Is atheism a religion?

This post is a dedication to some friends of mine with whom we recently had this debate. I didn’t think I would have to write this post but it is important that we make a distinction.

Atheism is

the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is the absence of belief that any deities exist

The question and discussion ends there. You may not like this, you may not agree, but this is what it is. It is important at this point to point out to my friends that there is no atheism dogma, there is no ritual or private practice or group indulgence. I understand the difficulty for the theist to see why this is so. The believer’s life should in theory be lived according to the dictates/ commands of his holy books and messengers of their respective gods. Their belief in god is tied to every facet of their life or rather they believe this to be the case.

Religion on the other hand

is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that are intended to explain the meaning of life and/or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people derive morality,ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle.

Many religions may have organized behaviors, clergy, a definition of what constitutes adherence or membership, holy places, and scriptures. The practice of a religion may also include rituals, sermons, commemoration or veneration of a deity, gods or goddesses, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, trance, initiations, funerary services, matrimonial services, meditation, prayer, music, art,dance, public service or other aspects of human culture. Religions may also contain mythology

A global 2012 poll reports that 59% of the world’s population is religious, and 36% are not religious, including 13% who are atheists, with a 9 percent decrease in religious belief from 2005

Allow me to digress a little. I have included the third paragraph on statistics to make it clear that atheism is not a religion. An atheist is irreligious. He has no religion and please science is not a religion.

The arguments against theism used by atheists are not taken on faith. They are rebuttals anyone who applies himself to think about religion would come to, except not in the same wording.

Since to the believer, questions such as origin of the cosmos are presumed answered, the atheist or naturalist has to find answers though this has no bearing whatsoever on her atheism. For one, I don’t know would be sufficient in this case.

Since not all religions are theistic, it is possible to find atheistic religions, that is, religions where the belief in god is not central to the system but they are engaged in other practices that are religious in nature. An example of this is Buddhism though many people have deified the person of Buddha against his teachings.

The theist ought to get his morals from scripture. He believes his god has given commands on how life ought to be lived, how he should relate with his fellows and in many instances have also given him circumstances under which he can kill his neighbor or child. This is not the case with the atheist. There are no gods, there are no divine commands.

I hope this will help many others towards the understanding that atheism is not a religion. It is a lack of it. An atheist has beliefs, but these are not in any way religious. He holds them just as any person holds beliefs which have nothing to do with their religion. In many cases however, the atheist’s beliefs, can be called knowledge, that is, justified true beliefs.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

30 thoughts on “Is atheism a religion?

  1. violetwisp says:

    I’m glad you posted on this because I’m having a discussion with Fide along these lines. He says that if all we have in common is a lack of belief in gods then we can’t unite as a group and expect representation. I was posed to do a post on it but it’s so silly there’s nothing say. Still, I feel I should respond with a line of logic that will suit his style of thinking. What would you say?


    • makagutu says:

      The groups that exist aren’t fighting for atheism but for separation of church from state.
      Disbelief in gods doesn’t mean we stopped being human. If no groups exist that will push for exclusion of pseudo-science from government run schools, someone got to do it. It is in the interest of all that churches stay out of the classroom.
      Ask him to point out a group whose only duty is to fight for disbelief in gods. If he can, then he has a case. If all the groups are dealing with legal issues, there is no case. He is blowing hot air


  2. Sonel says:

    Very well explained Mak! Knowledge is power and we don’t need religion to show us the way. 😀


  3. mixedupmeme says:

    “I didn’t think I would have to write this post”
    Something tells me you will probably be writing this post or something similar to it over and over and over again.


  4. shelldigger says:

    Amen preacher. I mean well done Mak.

    It is often interesting how the theist can pretzel logic their way around to making absurd claims about atheism being some form of religion. When in fact it is the complete opposite of that. A religion requires belief or faith in the intangible, the invisible, the non detectable, the non existant. Atheism requires belief in the material. Material being things that actually exist…reality. No gods necessary. Material explanations, or science, has the benefit of evidence that can be seen by all, and an inexhaustable supply of it. Whether one has the ability to see through their own rationalizations or not, is a personal issue. Science marches on with or without them.

    The no gods necessary thing does not preclude the possibility of an atheist living a normal, happy, loving life. I love my family, and life itself. Another canard of the theist, “an atheist has nothing to live for.”

    Another fact is that atheists have no misgivings of our mortality I think we have a much better perspective and outlook on life actually. We have no delusions of grandeur, of some great happy place in the sky where we can go to live forever with grandpa, because no such place has been demonstrated to exist outside the mind of a theist. Which means for us, the only way to make our mark on the world is to make damn sure we have done it before our time is gone. We see the need to teach our children well, to benefit society is some fashion as we would benefit ourselves, to make sure that our immortality lives on in the thoughts of our loved ones. I find that a much more honorable thought of death than some big eyed pie in the sky dream of basking in dogs glory for eternity. Eternity, I’m not sure the theist has any idea how long that is…what happens when one tires of basking in dogs glory? Do you get time off to go fishing?

