Atheism is a Religion, Because it Requires Faith and Belief

Atheism is “the belief that there is no God, or denial that God or gods exist.” (Webster’s New World, 3d Ed.). As soon as atheism does more than deny God (i.e., offers propositions about the nature of existence or creation) then it becomes a belief system, and therefore, a religion.

Unimaginable, since atheism is a religion too!

Unimaginable, since atheism is a religion too! Source: Wikimedia Commons

Beyond belief, further proof that atheism is a religion exists because atheism requires faith, which is defined as “unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.” (Ibid.).

Perhaps atheists would take issue with the “unquestioning” part, but unless the atheist is content to exist without answers, he must be content with believing in what lacks evidentiary basis.

Setting aside the question of God’s existence, a religion such as atheism (at least among certain “intellectual” adherents) attempts to explain fundamental questions of existence by direct appeal to science. “Intellectual” atheism posits that anything previously (superstitiously) regarded as supernatural is capable of explanation through scientific study.

In other words, if the atheist wishes to explain the miracle of creation, he does so through science. While the “Big Bang Theory” (e.g.) does not conflict with the notion of an Intelligent Creator, an atheist who adopts this theory must reject that there is anything supernatural going on; science must ultimately provide an entirely natural explanation.

The problem with this is that science has yet to offer an answer to the question of our origin or any other ultimate question. There are many theories, but no proofs for a Universe that began from nothing, and came about without God. Until science proves itself capable of answering ultimate questions, the atheist must believe that it will do so, or he is forced to admit that something else is going on.

Thus, the “intellectual atheist” must have faith that one day science will be capable of answering the ultimate questions. Whether the atheist chooses to admit it or not, faith is transferred (but not eliminated) from believing in a Creator, to believing in the existence of sound scientific explanation capable of attainment through human understanding.

In contrast, the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum states “…that religious truths which are by their nature accessible to human reason can be known by all men with ease, with solid certitude and with no trace of error, even in this present state of the human race.”

Because of God, the nature of the Universe is first a religious truth, and secondarily a scientific one, since science involves study and the testing of hypotheses. It is not dogmatically correct to say that science can provide all answers; pure science would counter that such a statement is pure hypothesis. 

What is reflected by the Council Fathers is that our individual intellectual capacity is not relevant to understanding our origin or answering ultimate questions. Rather, what is accessible to human reason concerning the nature of God is capable of being known by all people, with certitude. What’s implicit here is that this capability is furnished to us, and not inherent to our nature. As with our own salvation, God gifts us with understanding.

That means that an illiterate-rosary-bead-clutching-third-world-grandmother is just as capable of knowing God and His fundamental truths as is the Mensa member or ivy-league professor. “Intellectual” atheists find that this notion doesn’t sit very well. Atheism is, after all, rather elite and exclusive. If there are no atheists in foxholes, you find very few of them where the poor uneducated masses also roam.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Coincidentally, this morning I was sent this link regarding the Third Secret of Fatima, and then-Cardinal Ratzinger’s attempt to interpret it:

…..Today the prospect that the world might be reduced to ashes by a sea of fire no longer seems pure fantasy: man himself, with his inventions, has forged the flaming sword. The vision then shows the power which stands opposed to the force of destruction—the splendour of the Mother of God and, stemming from this in a certain way, the summons to penance. In this way, the importance of human freedom is underlined: the future is not in fact unchangeably set, and the image which the children saw is in no way a film preview of a future in which nothing can be changed….. God remains immeasurable, and is the light which surpasses every vision of ours. Human persons appear as in a mirror. We must always keep in mind the limits in the vision itself, which here are indicated visually. The future appears only “in a mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12)…..

The Pope Emeritus’ analysis calls to mind the problem with atheism generally. Man has forged the flaming sword and considers himself capable of wielding it, dangers be damned. There is claimed illumination, perhaps by the fire of the sword itself, but it is always limited by finite human capacity, demonstrably evident by the erroneous conclusion that what we have achieved — and can achieve — is due to our own collective merits, and not supplied to us by a loving Creator for a specific purpose. Consequently, humanity gives itself license to unmake what it cannot claim to have made.

Since no atheist can claim to have brought about his own existence, or created anything out of nothing, it becomes little more than irony that believers in God are considered by atheists to be the delusional ones. If we all “appear as in a mirror”, then atheists are the modern day equivalent of those souls chained in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave; though they see shapes in shadows for which there are names, there is little unfiltered inspiration, because “God remains immeasurable, and is the light which surpasses every vision of ours.”

The light of God is, in fact, blinding, which permits the atheist to honestly say that he does not see. But it is the atheist’s belief (premised upon negative religious conviction) that there is nothing there that presents the problem to his own salvation.

