Atheism is not a religion, it is the absence of religion; as light is the absence of dark.
Being without faith is not a faith unto itself and it does not require any faith to not have faith. It takes faith to accept a claim for a deity, and to accept the so called sacred texts that detail the deity’s works and interactions with the world and to accept the leadership of a leader or elite class of people who facilitate between the deity or deities and the masses – it is faith, not evidence, logic or reason, that a person relies on to accept that the deity is real and to give authority to the elite class of intermediaries to explain god to the masses and to bring the masses to god’s fold.
Faith is belief, absent of evidence, logic and reason as well as reality.
In earlier times, people looked to religion to explain why crops failed, why natural disasters happened, how things came to be and why they unfold as they do. But as humans began living in larger and larger communities and we altered our environment, rechanneled rivers, built massive public works, building complexes, cities with running water, shipping and trade routes to other lands – when we bumped up culturally against each other and exchanged knowledge and technologies as well as the inevitable cultural exchanges, eventually, the understanding that science and technology is developed on the same principals and that science observations of the natural world, end up being the same everywhere, but what varies is deities, in some places and some people, began to piece together that deities are the invention of humans, a cultural product that creates group identity, and the manner of religious worship has no bearing on crop failures, the passing of comets, volcanoes and hurricanes and other natural phenomena and disasters.
Religion serves a social function of codifying and enforcing behavioral norms by including those who conform and expelling those who do not. Religion’s authority for determining behavioral norms is apparently divine aka a deity or deities who reward or punish individuals based on their conformity to the deity’s preferred behaviors or serves a supernatural purpose, such as karma and the form of your reincarnation, it impacts the journey you take to achieve nirvana or oblivion. But in fact, it the authority of a religion is down to the individual and number of followers who are willing to grant the religion authority over them – which is why it is extremely important to keep religion and secular state authorities entirely separate.
The state has legal authority over its citizens, because we have been born to or chosen to be citizens of our respective countries – and part of the social contract is that state/secular law treats all members equally under the law and grants equal access to the law. Where this has fallen short of the mark, is when religious and social attitudes corrupts the secular law and creates a variety of classes, such as only white, heterosexual and male landowners get to vote and everyone else is lesser than. Then women get to vote and slavery is abolished. Ethnic minorities are permitted to vote and it’s no longer legal to discriminate against gays/lesbians in basic matters such as employment and houses – the law was already in place for everyone to vote, to be free from discrimination, equal under the law, including being able to marry, it was the religious/social bias of the language the laws are expressed in that prevented it – gender neutral language is all that is need for laws to be barrier free to all people of a nation.
The reason that religion has not been made wholly obsolete is the same reason, we do not all become neutral towards the diversity of humans (aka socially liberally enlightened) at the same time, there will always be a curve with some leading the way and some lagging behind, with most in the middle, muddling through, letting go of a bias here and a bias there. Part of the reluctance is that belonging to a religion – and all religions claim to be the one true path, means to belong to an elite and special group – which, when society says that all are equal, it undermines the special status of the group and diminishes the individual members. This is the motivation for insisting that marriage is for straight people, silly faggots.
Gay marriage does not in law or fact diminish straight marriage, but it does diminish and erode away the perception of religious people that marriage is a state of grace between them, their spouse and their god. It’s because to them, marriage is between a man, a woman and god – and gays do not include god (to the straight believer) nor opposite genders. Theirs is an emotional and not at all an intellectual or logical assertion, and this is why those that oppose a same gender couple from being married has no opposition to polygamy, or an infertile straight couple, or an atheist straight couple – but often cannot comprehend a straight couple that is childless by choice.
Religious believers do not believe that atheists are really without belief, so are tolerant towards civil marriage, but less so of interracial or inter-faith marriages. That their theory of marriage is so contradictory further demonstrates the emotional basis of their position, that there is no logic or rationality underlying their marriage beliefs.
