writings had some impact on Darwin's theory of evolution, yes Darwin took ideas from his grandpa's book and incorporated them to explain certain things, but its not like it formed any basis for the rise of an atheist 'faith'. Atheism existed before Erasmus. Atheism was not 'founded' after the oublication of Zoonomia. And how the hell does one found a lack of belief? I'm picturing Carl Sagan walking down Mt. Sinai to an eager crowd, and proudly proclaiming "The gods have bestowed to me knowledge for the ages, that we as their chosen to spread the word to all the land that we don't believe they exist!"

'3) Social. Social This covers the structures present within. In atheism, this starts with the researcher, who posits a theory, then proves it experimentally, passes it on to his colleagues who confirm it, then it is passed on to the instructors, schools, text books and television. A lot like modern Christianity. Like many religious orders, scientists hold conferences and come together to share their knowledge and faith and decide what should be believed... I still, for the record, believe Pluto is a planet.'

No, it is not a planet. It is a dwarf planet. One of its moons (Charon) is bigger than it. Secondly, are you trying to frame the scientific method and peer review through the lens of a church hierarchy? We only pass down to the masses theories that are backed by enough evidence. The people do not have to accept it as inarguable fact. People should question things. It's part of critical thinking. We do not force you to believe that evolution is true. We are not holding sermons to preach to the unwashed masses. And the bit about science conferences being like cardinal meetings? Once again, we only believe what the evidence points to, but we will never accept anything as absolutely indisputable. Everything is disputable, even evolution. It explains a lot, but it is not perfect.

'4) Doctrine. Muslims have the Quran. Christians have the bible. Atheists have Unified field theory, string theory and evolution.'

Try this. Bring a whole bunch of atheists from various backgrounds. See if all of them agree that unified field theory, string theory, and evolution are all true. Atheism only asserts one thing: a lack of belief in a personal deity. That's all it believes. If it is a religion, then it is a single precept religion. It's not like atheists treat On the Origin of Species as a holy book the same way Christians treat the Bible and Muslims treat the Quran. It'd not like we treat the words within as divine truth. 'Darwin is my saviour, I shall multiply, vary, and let the strongest live.'

'5) Ethics. The bible, Quran, torah and other religious books are full of them. Scientific method, MLA citation and accreditation are those of the atheist. By not following these rules a religious person can and will be ostracized. The same is true for scientists and atheists... politically correct speech, proper lab procedures, giving proper credit in your work... fail to do these things and you are ridiculed and can lose your job, your friends and be forever discredited.'

Well, if you're not using the scientific method in science, then yes, you are approaching it the wrong way. Yes, accreditation is part of being a trustworthy scientist. Yes, you..wait, what? Politically correct speech? Three words: The Amazing Atheist. This guy is not politically correct. In fact, he's actually kind of a misogynistic arse. And he doesn't beat around the bush about it. Yet he is still an atheist. And what was that? Giving proper credit in your work? Yes, that is a good thing. It prevents plagiarism and makes one accountable. But don't do it and you'll lose your job, your friends, and be forever discredited? What the ****?Shocking In school, if I forget to add a bibliography to my essay, my paper will either be handed back and I'll be told to include one or I will receive a poor score on it. It's not like they'll expel me for it. How savage do you think the scientific community is? If one doesn't use the scientific method and is unaccredited, they'll just be considered an unreliable source of information. We don't excommunicate them or something. And how did you receive a job to lose in a scientific institution if you are unaccredited anyway?

'6) Ritual. On the surface, it seems atheism is lacking in ritual. Primarily because of it being a newer movement with a lack of history. Many Atheists do perform rituals however. Birthdays, and anniversaries, personal little rituals shared between lovers, valentines day, the public celebration of Darwin's birthday in February, paying taxes, watching their "Shows." In Autistics and Aspies, these rituals are even more prevalent in many cases.'

What? I didn't realize that birthday parties and anniversaries were atheist rituals, maybe because the religious do them too? Seriously, I've been to religiously-themed birthday parties before. The 'rituals' you're describing aren't for atheistic purposes. They are simply celebratory life events. And what is this about public celebrations on Darwin's birthday? His birthday is not some kind of atheistic holy day. We do not celebrate his birthday because we worship him, it's because he was a scientist whose findings helped revolutionize science and our thoughts about life itself. Do people who take a day off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day deify him? No! It's because what he did helped change America and led to the opening of civil rights for African Americans. Just because someone performs a ritual in this sense does not mean it is for religious reasons.

