Why Are Atheists in the Alternative Spirituality/Occult Section?

I’ve written before about corporate filters on websites.

A fan of the Atheist Talk podcast explained to the host of that show that his company uses a filter called Blue Coat.

One particular category they filter is “Alternative Spirituality/Occult“:

Sites that promote and provide information on alternative spiritual and non-religious ideologies such as atheism, agnosticism, witchcraft, and Satanism. Occult practices, voodoo rituals or any other form of mysticism are represented here. Includes sites that endorse or offer methods, means of instruction, or other resources to affect or influence real events through the use of spells, incantations, curses and magic powers. This category includes sites that discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events.

WTF? Why are we lumped in with them?

This is their website. But I’m not sure who to contact…

(Thanks to Bjorn for the link!)

  • Twewi

    … or any other form of mysticism…

    Let’s think of some more things that fit that definition, shall we? Here’s one:

    An omnipotent deity impregnated a virgin so she would give birth to himself and he could be killed to absolve people’s sins.

    Sounds pretty mystical to me.

  • lurker111

    Their “General Inquiry” e-mail is given as:

    usinfo@bluecoat.com

    Don’t know if this helps.

  • Brian C Posey

    I found a page on their site where one can check a sites category. Sites can also be submitted for review if one feels they are improperly categorized.

    http://www1.k9webprotection.com/support/check-site-rating.php

    Except for the generic “blogs/newsgroups” I wasn’t sure which of their categories I would consider this site. So, I didn’t submit the form myself.

    I think most organizations would lump atheism in a religion category. Irony aside, it seems to make some sense.

  • Brian C Posey

    I also found some PDFs explaining their new categorization standards as of July 29 2009. This is also a more broad based site review form.

    http://sitereview.bluecoat.com/sitereview.jsp

    They are changing the category to “Alternative Spirituality/Belief”:

    Sites that promote and provide information on alternative spiritual and non-religious beliefs such as atheism, agnosticism, witchcraft, and Satanism.

    I like “beliefs” better than “ideologies” — sounds less dogmatic.

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    This includes sites that endorse
    or offer methods, means of instruction,
    or other resources to affect or influence
    real events through the use of spells,
    incantations, curses and magic powers.

    So clients can block access to Christan and “prayer” sites if they choose?

  • http://www.skepacabra.wordpress.com Skepacabra

    Even though atheism isn’t a religion, I’m glad that atheist books are in the religious section where they can be discovered by believers. Though I’d prefer they titled the section “Religious Criticism” rather than “Atheism.”

    Likewise, I’d love it if skeptical books like “The Demon-Haunted World” and “Flim Flam” were found in the Occult/Spirituality section where believers of pseudoscience can find them.

  • http://118min.blogspot.com Todd

    As a Christian I would agree that Atheism should not be lumped in with Witchcraft or Mysticism. The bookstore book rack has it with Philosophy, but probably a different story with the Magazine section;

    But hey, Christians face the same frustration, we see Mormons labeled as a Christian blog, when we do not consider them Christian, and for that matter, Catholicism as Christian. We had to hear Mitt Romney suggest all is normal during his campaign;

    And even in my Calvnistic circles, some suggest that Arminians are saved, when the Puritan John Owen called them idolaters, so the battle of false associations affects many groups, not just atheists. But I am not saying that to minimize the frustration.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Well atheism is certainly an alternative to Christianity. Agnosticism isn’t though, that’s just wrong. An agnostic does not express knowledge on the question of gods. You can have Christian agnostics as well as agnostic atheists. Also Satanism is a branch of Christianity. Satanists believe in God, they just think he’s a shit and Satan offers an opportunity to combat him.

    This demonstrates woeful ignorance on their part. Buddhism would fit this category.

  • http://wanderingink.net Kris Bradburn

    I’m more concerned that agnosticism is included in that category. Not even the stance that “I’m uncertain” or “I don’t think we can know” is acceptable?

    Also: “This category includes sites that discuss or deal with paranormal or unexplained events.” Unexplained events, seriously? That’s just… I’m not even sure what to say. They must be ridiculously pious.

  • Nomadz

    Oh ?

    Wrong website then I guess. I came here to worship Satan and sacrifice babies to regenerate my astral body. And I end up with a bunch of people who just use reasonnable scientific ideas.

    My bad.

  • ethanol

    Likewise, I’d love it if skeptical books like “The Demon-Haunted World” and “Flim Flam” were found in the Occult/Spirituality section where believers of pseudoscience can find them

    I have been known on occasion to transplant “A Demon Haunted World” into the astrology section of my local borders. Doubtful that it does any good but i can always hope.

  • theadividual

    The best books by atheists can be found in the philosophy section. In the past, when looking for Dawkins’ book for instance, I’ve been peeved at having to go anywhere near the god or new age sections and lodged a formal complaint with the store. I was told that there aren’t enough titles yet to warrant the book stores creating an atheist section. As more titles are published and more people complain, book stores will have to make new section for atheistic titles.

  • bernerbits

    we do not consider … Catholicism as Christian.

    I grew up in a VERY conservative Christian atmosphere and we still considered Catholicism marginally valid, as in “it’s difficult but possible to be Catholic and saved”. Every Christian uses their own umbrella to define what a “Christian” actually is, and I don’t really care one way or another how you define Christian as long as you allow me the same flexibility.

