The Religion of Calling Atheism a Religion

Time and again Christians, some quite close to me, have told me that atheism is a religion. As an atheist, I know this isn’t true because I know that the word atheist doesn’t describe what I believe, but what I don’t believe.

But I’ll never change anyone’s mind about that. What I’d like those same people to consider, then, is that if they do believe atheism is a religion, should it be protected by the same laws that protect other religions?

If so, consider this quote:

“No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots.” -George H. Bush

If you think that atheism is a religion, then that quote essentially has the same meaning as this one:

“No, I don’t know that jews should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots.”


  1. This is kind of an odd argument, because under US law atheism IS protected by the same laws that protect other religions.

    To break it down a bit more, “religion” consists of (among other things) religious creeds, and generally speaking, the government can’t punish you for holding or not holding particular religious creeds. Atheists are people who do not hold the creed “god exists.”

    Atheism isn’t a religion, it’s the absence of a common religious creed that god(s) exist.

  2. I remember when I first heard someone say “atheism is a religion.” At the time, it kind of made sense, but only when considering a very broad definition of “religion.”

    One possible definition of religion is this: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”

    Certain atheists could certainly be said to have “a cause,” especially those that blog about it constantly. :-) Some atheists, I’m sure, have principles. Many can be seen exhibiting ardor.

    Yes, I know I’m stretching the definition here. But I doubt that many people who say “atheism is a religion” are intending a legal definition of the word, but rather pointing out how many atheists are just as passionate about atheism as Christians are about Christianity, or Muslims about Islam.

    (While others aren’t so passionate.)

  3. Wow – this sentence kind of took my by surprise in Wil’s reply:

    “Some atheists, I’m sure, have principles.”

    Gosh, that’s a generous admission, Wil!

    Kind of reminds me of one evening, a few years back, when we were out for dinner at the home of friends (our kids were in some classes together.) They were (are) Catholic, and were aware that we do not attend church. We were discussing what movies and TV shows we would permit our respective kids to watch. We have always had pretty stringent standards, and at one point, Shelly blurted out, “Oh, you guys do have morals!”

    It was kind of eye-opening, seeing the illusion that some religious folks labor under – without the moderating influence of such “morality” as the Bible, they just naturally assume that society would fall apart.

    Having previously read some of your blog entries, and generally finding you to be more than reasonable, this wording kind of startled me, Wil.

    Just sayin’… :)

  4. Kev, if I may. As an atheist, I have a set of morals and ethics based on the most important thing: they work.

  5. Brian, this entry wasn’t intended as a discussion of laws, but to point out that bigotry against atheists is one of the last acceptable forms of bigotry.

  6. Well I’ll be… There are three more of us in this town.

    Here I was thinking I was all alone on a Monday night.

  7. It is just astounding how many people take atheism to be a form of religion when it’s very definition is a lack of religion. Better stated, the definition is “without god”. It is akin to cold being “without heat”. Without meddling evangelicals our natural state is to live without the fear of eternal damnation for the mixing of fabrics.

  8. “Gosh, that’s a generous admission, Wil!”

    Kev: I realize this is three years late, but my statement was meant as sarcasm. I apologize for not marking it as such.

    My comment as a whole was merely semantic. I hope (for future readers of this page) to clear up that misunderstanding. :-)

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