    I try to live an honorable life, keeping my commitments, and in general not being a lying thieving dreg of society. Again not because some god commands it, but because I have that inherent sense of treating others as I’d like to be treated (I know the bible uses this one, but is this not the essence of being human?) Altruism and empathy are part of the human condition, this has been ingrained in us way before gods were dreamed up. Without these attributes a society could not flourish. I dare say altruism and empathy had to be there before religion had its chance to become a parasite on humanity.

    With all of that said, yes I am an atheist. I am proud to carry that flag. It represents a realistic expectation of life and death and what lies between. No gods necessary, none wanted. No reason to live with our heads down and never afraid to ask why? Or how? Or when? The pursuit of knowlege is celebrated instead of discouraged. Lies and bullshit exposed for what they are. No priests demanding a tithe. No meaningless rituals, no hypocrisy, and no going to great lengths to twist and distort reality to fit ones preconceptions.

    Sounds good to me. I have signed on the dotted line.

    Next time I write a book Mak, I’ll ask first.


    • makagutu says:

      I love this. You don’t need to ask my friend. Just write it.
      I think the theists who want to be heaven praising dogs for eternity have not spent a whole day in church with a boring priest and a bad choir. They would change their minds on this forever business.


  5. Arkenaten says:

    Phew…this makes me feel so much better, you have no idea

    Now I can pursue my hobby of non-stamp collecting and not feel like a dick.
    Thanks, Mak.
    My saviour.


    • makagutu says:

      Ramen my friend!
      I was thinking of spending more time in my hobby of not playing football. I have ignored it for long now.


    • Ron says:

      Wow! Another non-stamp collector. Perhaps we should get together and form an organization that allows us to discus our mutual love of aphilately in a formal setting on a regular basis.


  6. Ron says:

    Nice takedown of another tiresome theist argument, mak. To me, atheism simply means: I reject your god hypothesis pending further evidence. Full Stop.


  7. paarsurrey says:

    “Is atheism a religion?”

    It is not a religion and for sure it is not a revealed religion. The New Atheists ,as I understand, are trying to make it a look alike;yet the most they can do is to make a false religion, in my opinion.

    The truthful religion is always revealed by the One-True-God; this has been truthful in all ages and are parts of the world.


    • makagutu says:

      I have nothing more to say to you. You are beyond help.


    • Ron says:

      Thomas Paine addressed this issue over two hundred years ago when he wrote (starting from the second sentence of the third paragraph):

      “…Revelation when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.

      No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and, consequently, they are not obliged to believe it.

      It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.”

      The Age of Reason: Part I: Chapter II. Of Missions and Revelations


  8. […] Is atheism a religion? ( […]


  9. Aside from the fact that I have no idea what a deity is indeed, I think a stronger definition of religion is in order. There are four classes of cognitive discourse: Scientific, Legal, Social and Religious. Social cognitive discourse concerns those matters of personal choice and perception that cannot be adjudicated by Scientific, Legal or Religious interpretations.

    I would not classify atheism as a religion at face value, rather more as a social personal choice. It cannot be science because no scientific method was applied to arrive at its conclusions, nor is it legal by any means. Therefore atheism is a choice of social discourse (one I am sympathetic towards).

    That being said, and to keep the integrity of the four quadrant model of discourse, we need to ethically alter the definition of a religion. Our old definition of religion leaves too much wiggle room inside of which unethical persons can spin their wares and escape the accountability to which we hold churches, criminals, pseudo-scientists, or politicians. Accordingly, the definition of religion must be expanded to fill these gaps of weakness in social discourse. Religion has nothing whatsoever to do with an omni-prefaced bearded man in the sky, nor very talented aliens, nor with red brick buildings with crosses on them, nor with rituals nor practices nor life alterations to venerate some new cause or principle.

    Religion, epistemologically consists of two very straightforward elegancies in definition, which then complete with integrity the four quadrant discourse puzzle (Social, Legal, Scientific, and Religious):

    In this model, the definition of religion can ONLY logically be:

    1. That an idea is foisted upon me as compulsory (one I must hold or be considered stupid or low class), and

    2. That I am forbidden, for a variety of reasons, from testing that idea for falsification.

    In other words, atheism is a social discourse until the very day that one begins to push it on others as absolute truth. Then it becomes a religion.

    – TES


  10. […] Is atheism a religion? […]


  11. UnRelatable says:

    It’s not, I’m sick and tired of people referring to atheists as a collective like we go to church on Monday or some other shit and this one dude reads to us and tells us what to do for that one week and we agree without question.
    I’m too skeptic to join an organization, I’m tired of people telling me what to do and how to do things, I want to reason for myself


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