We've all heard this before: that atheism is a religion or a belief, sometimes with the aside that it takes more faith to be an atheist than to be a believer. Sure, the logic is warped (big surprise!), but that isn't my point here.

What I want to do with this post is gather the classic comebacks we have employed to pull believers' pants down about this whole atheism-as-belief BS. Such as - If Atheism is a religion then:

  • Bald is a hair color
  • Not collecting stamps is a hobby
  • Your birthday suit is clothing

You get the idea. So, what can we add to this list? The more, the merrier!

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Beyond the cleverness and pithy retorts, we can say this: the fundamental idea of religion isn't faith per se, but worship of an identified and personalized being - that, is the god-figure.  Faith that I'm a swell guy or that tomorrow I'll win the lottery - well, that's also a sort of faith, but it is not a religion, because there is no centralized object of worship.  Even a strong and abiding faith that sustains us in moments of emotional vulnerability isn't necessarily a religion.  For it to be a religion, there must be an object of worship, and a general and vague recourse to "the great unknown", or to "fate", is not worship. 

Your point is well-noted.  Theravada Buddhism, in large measure, in fact is NOT a religion, precisely because there is no personified object of worship.  Certainly, there is a "religious fervor" of devotion to some metaphysical cause, and we can argue whether this devotion is any less sincere (or less generously, any less fanatical!) than that in the Abrahamic religions.  But I would opine that this form of Buddhism is not a religion per se.

Likewise with the various "religions" where people congregate to chant, to follow rituals and so forth, but where there is no god-figure serving as receptacle of their fealty.

To be sure, the lack of an object of worship does not make the associated creed somehow worthy of endorsement or rational in its principles.  But it is precisely the worship of a god-figure that gives religion is religiousity - namely, the surrender of self-affirmation and self-respect in favor of some abstract being.

Another good example is Communism, as practiced in mid-20th century totalitarian countries.  Devotion to Communist principles, whatever those may be, was fanatical indeed.  The ritual, the grotesqueness and obsequiousness was not any less outrageous than in American evangelical Protestantism.  But however lovely the "great leader" may have been, he was not worshiped as a supernatural being.  And therefore it wasn't a religion.

If Atheism is a religion then flying squirrels need to file flight plans with the FAA.

lol!  If Atheism is a religion then: it is a non-prophet organization.


I like Alain de Botton's suggestion of a "religion for atheists" or Atheism 2.0 .

Atheism, as usually practiced, fails to meet social and emotional needs, while religions excel at seeming to do so.


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