New York Times Blog Asks: Can Atheism Replace Religion?

The New York Times “Room for Debate” blog is tackling the question “Is Atheism a Religion?” (More specifically: “Can atheism replace religion? Is it a religion?”)

Here’s a sampling of the responses:

Penn Jillette:

Religion is not morality. Theists ask me, “If there’s no god, what would stop me from raping and killing everyone I want to.” My answer is always: “I, myself, have raped and killed everyone I want to … and the number for both is zero.” Behaving morally because of a hope of reward or a fear of punishment is not morality. Morality is not bribery or threats. Religion is bribery and threats. Humans have morality. We don’t need religion.

Jason Torpy, president of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers:

It doesn’t matter whether atheism is a religion, and atheism doesn’t have to replace religion. What matters is that we as a society of many beliefs can welcome and embrace atheists as a newly visible part of the diversity in America.

Cord Jefferson, West Coast editor of Gawker:

Growing up, I was turned off by a great deal of the dogma I heard coming from religious institutions and their acolytes: a reverence for blind faith over evidence, puritanical sexual hang-ups, insistences in codified bigotry that vilified gay people and subjugated women. That being my experience, I should hope with all my heart that atheism never becomes a religion.

Phyllis Tickle, Christian author:

No, atheism is not a religion. Like a religion, it can offer community and common cause to its adherents. It can have a powerful and solid moral code and even, under cordial circumstances, may develop a body of oral and written material that is analogous to, or is a form of, wisdom literature. In all this, it resembles religion.

You can check out the other responses here and chime in with your own comments.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.