[repost time for new readers- if you want to know my general past discussion on these topics-originally November 11, 2004 @ 13:55]
Austin Cline wrote a well argued post in his “Treating Atheism Like A Religion “ article. He cited me from one of my posts. “The Impact of Religion on Society“, so -of course, I have to answer.
He said this:
|But who treats mere theism as if it alone could qualify as a religion?
Ilona writes on gay marriage:
I won’t acquiesce to the pendulum swing of “excise religion”, because
that is a ruse. You never excise religion, you only replace one religious influence for another…. even when you call it secular, humanism, or atheism, it is a system of thought that replaces the role of religion and becomes religion, de facto.
Ilona seems to be under the mistaken impression that it isn’t possible not to have a religion. Thus, anyone who eliminates religion and replaces it with something else necessarily has a religion. I think that Ilona might be operating from functional definition of religion (though no definition is given, a serious flaw in the argument) which means that any system of thought that fulfills certain “functions” automatically qualifies as a “religion” for that person.
From within the perspective of functional definitions, this makes a certain amount of sense â€” but it’s also one of the problems with functional definitions of religion. It reduces religion to a mere tool to achieve certain goals in life, something that most religious believers would deny. It may be true that religions do certain jobs, but that doesn’t mean that this is all they are.
Moreover, even if we were to grant the truth of some functional definition for which the above argument would be valid, it still wouldn’t justify categorizing atheism as a religion. After all, atheism isn’t even a system of thought in the first place. Anything that is going to be a “religion” has to be some sort of system and atheism just isn’t that.
My answer for Austin’s arguments…
I would say my stance is that it is not possible to be without a belief system of some sort. When something ventures into the definition of religion, that belief system has the outlining features of social requirements based on that belief system. I think our society has had difficulty arriving at a “functional definition of religion”. We usually stick to defining an organized religion that answers to time honored structure. Our definitions for diversity based ideals is necessarily loose, which works on the side of atheists who like to insist that they “don’t believe ” so they aren’t a religion, but not on the side of neo-pagans, some of whom would like their religious status recognized.
“It reduces religion to a mere tool to achieve certain goals in life, something that most religious believers would deny.”
Religious believers would usually deny it on the the basis of the details of their own religion as it is experienced by them. However, in a diversity tolerant context how else can it be officially defined? I would simply delete the modifier “mere”. Religion is a tool. Government is a tool. These things represent the order of the people responsible for them. In religious terms, it is said that what the altar represents is more than the altar, but the altar is built as a tool. It is a tangible part, not the entirety.
I could say that religion is the altar of the faith of the heart, and I don’t think I would be far wrong.
Modern atheism ( more particularly self-named adherents thereof) has the bad habit of interfering with the theists expression and tools of their faith…. all in the name of fairness. But these excisions of religion from the face of society are fair to whom?
“Anything that is going to be a “religion” has to be some sort of system and atheism just isn’t that”. But it is. Atheism is as broad a term as theism; but, as with theists, there are different roles that the adherents play, some are proactive, some are not. There are atheists who do as much to win converts to their beliefs as any devoutly evangelistic theist. It is well known that they, as a group, are instrumental in changing laws to impose their own beliefs about the lack of a God. Otherwise why work to have “In God We Trust” removed from government, when the particular God is not named and atheism is simply a lack of belief? It is the expression of their set of beliefs and the implicit rule that all of society should be answerable to the lowest common denominator, which is a lack of belief. The effect being that no one is to officially mention a God/god; sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
When a belief has a unified group who changes laws and exerts force within society, it is recognizably a system because it is working as one. It is a belief system, de facto.
“But who treats mere theism as if it alone could qualify as a religion?”
The atheists do, anytime they insist that mention of God be deleted from the public venue.
So no more disingenuous statements from the athiest’s camp, please.
“Thus, anyone who eliminates religion and replaces it with something else necessarily has a religion” .
No, not ‘anyone’, but those who act as a group to displace religion as part of their “belief system”. Those who work to undermine faith systems and win converts to their own ‘system’. And let’s face it, those who don’t are not the vocal activists. The activists are acting on behalf of something akin to religion in all but the name.
I believe that honest atheists recognize this. I think they should leave the theists their expressions in society… in the promotion of diversity if nothing else. Or else stop the denial. Because if they can’t tolerate the public expression of those who do believe in God/gods, then they have much more than their own lack of belief.
The fact is that theism was part and parcel of the foundational premises within our present form of government. Modern atheism has no sound base for why we should treat our citizens as having a basic set of rights. Until they come up with something more than “a majority group fo us say so”, they ought not seek to excise religious espression so assidously from the ” the official actions of an officer of the state.”