Everyone’s religious, if you redefine “religion” to include atheists

Atheists and agnostics – did you know that by refusing to believe fervently in specific religious beliefs you are inadvertently part of a religion?

Atheism is becoming the new religion, evangelicals warned

Carver Yu, President of the China Graduate School of Theology in Hong Kong, said that “confusing ideologies” were creating emptiness and alienation among people, while indifference to religion was “tightening its grip”.

But don’t think that “indifference to religion” will save you from being declared “religious”:

“Atheism is about to become the new religion,” he said. “Christians must preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ fearlessly because he is the way, the truth and the life. Only he can lead us away from the present state of godlessness.”

See, under this new innovative definition of “religion”, it doesn’t matter what you believe, because being a “religion” does not require you to have anything in common with people previously identifying as religious. It doesn’t require you to accept anything on faith. It doesn’t have any non-verifiable teachings you’re expected to believe in regardless of evidence. All you have to do is not accept any of the other religions. In other words, it is now definitionally not possible to be non-religious. “Religious” just means “alive”. We win!

And this simple definitional change has done more to increase the number of religious people in the world – 100%, if we’ve done the maths right – than any evangelism we’ve done in the past. Brilliant.

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35 responses to “Everyone’s religious, if you redefine “religion” to include atheists

  1. This is pretty old form of religious apology. These people grow up so indoctrinated into their worldview that they can’t understand how people can possibly think differently to them. Not religious? No, you must be, but just in a different way. Don’t worship god? Then you must be worshipping something else, probably yourself.

    What it shows is a lack of empathy. Hell, it’s practically denying that there’s a difference at all (like labelling faith in observable, repeatable science to be exactly the same as unobservable, unprovable religious faith).

    One thing that really gets me is this constant labelling of outspoken atheists as “militant” and “fundamentalist”. Yep, a fundamentalist militant muslim will wrap explosives around themselves in order to blow a lot of innocent people, many of them part of their own faith. A fundamentalist militant christian will hide in the bushes beside an abortion clinic and shoot the doctor as he or she comes out. Or they’ll protest that “God hates fags” at the funerals of American soldiers.

    But an atheist is fundamentalist and militant for writing a blog post criticising religion. Or for participating in a televised debate with a Christian. Or for filing a lawsuit to protect their right (in countries that have that right) to freedom of and from religion and separation of church and state. Or for posting a billboard exclaiming that “millions of [people] are good without God.”

    Yup, damn you fundamentalist atheists for opposing religious privilege!

  2. Yes, of course!
    Now the perverts can claim that a lack of perversion is the most perverted thing imaginable thereby making non-perverts the most perverted of the lot.

    Sheer fucking brilliance.

    Cheers

  3. Now the perverts can claim that a lack of perversion is the most perverted thing imaginable thereby making non-perverts the most perverted of the lot.

    Reminds me of a comment I read on Bolt’s blog once. This commenter, in all seriousness, claimed that “there’s nothing worse than a bigot against bigots”. It’s fine to be anti-gay, but not fine to be anti-homophobia. Welcome to the wacky world of religious double-think.

  4. You have to admire the chutzpah of that line of attack, if nothing else. It’s brilliant. Define the problem out of existence.

    Coming next … evangelical preachers denouncing Dawkins and Hitchens as ‘brainwashing cult leaders’.

  5. We’re a religion now? Great, that means we can have atheist chaplains and our own Special Religious Education classes in schools, right?

    Right?

  6. I’ve also noticed that it’s a common tactic of godbotherers to try and reduce atheists to the same level of credulity as themselves. Over at On Line Opinion it happens all the time. One clown in particular has been babbling alot lately about “fundamentalist secularists” – whatever that means!

  7. being a “religion” does not require you to have anything in common with people previously identifying as religious

    Oh I have tons in common with Xtians. We agree that a whole bunch of gods don’t exist. We just disagree on one.

  8. Im going to start The Church of Latter Day Atheists, so ill never have to pay my taxes again.

  9. Splatterbottom

    Is Buddhism A Religion?

  10. I’ve got some Jaques Maritain for you, if you want mind-bendingingly self-serving definitions. Of course if you go back enough centuries (not that many), the definition that you could be charged with atheism under, was simply to not believe in an anthropomorphic deity – ala Spinoza.

    The trick, it seems, is to keep a number of different definitions of atheism at hand, then equivocate as needed.

    Want to claim Spinoza was really religious all along to claim his legacy? Chuch out the antropomorphic criteria.

    Want to arrest someone in the Maldives on bogus charges? Add criticism of theocracy to the list of things that fit the bill.

    All quite convenient really. If you’re not an atheist and if you don’t value things like fairness and consistency.

  11. Can’t remember where I first saw this, but it always said it best for me: if atheism is a religion, then “off” is a TV channel.