'7) Material. Buildings, texts, art, and the like. The things that people who wish to learn and advance in the religion will see, experience and visit. The Smithsonian, the Natural History Museum in New York, Origin of the Species, A Brief History of Time, artists renditions of extinct species... Atheism has them.'

Oh, yeah I totally see what you mean. By the way, I'm holding a sermon next Saturday at the Museum of Natural History in New York. It's titled, 'What Would Christopher Hitchens Do?' If anyone here lives in the Tri-State Area, feel free to join me on this joyous occasion. Dawkins is great!Bowing
That aside, what do you think museums are? Houses of worship for atheists? They exist to educate and entertain the public. Anyone can enter them to learn and experience, whether or not they hold religious beliefs. And as I said before, books that apparently refute widely held religious beliefs are not atheist holy texts. A religious person can accept Origin of Species and A Brief History of Time just as easily as an atheist can. And someone, please tell me, how does an artist's rendition of an archaeopteryx constitute atheist art? Great, now I'm imagining the Sistine Chapel if the ceiling were covered in paintings of dinosaurs. Is it now the case that if any institution anywhere attempts to educate the public about a theory backed by evidence, it is an atheist church? When someone or something tries to teach you something, they are not necessarily atheist. I've had many scientific facts taught to me by both Christian science teachers and skeptic scientists. Not once did they ever enforce any of it as indisputable truth. That's the beauty of science. It learns, it grows, it teaches, and when (not if) it is proven wrong, it accommodates. And you know what? You don't have to be an atheist to accept it. I think that's the main problem with this post. It conflates scientific thought with atheism. The two are not one and the same. The religious can be educated, the atheistic can be ignorant. Science is flexible, even with such touchy subjects as religion.

So, that's the end of my critique. Does anyone else have any thoughts about this blog post? Oh, and this is my first critique of anything like this. How did I do? Oh, and did I miss anything or get anything wrong?

I enjoyed it, might want to rephrase the part about Pluto's moon Charon, it is around 1200KM in diameter and Pluto is ~2300KM in diameter.

Looks like you took apart his article pretty well. Thumbsup

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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21-09-2014, 09:20 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
It seems that all this talk of atheism being a religion has only appeared since atheists started communicating online...

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22-09-2014, 07:26 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
Yeah, I've noticed that if you don't give a theist an inch in presuppositional apologetics, they will resort to one of two things:
  • Say atheism is a religion, to make you sound like a hypocrite so they can dismiss what you say.
  • Bust out some good old fashioned solipsism, so they can dismiss your insistence on stuff like "evidence" and "observation". AlphaMale tried that with his stupid posts about "materialistic bias".
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22-09-2014, 07:54 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
I think you should send your comments to the author of the blog post. You might teach him something


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22-09-2014, 08:13 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
Good job ! Lots of Aspies here, (even though it's no longer an "official" diagnosis).

I am working on some reviews of Alister McGrath's books, (who was brougth up by Kingsy). I am SO SICK of the "atheists believe in science", as *their alternative* to religion crap.

Bull fucking shit.

Religion fails all on it's own, (irrespective of whether there is or is not anything else to replace it. It's origins are suspect. It's incoherent. McGrath goes on and on AND ON about this as do many of those ranting about "The New Atheism". The study of religion, philosophy and science are separate fields. One can dismiss religion as crap, without even beginning to talk about science.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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22-09-2014, 08:31 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
No, you can't. Without reason you can't dismiss religion.

Truth seeker.
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22-09-2014, 09:07 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
(22-09-2014 08:31 AM)diddo97 Wrote:  No, you can't. Without reason you can't dismiss religion.

And with reason, one is compelled to dismiss religion.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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22-09-2014, 09:09 AM
RE: Atheism as a 'religion'
(22-09-2014 09:07 AM)Chas Wrote:  
(22-09-2014 08:31 AM)diddo97 Wrote:  No, you can't. Without reason you can't dismiss religion.

And with reason, one is compelled to dismiss religion.

Except that reason requires God. Drinking Beverage

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