Atheism is NOT a religion

The following is a point by point response to the blog article, Has Atheism Become a Religion? by David Lose on The Huffington Post.

Has Atheism Become a Religion?

Before you dismiss the question out of hand, consider these four inter-related bits of evidence:

Actually, I don't have to dismiss this "out of hand". I'll say, right there, you have already gotten it wrong by definition. But let's hear what else you have to say.

1) As recently reported in the New York Times, military personnel who identify themselves as "Atheists" have requested chaplains to tend to their spiritual needs. As the Times article notes, "Defense Department statistics show that about 9,400 of the nation's 1.4 million active-duty military personnel identify themselves as atheists or agnostics, making them a larger subpopulation than Jews, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists in the military." Having their own chaplains, the article explains, would give Atheists a sense of legitimacy and help validate their own system of values and beliefs.

This bullshit is easy to spot since he actually provides the link to the report he cites. Here's a telling paragraph from the report:

“Humanism fills the same role for atheists that Christianity does for Christians and Judaism does for Jews,” Mr. Torpy said in an interview. “It answers questions of ultimate concern; it directs our values.”

If you can't tell the distinction between atheism, Secular Humanism and religion, perhaps you could, I don't know, try looking up Wikipedia at least?

Atheism is simply the lack of the belief in god(s).

Secular Humanism is,

According to Wikipedia,
Secular Humanism, alternatively known as Humanism (often with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism), is a secular philosophy that espouses human reason, ethics, and justice, and the search for human fulfillment. It specifically rejects religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making.

Secular Humanism is a comprehensive life stance that focuses on the way human beings can lead happy and functional lives. Though it posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or God, it neither assumes humans to be inherently or innately good, nor presents humans as "above nature" or superior to it. Rather, the Humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of Secular Humanism is the strongly held belief that ideology — be it religious or political — must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this belief, an essential part of Secular Humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy.

While Secular Humanism is recognized functionally as a religion in the eyes of the law, I'd argue that it is not a religion in general. It specifically rejects faith and dogma. There is no claim about afterlife, deities or any supernatural entities. It's not religion, just a philosophy -- unless of course you wish to muddy the discussion by castrating the word "religion".

Even if most atheists are Secular Humanists, it doesn't make atheism a religion. Ever.

2) The U.S. Government reports that in 2008 those identifying themselves specifically as "Atheist" composed the 18th largest group of 43 possible categories of "self-described religious identification." The number of persons so identifying themselves almost doubled from seven years earlier. Admittedly, "Atheist" is one of the options listed under "no religion specified," but given that other options for respondents included checking "Agnostic" or "No Religion" or not answering the question at all, it appears that identifying oneself specifically as an Atheist, as opposed to simply "not religious," is growing in appeal....

 It's called accuracy. And accuracy counts.

Non-religious is a vague group because it encompasses both theists who are not in an organized religion and nontheists. The label, atheist, solves this problem and accurately represents our position on the question of god and religion.

... This points to the utility of a distinction made by Jonathan Lanman between "non-theists," those with no particular religious belief, and "strong atheists," those who view religion not only as irrelevant but as misguided and dangerous.

Well then, he's fucked too, feeding you misleading information.

Firstly, the term "strong atheist" refers to a subset of atheists who positively claim that there are no gods. In general, this is a minority and does not represent all atheists.

Secondly, the term "non-theists" includes ALL atheists.

Lastly, people who think that religion is misguided and dangerous are called "anti-religionists". And this category is entirely separate from the theism-atheism distinction. One can be either a theist or atheist and be against religions.

And yes, some atheists are anti-religious but please get your facts straight. This second "bit of evidence" does nothing for his case.

3) Similarly, it's worth noting the degree to which Atheists routinely, strategically, and often vociferously position what is often described as their "secular-humanist" views against religious traditions. Read or listen to any of the celebrity Atheists of the past decade like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris and you realize that they fashion many of their arguments not against some alternative economic, political, or philosophical position but against organized religion. Religious faith is clearly their primary opponent in the contest for the intellectual allegiance of the population, which makes it hard not to conclude that they offer their views and beliefs as a viable alternative to traditional religious systems.

Well, you got part of it right but the conclusion you seem to be drawing is all fucking wrong.

We are offering an alternative to religion: it's having NO religion. We are not selling you another religion; we're asking you to give it up. We're asking you to give up religious dogma for freethinking. We're asking you to give up religious supernatural nonsense for demonstrable reality. Again, unless you're trying to castrate the word "religion", you make no sense offering this "bit of evidence" for your case.