    Maybe this “atheism is religion” thing stems from the need to criticize? If someone has a religion, you can criticize it on doctrinal grounds (“faith, not works!”, “faith and works!”) and play a smug game of “my religion is better than yours because of … *trivial doctrinal issue*”. If there’s no doctrine at all, what do you argue against? The secret doctrine that the atheist conspiracy must be concealing of course.

  12. Splatterbottom

    Uniquerhys: “if atheism is a religion, then “off” is a TV channel”

    And those watching the other channels aren’t really seeing anything at all?

    Atheism starts to acquire the trappings of a religion when its fervent votaries congregate to hear their wise elders preach their dogma to a them.

    Many there would be horrified at how similar it was to evangelical meetings I have covered, down to the bouffant-haired televangelist prototype in Atheist Alliance International president Stuart Bechman, who was master of ceremonies. Every jibe brought a burst of applause — all that was missing was the “hallelujahs”.

  13. “Atheism starts to acquire the trappings of a religion when its fervent votaries congregate to hear their wise elders preach their dogma to a them.”

    Yes, it is just terrible that people meet together in common cause about issues that concern them, and applaud those that speak about the issues. Much better for atheists to stay in the closest, isolated from each other, and hence powerless.

    When you define “religion” as “meeting where people applaud”, the word loses all meaning. Union meeting protesting job cuts? Religion. KKK meeting to plan intimidation against minorities? Religion. Bathurst 1000? Religion.

    Religion acquired the trappings of ordinary common cause meetings, not the other way around. Religion doesn’t own the concept.

  14. all that was missing was the “hallelujahs”

    That’s not nearly all of what was missing, obviously. Just off the top of my head, some of the other missing things include:

    1. beliefs in inherently insane things for which there is not a skerric of substantive evidence;
    2. performance of rituals;
    3. prayer;
    4. houses of worship; and
    5. tax concessions.

    No doubt there are many more differences as well as these.

  15. I like how the Age article SB links to is entitled “Atheists’ ridicule won’t win friends and influence people”, as though there is any reason atheists should give a flying toss what religious people like Barney Zwartz think of them.

    Here’s a tip, Barney: the ridiculous is going to receive ridicule, which it deserves.

  16. Splatterbottom

    UR: “Much better for atheists to stay in the closest, isolated from each other, and hence powerless.”

    Exactly what special “power” should atheists have? Do they need to huddle together to reinforce their belief in nothing.

  17. Exactly what special “power” should atheists have?

    How about the power to lobby the government not to give in to religious fundies on topics of human rights: e.g. the right to love who we want, the right to have children, the right not to have children, and the rights of women to do … anything.

    The religious sure as hell (so to speak) are in the ears of our politicians trying to limit the freedoms of the rest of us, so it’s only fair that we can organise and have our opinions heard as well.

  18. Come on SB, you’re on a hiding to nothing here. By your own admission, the faith you profess contains more than its fair share of irrational propositions. You are fond of pointing out the “leap of faith” one must take to believe something that can’t be justified on rational grounds.

    Atheism is different. It is founded on the idea that anything that can’t be justified on rational grounds is by definition not worth arguing about. So why are you arguing about it with atheists?

  19. Splatterbottom

    Dezineru, how is any of that specific to atheists. There are many theists who strongly believe that people should not seek to use the law to impose their religious beliefs.

    Bloods, their are few beliefs that are entirely rational, and most of those are mathematical. For the rest we are talking about degrees of rationality. The difference is the degree to which we delude ourselves that our beliefs are rational. You are obviously very deluded.

  20. “You are obviously very deluded.”

    Did I say ANY of my beliefs were rational? Did I say I was an atheist? Did I attack the irrationality of your beliefs? No to all questions. If anything I was supporting you, and just gently suggesting that there was no point in arguing with people whose root metaphors are not only incompatible with your own, but also probably unconscious.

  21. Bloods, their are few beliefs that are entirely rational, and most of those are mathematical. For the rest we are talking about degrees of rationality. The difference is the degree to which we delude ourselves that our beliefs are rational. You are obviously very deluded.

    While you are obviously a comedian, a troll, a supreme master of sophistry, or some combination of these.

  22. Splatterbottom

    Bloods, sorry I tarred you with the wrong brush.

    Buns, thank you for your kind words.

  23. Dezineru, how is any of that specific to atheists. There are many theists who strongly believe that people should not seek to use the law to impose their religious beliefs.

    There may very well be “many” theists who believe that, but that doesn’t stop the ones who don’t believe in the idea of separation of church and state from imposing their will on everybody else. Therefore the organisation of some atheists, to counter the “few” theists, for the benefit of the apathetic.