But, the matter returns to the same point – marriage is for any member of the society, as marriage is regulated by secular law; marriage is contract law and confers government benefits and responsibilities and is a matter of public interest and is a social stabilizer. Marriage is also a religious ceremony and meaningful within religious communities, however, this is a private aspect of marriage that does not impact secular marriage. Lesser legal status, such as civil unions, do not confer the kinship and other legal responsibilities and benefits that marriage does, and it also means that the law is not treating everyone equally, nor is equal access to the laws being granted.
Americans have positioned marriage as a zero-sum game, and it needn’t be – there is no limit to how many people can be married and there are a myriad of ways that people can access marriage – so the Canadian solution of gays being able to marry but the churches who so not wish to perform the ceremonies, means that the unwilling churches are protected from lawsuits, the churches who are willing to perform ceremonies may do so, and gays can access the secular marriage services as can any non-religious Canadians. The only thing that is preventing the equality that the American constitution and bill of rights purports to guarantee to all citizens, is religious bias that has no place being asserted in or over the secular law.
Religion does confer benefits to a group by providing a framework for a sense of community, interconnectedness and a sense of individual purpose and inclusion in something bigger than the sum of the parts; something that people also get from the larger society when they are able to economically participate, gain group affiliation from their place of employment, hobby groups and subcultures (i.e. science fiction fandom) – what makes people in secular democracies in wealth nations less religious than their counterparts in poorer nations is the wealth and leisure time to become members of non-religious groups – the need to belong and connection to a greater than self is met then by inclusion in sub-cultures and secular activities – religious sentiment is reduced by accumulation of wealth and the advent of leisure time.
The drawbacks of religion, is that there are also alleged sacred texts which are filtered and interpreted for the masses by an elite hierarchy, and this status draws wealth, power and influence and inevitably results in abuses of vulnerable members of the religion (usually children), vulnerable members of the mainstream community (extremist fringe groups) and given time, the acquisition and maintaining wealth, power and influence become the focus of the hierarchy rather than any incidental goodness or benefits that the religion may have originally offered. This influence takes the form of a religion insinuating and asserting its narrow beliefs into secular government policy, as the recent funding cuts to Planned Parenthood across the USA demonstrates or the historic exclusion from equality that gays, ethnic minorities, differently abled and women have experienced in various decades.
Which, brings us back to atheism not being a religion – with the freedom to chose a religion, comes the freedom to not chose a religion – and with freed of religion, there is also the lesser understood, freedom from religion. In order to ensure non-believers are treated equally under the law and protected from discrimination by religious believers, a legal fiction is needed and the fiction is to treat atheism as a religion, under the law.
The legal fiction needed to uphold non-discrimination does not reflect any reality of atheism.
Religion is a framework to explain the natural world as being caused and influenced by a supernatural being or supernatural plane of existence. Religions have sacred texts to explain the natural and supernatural world interactions, an elite hierarchy of people who act as interpreters of the supernatural world and who act as advocates for the masses to intercede or request favours of the supernatural world, and the masses have to abide by a religious code of ethics and morals, and perform worship, which entails observances of ritual, meetings and prayers, special clothing – usually special head coverings and body coverings denoting modesty and often rigid gender roles.
Atheism shares none of these characteristics. Atheism is the rejection of all of these activities and behaviours, with no replacement or alternative. Atheism is not a framework, it is merely a non-acceptance of the religious framework and everything that is dependent on it.
That atheists tend to be more educated, less criminal and within the range of charitable and happy natures as believers, demonstrates that one does not need to be religious to be good, kind or happy. Atheists are capable of making moral and social determinations for their behavioral conduct, and have established a group validation through work or hobbies or subcultures. With the advent of the internet, atheists are beginning to form atheist communities. Like any group where individuals have historically been isolated, the internet is the great social leveler – allowing people of like mindedness to connect and form groups across the globe in a way that has never before been possible.
