It is precisely my point that religions and atheistic groups are similarly varied, hence you cannot claim that one is a religion and the other isn’t for this reason.
That’s interesting, because I don’t claim that Christianity-Judaism-Islam-Buddhism-Baha’i-Hinduism-Zorstratism-Santeria-Scientology-NeoPaganism is “a religion” either. It seems to be common linguistic use to call them distinct religious traditions, each with their own philosophy, set of practices, and sense of community. In fact, people tend to get bent out of shape when you ignore those distinctions.
Though different, I strongly doubt that any adherent would object to calling his religion well, “religion”. They may object to the kind of article you might use - “a” vs “the”. Is that the gist of your argument?
Most atheists I know are militant. Those who aren’t prefer to be called “agnostic”.
And how many of those atheists actually have an independent existence outside of your rhetorical argument?
Whaddya know, you’re being ironique / sarcastique.. :)
My argument is that atheism can safely be called a “religion” much like other “isms” such as communism. As PJ Myers explains (link in background), his belief in Atheism / Evolution / Science cannot be shaken by any (counter)proof, which makes it superhuman / supernatural. Most atheists share his beliefs, yet few have the intellectual honesty to admit to it, but proselytize: that is, they call on religious individuals (aka theists) to abandon their faith and join Atheism.
You first retorted with the “common set” argument. I replied with a dictionary definition which you dismissed because it wasn’t “high-level” enough. (Needless to say, you may be mistakenly thinking that this debate is about the existence of god, whereas I was simply discussing the religiosity of atheism; you can’t discuss it without first agreeing on what “religion” is, and even Bill Maher started his diatribe with an overly simplified definition.)
Your only constructive point so far (and it’s not really constructive, but we’ll pretend that it is) is that “atheists are not militant”. Obviously, it’s highly unlikely that we both personally know the same atheists. Yet if we take the most famous atheists in recent memory, Dawkins and Hitchens, can you really claim that they are not militant?
Ultimately, this is a semantic argument and it rests on what you define “religion” to be. By my definition, atheism clearly is a religion. If, however, you define “religion” to expressly exclude atheism, it obviously isn’t a religion. Besides, NOT defining atheism as a religion has certain repercussions that you (and [other] atheists) do not seem to have thought about, chiefly that atheism will not benefit from the same protections the law affords other religions.
That can’t be achieved lawfully, however, because “religion” has a fuzzy definition. A federal court, in an effort to help atheists, ruled in 2005 that atheism is a form of religion that deserves the same protections as beliefs more commonly recognized as religion (Kaufman v. McCaughtry). The Supreme Court of the United States has treated secular humanism as a religion, granting the Fellowship of Humanity religious tax exemption because it’s philosophy is analogous to religion (Torcaso v. Watkins). Religion at its root is belief, which means it has everything in common with atheism and secular humanism. No theological position - “there is a god,” “there isn’t a god,” or “it doesn’t matter” - serves as common ground upon which the state can reside in order to avoid establishment and prohibition of free exercise. The only way to maintain religious freedom - avoiding de facto establishment, while providing equal protection and protecting free exercise - is to allow religious chaos. (Gazette)
Furthermore, you seem to consider Buddhism a religion. If you do, there’s no way you can deny that atheism is also a religion. I’ll let Stephen Batchelor explain why:
I want to bring Buddhism into the debate between theism and atheism that’s been triggered recently by Mr Dawkins and his friends - which I think is not accurately described as atheism, it should really be spoken of as “anti-theism”. It’s a movement that has an aversive relationship to God every bit as strong as the believers’ affirmative relationship to God. In other words, these people have an axe to grind and they can’t get rid of their obsession with God (even negatively). So atheism is more than just a belief that there is no God. It’s actually a strong emotional commitment, often the kind of visceral dislike or hatred of people who are stupid enough to believe in God. What Buddhism offers is, I think, an atheism in a value-neutral sense. Namely, as the word literally means “not theism”. (..)
Bill Maher himself seems to be apologetic for talking so much about religion. I suspect that is because not long ago either him or Jon Stewart (or both, or others, I can’t remember) accused homophobic Republican lawmakers of talking more about gays than gay people themselves.
Talking about atheists not being militant… :)
You might also want to check out Einstein on religion. His views evolved throughout most of his life, but most scholars seem to agree that toward the end he was more of a Deist than Atheist and he had a particularly strong dislike for militant atheists, who in their obsession to fight theism, seem to have lost any respect and wonder for the marvel and beauty of the natural world / cosmic mysteries.
I have yet to hear a compelling constructive argument and am concerned that this debate can only go downhill from here. Unless you bring up such an argument I may not be able to continue. I apologize if this is insulting to you (this is not my intention), but your arguments are predictable and so far have brought nothing new to this discussion / debate. Feel free to consider this a “cop-out” / “resigning” on my part.
BTW, do you think that R.E.M.’s song is about converting to Islam? Could it be that they use a more expansive definition of “religion”? Could it be that it is a [gasp] metaphor?! :)
[this was a rhetorical question, and the answer has no independent existence]
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