It not so bizarre that atheist and religious preachers share so many things in common than they would admit.
Firstly, both have contradictions in what they preach, yet both see nothing but consistency. I'm familiar with the feeling of being absolutely right. When I was a fundamentalist Muslim I saw Islam as flawless, and it was only when I lost my faith that contradictions started to pop out. I was angry and depressed. I felt I was deceived and hated Islam with all my heart. I started to believe a lot of anti-religion arguments and these 'beliefs' started to appear as flawless once again. Only when time healed my wounds, and my hate toward Islam started to fade away that I started to ask myself who deceived me into Islam in the first place? Why does religion exist? I could only find one answer, the human mind, or to be precise, human genes.
When I stopped becoming hostile toward religion I started to notice a lot of contradictions in a lot of these 'in the name of reason" arguments, in fact, it appeared as just another religion. You do not need a deity or a sacred book to have a religion. I see religion as a necessary illusion that our minds created. We as humans have a simple purpose, to survive and reproduce, and religion is a powerful tool to achieve that.
A lot of atheists seem to think our purpose is to reason and discover the secrets of existence. Perhaps that's why this anti-religious movement is just another religion, it gives its adherents an emotional purpose. just like religion.
One argument is that religion is against nature when it comes to sex, but like sex, religion is natural too. Why support one natural aspect and be against another natural aspect? Another argument is religion is against scientific advancement, but since when was scientific advancement part of human nature? Since the scientific revolution, we humans bred into 7 billion people and damaged our nature so badly. Scientific advancement might even one day lead us into extinction if it has not already.
Do not get me wrong, I'm not against science, I'm just saying that religion seems to be adapting well, and active atheism has manifested into a religion with illusions that only appear true to it's believers.
Well I believe it's different illusions to different people. Some people think we meant to advance as species, others think we meant to "think for ourselves", some view them as personal opinions, but I've seen a lot of atheists who think these are not just personal opinions but a some kind of absolute truth. It's hard to define religion since you can look at it in different points of view, so I gave it an open definition, or what I believe it is...
Moe is quite right to point out dogmatism and self-righteousness in atheism. One need not be a religious fundamentalist to regard one’s own opinions as the only correct ones, or to believe that only one’s own approach is sensible, and that everyone else is a hypocrite or an idiot. There is much self-indulgence and sanctimony in atheism, just as there is in religious movements, political movements, or really any other nexus of ideas that attracts a community of the like-minded. Atheism is not immune from dismissive and abrasive behavior – which is precisely the hypocrisy that most of us find to be so irksome about organized religion, and in particular the Abrahamic religions.
That said, atheism is not a religion per se, because religion necessarily implies worship. Atheists are occasionally accused of worshiping themselves, but while this is egoism and perhaps glaringly foolish, it is not a religious kind of worship. Atheism lacks the animating aegis of religion, which is the unmitigated espousal of a prescribed doctrine leading to veneration of an abstract and ineffable entity (god, if you prefer).
Moe also makes an excellent point about the communitarian benefits of religion. Religion parses people into tribes, giving them a tribal identity that transcends village or blood relations. This can be harmful by separating the world into us vs. them, leading to jingoistic hatred and diminution of the “other”. But it also has a good side: namely, it gives people a sense of communal identity. If atheism goes down this route, and if we identify this approach as “religious”, then I wholeheartedly embrace this “religious” aspect of atheism. I WANT a church-like atheist experience, where we meet regularly in a specifically designated building to discuss the week’s events, to inquire about one another’s health and emotions and experiences, where we ponder current events and their “deeper” meaning, where we assert one another’s interdependency and yet maintain individual dignity and privacy. What I don’t want is a prejudicial sermonizing that claims that I’m dogshit because I refuse to be the slave of Allah or to give my heart to Jesus.
Religion does give hope, purpose, meaning and so forth. Is it a delusion? Yes, decidedly so. But that’s the whole point. Happy delusions make for happy people, and while I personally scoff at willful suspension of disbelief for the direct purpose of blinding onself to the absurdities and horrors of life, I don’t begrudge the happily-oblivious their happy oblivion, provided that they don’t twist this into debasement of others. Sometimes I even envy them. I would love to have a big daddy in the sky, whose love is not conditional on my good behavior or his good spirits, who welcomes me despite my obdurate insistence on foolish things, and who never loses patience despite my losing patience. There are aspects of religion that are ethereally beautiful. Others are disgustingly ugly. That same loving big-daddy will send you to unimaginable tortures for eternity, if you don’t buy into his schlock. How’s that for unconditional love?
Religion is not necessarily opposed to science. It’s just non-scientific; it isn’t necessarily anti-scientific. The basic claims of religion are nonintersecting with the claims supportable or refutable by science. Religion becomes blatantly stupid when it dismisses scientific evidence in order to sustain some doctrinal “explanation” for natural phenomena. When that happens, we have the right and the obligation to attack religion zealously. But what we’re really attacking is not some spiritually romantic musing, but the making of a scientific claim by rabidly unscientific means. But while it makes sense to rely on physical experiments rather than mystical mumbling or appeal to revealed “authority”, we should also realize that science is limited by the creativity of the scientist and the accuracy of his/her instruments. All inquiry has a margin of error, and all intellectual activity would benefit from the modesty of realizing that we can, indeed, be wrong.
There is one last matter which the Abrahamic religions have that atheists by and large do without: PROSELYTISM.
We do NOT go door-to-door, preaching the good news of reason, rationality and a lack of belief in gods that don't exist. We don't spend exorbitant amounts of money for tours and television campaigns promoting rejection of superstition and 2,000-year-old myths. Most of all, we do not insist that EVERYONE believe (or not believe) as we do. Most atheists are willing to live and let live, provided the believers are willing to do the same.
