Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is Atheism a Religion?

The question of whether or not atheism constitutes a religion appeared in a discussion today. I responded with a comment I want to capture here.

Who is to state that religion must incorporate a supernatural deity? Religion is a belief system dependent on some form of "faith". The atheist places his trust or faith in himself in insisting that God does not exist. He then postulates on his supposed moral compass that is assumed on the basis of faith. There is no evidence of an atheist morality yet every atheist will claim a moral standard. By faith he accepts moral guidance. By faith he denies any other god but himself. Atheism is truly a religion of a particular faith, faith in oneself.

Perhaps I have taken it upon myself in an inappropriate manner to define “religion”. I have always been intrigued by atheist claims of a moral compass or guidance, that all humans have a sense of morality that is innate to our species. This is clearly an expression of faith. I would think that rational non-believers would prefer the agnostic approach than the hard and fast, committed atheist stance with its faith driven absolutism.


SLW said...

At least atheism takes a principled stand, agnosticism is just lazy. What do you think of Sam Harris' approach to morality?

A.M. Mallett said...

I personally do not believe that experiences shape morality, assuming I am condensing Harris' thoughts into a reasonable one liner. As for the contrast between atheism and agnosticism, I tend to view agnosticism as honest and atheism as a purposeful denial of one's own conscience. Then again, I do not generally dwell on these matters.