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12 thoughts on “Atheism is a Religion, Because it Requires Faith and Belief

  1. Pingback: Atheists are Wrong about the Burden of Proof | Quartermaster of the Barque

  2. Pingback: Atheism is a Religion, Because it Requires Faith and Belief | Christians Anonymous

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  4. While I agree completely with your thesis that atheism is a religion–a view of ultimate reality and meaning that supplies guidance for life–you make a remark in passing about the impossibility of proving negatives. This is NOT a self-evident axiom of thought. It is normally invoked by atheists in order to shirk their obligation to defend their view rationally. In debating with atheists, we should not try to operate on a false supposition. The statement, “No one can prove a negative” is self-referentially inconsistent because it is a negative that stands in need of proof. In fact, there is no distinction in logic between proving positive and negative statements. The kind of evidence needed to establish a negative varies with the kind of existence in question. Fermat’s Last Theorem has been proven to be true; it is a negative statement: “no three positive integers, a, b, and c can satisfy the equation a^n + b^n = c^n for any integer value of n greater than 2” (Wikipedia). Examples may be multiplied indefinitely.

  5. I say be careful with this form of rhetoric. You may get what you talk about by rendering the dividing line between a philosophy and a religion fuzzy and later null and voila! atheism becomes a religion in very practical ways: for one example by becoming eligible for corporate tax exemptions for religious organizations like Richard Dawkins website to obtain funds.

  6. I say be careful how you talk about atheism as a religion because ANY belief system is a religion. If we as religious people succeed in blurring the distinction between a religious belief system and a philosophical system with such rhetoric we are losing track of our common sense, and for example, the Richard Dawkins website can become a tax exempt entity and donations to it would become tax-exempt through our own misguided rhetoric. Why should we believe or argue that Richard Dawkins’ atheism stands on the same level as Thomas Aquinas’s belief system? A reilgion can have a philosophy. Ours even has an official one. Let atheists have the same protections as religions in addition to free speech? By using your rhetoric, that is what you are arguing for in the USA. Ever heard of the law of unintended consequences?

  7. Sorry for saying something twice. Delay somewhere in the system made me think I had fouled up in security so I took the chance to rewrite and they both became visible at the the same time, here in Thailand.

  8. Pingback: A Small Request….. | Quartermaster of the Barque

  9. Thank you for your post.

    The issue here is that, like many other posts that I have read and responded to, you have conveniently neglected the fact that most definitions like this one from Oxford, (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/atheism) use a disjunct to include atheism as also lacking belief in a god. Is it your assertion that having no belief is also faith? Empirically speaking, we are not capable of saying with certainty that god does not exist. Rather, the lack of evidence does not merit an affirmative belief either way. Of course I cannot speak for everyone, but for myself, there exists not a single reason, no shred of proof to confirm the existence of a supernatural creator so why should I be compelled to believe the claim? For example, if I were to claim that I could fly and shoot laser beams from my eyes would you be inclined to believe me based on my word alone? My guess is, you’d probably want to see it. Atheists, for the most part, are as incredulous about religion, as you not doubt would be with my claim.

    Your statement “Because of God, the nature of the Universe is first a religious truth, and secondarily a scientific one, since science involves study and the testing of hypotheses,” is a pretty loaded one. First and foremost, is appeals to circular reasoning. You start with the conclusion that God is the creator of all things, therefore religion has a monopoly on the origins of space and time, only to reinforce your conclusion which also serves as your premise. Secondly, the idea that science somehow comes second to religion is a curious one, given that it was science that gave you the tool to express your voice in the first place. The theories of gravity, the Big Bang, speed of light – religion did not give those things to us, in fact, religion did all it could to suppress them.

    It’s true, there is a lot that science is not able to answer, and it may never be able to answer all the question. I hope that’s true – that’s what makes science exciting and keeps scientists employed. Most atheists are content with not having all of the answers unlike religion which claims that all of the answers to the most fundamental questions can be found in one book. There are individual topical science textbooks that are longer than the three popular holy books. Believing something simply means that we have reason accept something as being true whereas faith requires “complete trust or confidence in something.” (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/faith) Atheism also lacks another requisite component to be considered a religion: a deity.

    Thanks for your post.

    • My assertion is that pure lack of belief isn’t truly atheism. But I guess every atheist gets to define it for himself, since there’s no “orthodox” version of it. Point is, total lack of belief is just intentional ignorance, because it requires the *choice* to abstain from seeking answers to remain intact. It’s intellectual laziness, and I guess you *can* be *that kind* of atheist, but most atheists I know actually believe stuff. They believe that there are answers outside of God, through scientific study, or other means.

      “Religion” does not suppress science. Repeating that tired canard doesn’t make it more true. The Catholic Church invented the scientific method. It has supported the arts and sciences for *millennia*. One of its bishops proposed a theory very similar to the Big Bang during the Middle Age (https://qmbarque.com/2014/08/05/medieval-bishop-was-the-father-of-the-big-bang-theory/). Or this (https://qmbarque.com/2014/03/20/more-fodder-to-heap-on-the-church-is-anti-science-crowd/). And perhaps you’ve heard of the Vatican Observatory, which recently hosted a symposium on extraterrestrial life. (https://qmbarque.com/2014/03/19/people-who-claim-the-church-is-anti-science/).

      Thanks for your comment. You pointed out an amendment to my post: atheism is a religion, because it requires faith and belief, AND it has a deity. The atheist’s deity is himself. He judges what is true, and recognizing that he cannot determine truth for others, he holds court in a very lonely Universe of One.

  10. Pingback: FFRF: When the Thing You’re After Doesn’t Exist | Quartermaster of the Barque

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