“Is Atheism A Religion Too?” My Succinct Answer.

A producer for a show I almost got to appear on sent me questions to feel out my positions on issues related to atheism. I am reposting my answers, edited, on the blog.

Agree of disagree: While atheism is the rejection of faith and religion, but in many ways itself has become a religion. It too has a set of beliefs. 

Atheism is not a religion any more than theism by itself amounts to a religion. Just as different theists are adherents of different religions, like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc., and just as some theists reject organized religion altogether, so there are atheists who participate in different religions (like Universalism/Unitarianism, Wicca, Buddhism, Judaism, and some forms of Humanism, etc.) And a great number of atheists have no religion and are outright hostile to religiosity. Finally, a great many atheists, regardless of their place on the spectrum of religiosity to irreligiosity are so disconnected from any formal community or coordination with other atheists that it is completely implausible to impute to them a shared religion with other atheists.

Even to the extent that a majority of atheists might agree on any beliefs, or to the extent to which an anti-supernaturalistic view of the world philosophically might entail certain other philosophical conclusions, none of this amounts to having faith commitments. People can have systems of knowledge and belief claims without those, by themselves, making for a religion. If their beliefs are grounded in attempts to proportion their believing to evidence and if their beliefs are the result of rational scrutiny rather than dogmatic commitments, then these are not “faith-based” or inherently religious. And if their beliefs and knowledge claims are not intertwined with rituals, community, identity, or numerous other aspects of religiosity, then they remain just a philosophy and do not amount to religiosity at all.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.


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