Much like when a person first comes out as a lesbian or gay man, they tend towards the more extreme exuberance of being out and demonstrate their differences by dramatic behaviours, clothes and so forth, so too have atheists, no longer individuals or small local groups, but a wave, a virtual legion, so are the so called “New Atheists” appearing as if from out of nowhere, loud, proud and not ashamed to speak forcefully and actively against the dominant religious mainstream.
And the religious mainstream, is apparently unable to learn from the past, and they repeat the same pattern when other minority groups became organized, vocal and demanding equality – the mainstream religions opposed the end of slavery, women and minorities voting, blacks, women and gays serving in the military, interracial, interfaith and same gender marriage – social process is the process by which tradition, usually religious tradition, is pushed out of the mainstream and to the fringes; so that all members of a society can participate and benefit equally.
To be for social process is to be against tradition – some religions have demonstrated adaptive capacity and are inclusive of women and gays being included in the elite hierarchy of church leadership, are willing to perform interracial marriages, or have watered down the religious core to become a big tent open arms inclusive, a feel good religion lite, where the sacred texts are viewed as stories, not histories, as fables and cautionary tales, to be viewed as metaphor, but really, only the nicer stories, new testament only or better yet, all religions are just different practice for the same deity. Where is the sense of community, rather than the religion, that is the purpose of the gathering, which then begs the question of why gather around a vague all gods are equal and anyone can be a member so membership isn’t special and no one is better or worse than any other one or else.
These seem more a place where people are becoming unchurched, and finding community and group inclusion/validation through other means – work, hobbies, family – people who go out of habit or just on holidays, but do not make daily observances, who are good on their own merits and reject much of what the churches stand for as archaic or impractical in the modern world
Science, which is the study of nature, explains to us why crops fail, why and where weather disasters will occur, so that we can prepare for and mitigate disasters – religion doesn’t. Science has demonstrated that our solar system isn’t the only one with planets and has brought us images of other galaxies as well as allowed us to build technology to make our lives easier, longer and more comfortable.
If you look at any secular nation vs. a theocratic one, the difference in where the poverty line falls and the quality of life indicators and average life span, the difference is startling.
Religion is a social mechanism that keeps the poor, poor and elevates a small elite hierarchy to having all the wealth and power – it is telling to me that Osama Bin Laden, one of the world’s wealthiest men and a religious fanatic, did not use his wealth to create equality, he did not use his wealth and influence to redistribute that wealth throughout the ranks of Islamic society to raise his people out of poverty, instead, he used his influence and wealth to attack the USA and symbolically the world, as all industrial nations had corporations and people in the World Trade Centre – 9/11 was after all, an attack on world trade – to attack those nations who did not require their populations to remain impoverished and under the heel of the wealthy elite religious ruling class.
Religion is spread by the word or the sword and 9/11 was a major sword thrust, Crusade 2.0, and after blowing his influence and failing to make the world tremble before his religious might, the world instead rallied, and over the last decade, and especially Muslim Spring – it is the Islamic chokehold that is being released from the throat of the masses – and they are demanding participation in their governments and society in a way that theocracies and dictatorships do not allow.
Which is why it is more critical than ever that America not fall to Christian fanaticism and steps up once again to the promise of the bold social experiment that the US was founded to do – each person, equal under the law, with self evident rights and freedom for all.
We are one planet, made of many nations, and attempting to assert any of the conflicting supernatural frameworks, which are unsound, discriminatory, elitist and at the expense of the many to benefit the few; can only lead to more division, violence, inequality and suffering; religion truly is the intellectual parasite that infects the host and destroys everything in opposition to its spread will surely lead to our collective doom, but not in the armageddon/left behind same get saved while the rest suffer, we will all suffer and die – but this one planet that can sustain us all, if we work together, across our differences and with respect for diversity, and that will require a naturalist framework to understand the world and our place, our impact, our sustainability and our future continued existence; if we chose to coexist with each other, and with the balance of everything in nature in balance.