    It would be an interesting experiment to open the gay marriage proposal to public referenda as happens in the U.S. Would those “many theists” vote in favour, or against? A secret ballot tends to bring out people’s real intentions, so much so that I doubt that “many” constitutes anywhere near “most”.

  24. Splatterbottom

    Dezi, if you want to organise in favour of the separation of church and state, you should note that this isn’t an atheist issue. The theists of the American revolution enshrined in their constitution. Of course the state atheism of the communist era was as obnoxious as any theocratic state.

    Also, I am pretty sure that the majority of Australians would support gay marriage.

  25. The theists of the American revolution enshrined in their constitution.

    Do you want to have another crack at that sentence?

  26. Dezi, if you want to organise in favour of the separation of church and state, you should note that this isn’t an atheist issue.

    We can argue who owns and does not own the issue of religious encroachment on politics and public life until we turn blue in the face, but that doesn’t negate the fact that different subsections of society can organise to argue their positions. Why can’t atheists get together in groups to raise funds to support a lobby that represents their interests? Do you have issues with the numerous Christian lobbies and political parties that exist only to represent the interests of their groups?

    On that note, however, I don’t recall any outspoken Christians pushing for the abolition of special religious education classes in public schools. In fact, I read plenty of them coming out against the idea of offering ethics classes as an alternative for those children who don’t want to spend 30 minutes sitting idle in the library.

    These theists who like the idea of separation of church and state as much as us atheists seem somewhat quiet on the issue.

    Also, I am pretty sure that the majority of Australians would support gay marriage.

    I didn’t say “Australians”, I said “theists”, to which I mean anybody who adheres to religious doctrine (not just those who would call themselves, for example, Anglican, but not actually follow the doctrines of that religion). While the majority of Australians might class themselves as one religion or another, very few actually attend church.

    So yes, I have no doubt that most Aussies would support gay marriage (the latest figures suggest over 60% would) but then that wasn’t what I was interested in. I was interested in the vote of these theists that you insist exist who support separation of church and sate.

  27. No doubt there are many more differences as well as these.

    Buns – i think you may have left out the most important one: belief in a supernatural being.

    At the end of the day, as SB’s convoluted gibberish above proves, the aim of the religious apologist is one of semantics. By reducing religion to nothing but a ‘set of beliefs’ then any belief at all becomes the equivalent of religion.

    For example if I believe that my neighbor eats dinner most nights without knowing that to be true (with mathematical certainty) then I am religious, because I have expressed an article of faith. I may believe that I have come to this conclusion rationally, but apparently this is little more than self-delusion.

    It’s idiocy, nothing more, to buy into this line of thinking.

  28. Splatterbottom

    Buns, I ommitted “it”: ‘The theists of the American revolution enshrined it in their constitution.”‘

    Dezi, if about 70% of Australians are theists, then a substantial number must support gay marriage.

    Mondo: “At the end of the day, as SB’s convoluted gibberish above proves, the aim of the religious apologist is one of semantics. By reducing religion to nothing but a ‘set of beliefs’ then any belief at all becomes the equivalent of religion.”

    And this is somehow not gibberish??? In fact it bears no relation to what I said and it is not a logical argument in that the premise does not entail the conclusion. Sadly it is just another Mondo crock.

  29. LOL.

  30. “…for example, Anglican, but not actually follow the doctrines of that religion”

    Anglicanism has doctrines???

  31. Dezi, if about 70% of Australians are theists, then a substantial number must support gay marriage.

    Deist =/= theist. Just because somebody might tick the “Christian” box on the census, because that was what they were brought up calling themselves, even though they might never have gone to church, or just because they might have some inkling that there might be some form of impersonal deity out there, doesn’t make them a theist.

    Theism specifically alludes to considering a god (probably one of the gods written about in the Bible) to be a personal god who has a direct influence on human affairs. Deism refers to an impersonal god who probably doesn’t.

    Now, when a you say “theist” do you really mean “deist”? Or even just “somebody who ticks a box other than ‘no religion’ on the census”? If either of the above then I concede the point, otherwise we’ll have to agree to disagree on exactly how many Australians consider a deity to have any effect on their lives.

    Anglicanism has doctrines???

    I can’t tell if you’re being facetious, so see above.

  32. Splatterbottom

    Dezi, I was just going off the census data. If you have about 30% who are either no religion or chose not to answer, then that leaves about 70% who are not atheists. They point is that legalising gay marriage is far from atheist issue.

  33. “I can’t tell if you’re being facetious”

    Facetious? Moi?

  34. if you want to organise in favour of the separation of church and state, you should note that this isn’t an atheist issue

    No, it’s not. And it’s not a theist issue, either: it’s a secular issue.

  35. Splatterbottom

    Indeed RM. Many people with religious beliefs support the separation of church and state, and thus a secular state. Render unto Ceaser and all that.

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