4) Finally -- and you probably knew this was coming -- consider all the comments made by self-identified Atheists on articles published in the Religion section of the Huffington Post. Seriously. Either Atheists have way more time on their hands than the rest of the population or they've got something to prove. This assertive, us-against-them tone (in this case, against established religion) is characteristic of new religions. (Think of the Christian gospels', especially Matthew and John, stance toward first-century Judaism, for example.) As Rabbi David Wolpe observed a few months ago, there is an astonishing garrulousness to the comments made by Atheists to posts about religion that suggest not simply a lack of interest in, or even disdain for, religion but a competitive anger directed against persons of traditional religious faith. (Obviously plenty of religious folk radiate the same garrulousness, but this post is about Atheists.)

What the fuck? Because we're aggressive against religion, we're a new religion? Bite me.

So the abolitionist were advocating a new form of slavery? And animal-rights activists are advocating a new form of animal abuse? People are against pedophiles because they want to engage in pedophilia too? Wow, the logic is impeccable! [/sarcasm]

Taken together, these four elements suggest that Atheists regularly demonstrate attributes -- desire for spiritual sustenance, the importance of self-identification, offering their worldview as an alternative to other religious systems, and an assertive if not competitive style of engagement with other religious points of view -- usually exhibited by religious folk of all persuasions.

While Atheism as a movement doesn't have the formal structure, celebrations, or creedal dogmas of organized religions, we might at least identify Atheism as it exists today as an increasingly vibrant faith tradition. Still, when speaking of Atheists, why use the f-word (for "faith," silly) rather than speak of a worldview or personal philosophy? Three reasons suggest themselves.

I've already pointed out why the four "bits of evidence" are bullcrap so let's not reiterate here.

But screw me, he's actually going to throw the old "you have faith like us" argument again.

1) It conveys that both a conventional religious worldview and atheistic worldview require a measure of faith. I don't mean this simply about the rather limited question of whether God exists, but rather about whether the material, physical dimension of life immediately apparent to our senses is all there is. The question can't be reduced, as Atheists regularly have, to observing that there are many beliefs -- in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus as well as God -- that can't be proved and must be taken on faith, but rather to ask whether there is a dimension of existence that supersedes or eludes our physical senses. Ultimately, any speech about God implies such a dimension that conversation about the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus do not.

We don't have faith the same way religious people do. In fact, we reject faith because we think that it is an invalid path to truth.

Let's take a look at the dictionary:

faith  (feɪθ) — n
1.     strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence
2.     a specific system of religious beliefs: the Jewish faith
3.     Christianity  trust in God and in his actions and promises
4.     a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion, esp when this is not based on reason
5.     complete confidence or trust in a person, remedy, etc
6.     any set of firmly held principles or beliefs
7.     allegiance or loyalty, as to a person or cause

Atheists, those who reach their atheism via skepticism, reject faith according to definitions 1 and 4. Definitions 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 don't apply to atheism (a single belief or position).

So what faith do we have again? We do not have faith -- we deliberately excised it because it is the surest way to keep you away from the truth.

2) Religious faith -- and I'd argue atheistic faith -- doesn't begin and end with the question of God or a spiritual dimension to life. One needs also to construct an interpretation of life (describing its purpose, goal, worth) and set of values by which to live that life. Ethics and values are not self-evident from religious creeds -- witness, for instance, the distinct values of the varieties of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam that run the gamut from liberal to fundamentalist. Similarly, there is no self-evident value system shared by Atheists and projecting such a system requires imagination, critical reflection and, yes, faith.

Again, see previous. Critical reflection and imagination should be quite sufficient.

Third, characterizing both organized religion and emergent Atheism as distinct faith traditions invites a measure of mutual regard and even respect that is sorely lacking in present discourse. Professing belief in God, as well as rejecting such belief, each requires equal measures of imagination and nerve. As it turns out, doubt is not the opposite of faith; certainty is. For this reason, we can hold out the hope that religious and non-religious believers alike may recognize in each other similar acts of courage and together reject the cowardice of fundamentalism, whether religious or secular. Being able to disagree respectfully is a small but significant step that believers and non-believers could take as they, together, contemplate admiring, understanding, and preserving this wondrous world we share.

No, neither certainty nor doubt is the opposite of faith -- Reason is; something that we embrace and the religious ignore or even despise.

 All in all, this article is just full of misunderstandings of what atheists are.