Our opponents in many cases are not so considerate. The bible and quran both treat atheism as aberrant and its practitioners worthy of death. There are places in the United States where admitting to being an atheist is tantamount to social suicide if not truly taking one's life in one's hand. In Saudi Arabia and many other islamic countries, atheism equates to criminal apostasy, to which is attached a death sentence. In one if not more cases, one tweet on Twitter has caused a young man to be incarcerated and threatened with death.
Most egregiously, the most extreme exponents of these religions would forcibly push their baseless beliefs onto the government, in an attempt to create either a christian theocracy or an islamic caliphate on the US. Either result would be catastrophic for my homeland, and I would fight like hell to prevent it.
In short, these people Do NOT Play Well With Others. They emphatically don't like the differences atheists represent in our lack of subscription to their hogwash. They want the world THEIR way with a cherry on top, and they are willing to go to extreme lengths to get their way. And all of this finds its foundation in a bunch of unsubstantiated beliefs, which to me is the height of irrationality. I would vastly prefer to avoid conflict, and I am in no ways interested in starting a fight to maintain my own way of life. If they do want to start a fight, then I will have a single goal in mind:
Finishing said fight.
Well said, Loren. Let's face it: the atheist is a profound threat to beliefs and practices in which people have invested enormous amnounts of time and energy. To live freely and happily without any of this crap must be profoundly threatening. To insist on "good without God" -- well, that just doesn't compute.
It makes sense to treat religious people, all of them, as dangerous. Even in this great liberal land, I can see a further intensifying of religion if things get worse - and more wrath directed at unbelievers.
Proposed motto: "Atheists: we don't torture, massacre or persecute. How about you?"
Praise Allah! My community has come to my support in the beating of my daughter who shamed my family when she was raped. Praise Jesus! My Freewill Baptist community supported me in the breaking of my son's arm when he behaved like a limp wristed fag. My Klan community supported my burning of a cross on my black neighbor's lawn. My Catholic community supported my transmission of HIV to my wife when I refused to wear a condom
Groups of humans do good. Groups of humans do ill.
Science is a method for discerning objective information based on measurable evidence. Atheism is the absence of the god superstition. Neither of these represent a philosophy about life or proper behavior. Religion, on the other hand, is a belief system for governing human behavior based on faith without evidence. Your assertion that atheism has become a religion is absurd.
With regards to religion being "natural," so what? Rape, theft, and murder are also natural human behaviors. Morality is a structure invented by the human mind. Morality based on logic and external litmus' such as empathy or fairness will always be superior to morality based on, "That's how I was raised." After all, you may have been raised by Nazis, Taliban, or Head Hunters.
dude.. you sound like saints revenge aka joe black ha!
13x 'religion' was mentioned... ferfxsake .. atheist' as a label for the most part just means a geek or alt. lifestyler that knows their rights come the f on already pfffft religions will be religions...
This is a very provocative post. I have very little to add to the excellent comments that follow -- saved me the trouble of writing them.
There is a clear bright line between science and religion (which may not be all that evident to people who were brought up in an Orthodox tradition and jumped ship): Science = indeterminancy and doubt in the perpetual (but never complete) search for truth. Religion = certainty with no room for doubt. Religion has no principled mechanism for uncovering the truth, because it already knows the truth.
I've always had an issue with equating Atheism with science. I can understand why the two would be linked in people's minds. I view Atheism as embracing the rational and abandoning the irrational. For example, believing in any kind of magical creatures or people living in heaven wanting to grant you wishes when you pray to them is just irrational and stupid. Science too is rational so I guess that's where the link is made. Religion is popular with adults for the same reason imaginary friends are popular with children. Imaginary friends help the emotionally less mature handle tough realities like "one day they will die". From that perspective religion is natural.
I would agree that superstition is "natural" to the human animal. Likewise, rape, bullying, theft, over eating, sloth, and child molestation are also "natural" to the species. However, through the use of tools like empathy and logic, we have established social norms against such harmful, ignorant behaviors.
External, boilerplate morals, such as those established by religion, your government, your parents, or your culture represent implanted, lower order morals. ANY "moral" code could be implanted into a human psyche, including those developed by the Nazi Party, the KKK, or your local fundamentalist church. Higher order morality is determined by external litmuses such as empathy, fairness, and potential for harm to self or others.
The horror of religion is the inherent aversion to critical examination. The beauty of science is the insistence upon it. Science shifts position as evidence accumulates. Religion remains stagnant regardless of overwhelming contradictory evidence.
Atheism is not a code of ethics, merely an unwillingness to believe in absurdities lacking in supporting evidence.
It's part of human nature, belief in a deity or an afterlife is not an inherent part of human nature.
On the contrary. Human perception is terribly fallible. The human mind is a meaning generating, pattern seeking machine. In the absence of actual patterns, we connect dots that don't fit together. The mind has incredibly poor comprehension of large numbers and probabilities. Superstition fills the void by connecting unrelated dots and making false conclusions based on insanely sparse data.
Provocative, but not the atheism I practice. Skepticism/humanism is not arrogant about absolute truth; it claims only temporary truth.
Secrets of existence? Hell, I'm just trying to get through this life alive and without any more screwups! That's why I'm constantly in search of practical wisdom and philosophy wherever I can find it. And I can always find it without religious crap attached.
Religion is natural and unnatural. It served as explanantion for a great deal that we now have better explanations for. It was once natural to assume unseen gods; now, it's not. Sex is still natural.