Do you believe that atheism is a set of religious beliefs or is a religion in any sense? If so, why? If not, why not?
Do you maybe have no opinion on the matter or just don’t care one way or the other?
I grew with an atheist mother and a father who practiced nothing, Maybe that’s why I’ve always found religion so interesting. I want to know how and why people believe, or more to the point, have faith. How do they do it? I am willing to believe that there are things that are “out there” that cannot be proven scientifically, yet do exist. But do I have faith in them? Do I think they have any practical effect on my life? No, I don’t. God would have to show up with a picture ID. That might convince me. Or not.
Atheism isn’t a set of religious beliefs, but it can be a set of beliefs that are deeply important to you.
I often thought my mother was an atheist because she felt that god wasn’t behaving like god. I’m pretty sure the Holocaust finished off whatever remaining beliefs she might have had before then. If ever I so much as mentioned a bible story or some vaguely theological idea or concept, she was on me like a tick on a dog. It wasn’t her god and it sure as hell wouldn’t be mine if she had anything to say about it. Mind you my brother got his Bar Mitzvah because it’s a hell of a party. I was offered a Bat Mitzvah and I believe my response was: “You’ve got to be kidding.”
No matter how many gifts I might have gotten, I’m not quite that hypocritical.
In a way, mother’s lack of beliefs was a kind of belief system, even those beliefs weren’t religious. As far as she was concerned, if there was a god, he was a failure and not worth worshipping. And anyway, why would a god need to be worshipped? Was he unable to stand on his own without worshippers?
I spent a lot of time studying religions. The psychology of religion, the philosophy of religion, the history of religion — about 30 credits worth over all. It was more credits than my real supposed major, except for the minor detail that religion wasn’t a degree offered by my school.
One of the things I learned is that there are two very different ways of defining religion. Since I was in school, they’ve changed the definitions again, but I think regardless, what I learned holds true.
The first school, represented by William James, says religion is a defined set of beliefs such as Christian, Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, Buddhist, and so on. There is more to it beyond this, but that’s the simplest definition.
The other version and I can’t believe I’ve forgotten his name, said that any set of beliefs that is most “propriate — closest to your self (def: Propriate: Of or relating to the self or proprium) — is your religion. So for a lot of people money would be their religion. When something is propriate (central) in your life, you may not think it’s a religion, but others might not agree. I don’t know how you feel about atheism. My mother felt strongly about it, but there were many other things more central to her than her lack of belief in god.
I was more inclined to the second point of view, but over the years, I have come to accept both views as valid. In context.
So is atheism a religion? It depends on how you feel about it. Is this a central issue in your life? If you drew a big circle and in the middle, a small circle representing you, the circle that was closest to you in the middle would be your religion. Whatever it might be. I don’t know, maybe art? Music? Literature? Would “atheism” be your closest circle?
You would know if you chose to think about it. If it you didn’t think it important enough to think about, that would suggest it isn’t a religion to you, just a set of beliefs you hold among many other beliefs.
You see? College does teach you stuff!