So Christians must have how many religions?

I’m used to Christians making the claim that atheists have faith and religion. It’s a dumb statement that is easy to knock down since atheism makes no positive nor normative claims. But I recently saw a cartoon that made a very obvious but easily missed point: If atheism constitutes a religion as so many (often dishonest) Christians claim, then don’t Christians have several religions? One for their god, one by virtue of their denial of, say, Allah, one by their denial of Judaism, one by their non-atheism, one by their lack of belief in Thor, one by their….? Where does it end?

It’s almost as if, if we define everything as faith and religion, we’ve really defined nothing. Except maybe some political goals.

10 Responses

  1. Often atheists are making a positive claim – they are claiming that God most definitely does not exist. They stick to this claim despite the fact that absence of proof (whatever that is) is not proof of absence, and they also stubbornly stick to this mantra in the face of forms of evidence which millions of people worldwide do consider persuasive, but which atheists reject out of hand.
    So I would argue that many atheists act much like the mythical, so called ‘religious zealots’ which those self same atheists are constantly complaining about.

  2. Often atheists are making a positive claim – they are claiming that God most definitely does not exist.

    That is false and a caricature. You do not understand atheism.

  3. The burden of proof is on the claimant. If theists claim God exists, they have to prove it. As for “millions of people worldwide” believing something, a quick examination of history shows how often the masses have been wrong: a flat earth, dragons, unicorns, a geocentric universe, the talent of Keanu Reeves…need I go on?

  4. Cantabarrister, name some prominent atheists who make the claims you state they make. Show us how your caricature is not hollow.

  5. To be fair Bob, I’m sure there are some self avowed atheists who do make that assertion. I’m not aware of any “proper” atheists who do.

    That’s not the “no true scotsman” fallacy, simply those making such an assertion don’t fit the commonly accepted definition.

  6. I’ve run across the “atheism is religion” argument as well, using the definition that anything you favor and strongly support should count as “your religion.”

    Ergo, there are thousands of worshippers at the Temple of the Holy Green Bay Packers, and they deserve tax-exempt status and their own check box on census forms.

  7. Identifying the actual position of atheists on the existence of God is often a tricky matter. I have a number of friends who are passionate atheists, and while some merely state that they refuse to believe in something in the absence of what they would consider persuasive evidence, others do drift into a positive assertion that God does not exist.
    Similarly, while Richard Dawkins does state in his ‘God Delusion’ that he cannot be 100% sure that there is no God, his rhetoric throughout most of the rest of that book does drift towards a positive assertion that God does not exist.
    However, this is to some extent a diversion from the main point I was making, which is that atheists often ‘act’ like zealots; they exhibit passionate enthusiasm for their ideas, mirrored by an often passionate hostility towards organised religion; they publicly espouse their views in print and on the television; they are also often disrespectful towards those who think differently to themselves (not that I am claiming that anyone on this page would act in such a way!).
    As for the point I made about millions of people feeling they have sufficient evidence to believe in God, a point John Ring took issue with, I was touching here on the evidential point often raised by atheists.
    Atheists place great faith in science. Scientific discovery essentially relies on the observation of the physical world around us. Atheists say that because scientists cannot observe physical evidence of God in our physical world, he must not exist. Yet God is not observable within our physical universe because he created it and therefore exists outside of it. One cannot directly observe God by examining the physical universe, just as one cannot directly observe the architect of a house by examining the walls, floors and ceilings within that house.
    Our evidence for the existence of God can only come from the one thing within our physical universe which we can not simply observe as an outside party, but about which we have a far deeper and richer understanding – our own selves, mankind. And throughout history, countless millions of people have felt the touch of God. That is my evidence for the existence of God.
    Sorry for the long post – keeping posts to a reasonable length is always difficult when discussing such complicated matters. It is always much easier to discuss these things in a pub over a couple of pints of beer!

  8. The best place for any kind of philosophical discussion is in a pub, with many many pints. I doubt whether very many, atheist or otherwise, would argue against that.

  9. I would, but I live a lifestyle along the lines of a secular Mormon.

  10. You’re right, canta, that some atheists do make positive assertions. But that is not out of atheism. Atheism is 100% descriptive. Those who use the label certainly have normative beliefs, but they are formed independently of atheism.

    And I just witnessed a discussion about capitalism and socialism at a pub. It required more beer for me, in part because that allowed me to walk away.

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