    However, lumping together Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, Mormon, Jehovah’s, etc. under the “Christian” label simply uses a very large umbrella because they’re all Jesus-worshiping religions/sects/whatever in some sense.

    Lumping together Satanism, Wicca, magick, Voodoo, belief in ghosts and UFOs, Atheism and Agnosticism, by contrast, is a category mistake, because there is no common thread among them.

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com/ Robert Madewell

    My atheist blog is in the Society/Lifestyle section.

    Pharyngula is in the Reference section.

    I think they just don’t know where to put us.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    My religiouscomics.net blog is categorized under religion.

    There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason as to how things are categorized. There must be a simple key-word auto-categorizer. Then they rely on humans complaining that sites are improperly categorized and change them (or not).

  • Tom

    Well atheism is certainly an alternative to Christianity.

    NO it’s NOT. THAT is the problem right there. It is an alternative to THEISM. When people get mad at Christianity, sometimes they become atheist as an “alternative,” along with the satanists and wiccans. It isn’t really a very rational choice for these people, but an emotional one. They’re mad. So I am totally not surprised, nor that peeved that atheism is lumped in with those other belief systems. I am mad at enough other atheists about their reasons for being atheist that I think they deserve being lumped in that category.

  • TXatheist

    It depends on the guy/gal who made up the category. Some of our local bookstores put Behe’s books under science when they really go under christianity/religion.

  • http://www.mutedsound.com John Perkins

    I’m more concerned that this person’s work is blocking anything to do with alternatives to traditional theism than where they categorize atheism. Why are they blocking witchcraft or satanist websites in the first place? Is Fox News blocked for being a religious website? Are all religious sites blocked, or just non-Christian sites?

  • Alexis

    Dearie me Tom…most atheists that I know are not mad at xtianity. They have simply found so many fallacies in it that they were able to reject it as a valid view point. Then looking further at theism in general were able to do the same. The only mad comes when we are misrepresented and vilified by religionists, and when religionists use their creeds to justify public policies that are dangerous and/or misleading.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Tom, I’m afraid I lump Christianity in with all the other religions so, for me, atheism is an alternative to the group that contains Christianity. Christians believe in one or three gods, Muslims believe in one god, Hindus believe on one or loads of gods. I don’t believe in any. My view is therefore an alternative view to theirs. Perhaps I should be more careful with my language.

    I don’t know any atheists who are angry at any gods though. Nor do I know any that reserve their opposition merely to the Christian viewpoint. Although many have good reasons to feel negatively about Christianity.

  • cathy

    This is clearly religious discrimination. You’re allowed to look at Christian, Hindu, Muslim, and Jewish sites,but if you want to look at your religious site as a wiccan, pagan, or satanist you’re banned. Atheists banned too.

  • Tom

    Dearie me Tom…most atheists that I know are not mad at xtianity. They have simply found so many fallacies in it that they were able to reject it as a valid view point. Then looking further at theism in general were able to do the same. The only mad comes when we are misrepresented and vilified by religionists, and when religionists use their creeds to justify public policies that are dangerous and/or misleading.

    I hope you’re not assuming I’m Christian or a theist here. I’m an atheist

    …most atheists that I know…

    That’s another problem right there. Atheists YOU know. I think there are a whole lot of atheists out there you don’t know who make atheism into something very occult-ritualistic-lifestyle-ish. I don’t know how to say it right, but they do not share the stipulation of freethought and skepticism you seem to assume it takes for someone to be an atheist.

    This is dangerous, I’m simply pointing it out. Unintentional as it may be, glorifying atheism is a mistake.

  • Delphine

    Not only is it weird Atheism’s listed, witchcraft and Satanism shouldn’t be listed either.

    There is at least one Satanist serving in the British Army, and I think these self proclaimed Satanists aren’t exactly the “evil” kind.

    Now… if they were to list Scientology, I’d be all for it.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    That’s another problem right there. Atheists YOU know.

    Well there are an awful lot of unbelievers in the world and I’m never going to know all of them so you’ll forgive me for judging a group on the members that I’ve had contact with.

    I think there are a whole lot of atheists out there you don’t know who make atheism into something very occult-ritualistic-lifestyle-ish.

    OK, please stop there. First atheism isn’t much of anything in itself. Atheism is NOT a belief in gods. The only reason that Dawkins, Harris, Mehta, etc have anyone buying their books is because the position of unbelief is viewed as unusual and people seek to understand it. One day, maybe in a generation or two, when theistic belief is considered abnormal by the majority they’ll look back at these books as a curious anachronism.

    I mean people actually believe in gods and other people write about how they don’t and how unbelief is a good thing. How very curious for people to behave like that.

    they do not share the stipulation of freethought and skepticism you seem to assume it takes for someone to be an atheist.

    Not at all, skepticism and freethought are simply correlated well with atheists. Perhaps atheists are more likely to be freethinkers or perhaps freethinkers are more likely to tend to atheism. There will always be exception of course. Some people raised without faith will certainly be gullible and buy into spirituality or Wicca but at least they won’t also have the beliefs in gods to go with it.

  • Neon Genesis

    Also Satanism is a branch of Christianity. Satanists believe in God, they just think he’s a shit and Satan offers an opportunity to combat him.

    I though Satanists were technically atheists and only saw Satan in a symbolic sense representing independence or something like that?


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