Is Atheism a Religion?

Is atheism simply a lack of belief in God as some say or an active belief that there is no God?  Is there a criteria for determining what a religion is or is not?

 “Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God.  It proposes positive disbelief rather than a mere suspension of belief.”

–          Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy

 7 Criteria for detecting a religion: by Ninian Smart

  1. Narrative
  2. Experiential
  3. Social
  4. Ethical
  5. Doctrinal
  6. Ritual
  7. Material

 Does Atheism Fulfil These 7 Criteria?

  1. Narrative
    1. Stories about the beginning of the universe. 
    2. E.g. Creation versus Evolution
    3. “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” – Richard Dawkins
  2. Experiential
    1. Experiences of the prophets (e.g. Moses versus Darwin)
    2. Experiences of the disciples (e.g. Paul versus Karl Marx)
  3. Social
    1. Scientists financially rewarded for evolutionary research.
    2. Contemporary Atheism fuelled largely by authors promoting evolution as science and “fact”.
    3. God Delusion preface: “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”
    4. Dawkins hopes his book converts people to his worldview.
    5. This is missionary zeal.
  4. Ethical
    1. Dr William Provine, (prof. Cornell University), Origins Research: “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear.  There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind.  There is no life after death.  When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead.  That’s the end for me.  There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and n ofree will for humans, either.”
    2. PZ Myers, University of Minnesota-Morris professor, Morality Doesn’t Equal God, “First, there is no moral law: the universe is a nasty, heartless place where most things wouldn’t mind killing you if you let them.  No one is compelled to be nice; you or anyone could go on a murder spree, and all that is stopping you if your self-interest.”
    3. Richard Dawkins, River out of Eden, “We live in a universe that has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
    4. Result: school shootings, rape as biological necessity & Nazis.
    5. Richard Dawkins, The Science Show, “I’m a passionate Darwinian when it comes to science, when it comes to explaining the world, but I’m a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics.”
  5. Doctrinal
    1. Contemporary atheism gained popularity in 18th and 19th century.  After the Enlightenment.
    2. In 1933 prominent atheist philosophers wrote a set of beliefs and goals for 20th century society.  Created Secular Humanism.
    3. Many atheists adhere to Humanist Manifesto even if unaware of specifics.
    4. Doctrines within Humanist Manifesto, are the opposite of what we’d expect from evolutionary narrative.
    5. Humanism assumes humans are good, an assumption, not observation.
  6. Ritual
    1. Darwin Day, February 12th.
    2. Atheist ‘mega-churches’ take root across US, world, “It looked like a typical Sunday morning at any mega-church.  Several hundred people including families with small children, packed in for more than an hour of rousing music, an inspirational talk and some quiet reflection.  The only thing missing was God.”
  7. Material
    1. Alain de Botton reveals plans for ‘temple to atheism’, “Each centimetre of the tapering tower’s interior has been designed to represent a million years and a narrow band of gold will illustrate the relatively tiny amount of time humans have walked the planet.  The exterior would be inscribed with a binary code denoting the human genome sequence.”
    2. Atheists unveil monument by Ten Commandments, “A group of atheists unveiled a monument to their non-belief in God on Saturday to sit alongside a granite slab that lists the Ten Commandments in front of the Bradford County courthouse.”
    3. “When you look at this monument, the first thing you will notice is that it has a function.  Atheists are about the real and the physical, so we selected to place this monument in the form of a bench,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists.
    4. Two ways to view Nature…

                                                               i.      Natural resources are here to be exploited because of “survival of the fittest” and humans are obviously the fittest species.

                                                             ii.      We should respect all of nature, particularly living things because to kill them is tantamount to murdering a cousin.  (This second view essentially holds that all life is ‘sacred’.)


Atheists claim their beliefs are not a religion, which allows them to propagate their ideas where religion is banned.

  • This should not be allowed to happen.


Atheism is a creed…


Michael Ruse

  • How evolution became a religion: creationists correct?, National Post, May 13, 2000.
  • “Evolution is promoted by its practitioners as more than mere science.  Evolution is promulgated as an ideology, a secular religion – a full-fledged alternative to Christianity, with meaning and morality.”
  • “I am an ardent evolutionist and an ex-Christian, but I must admit that in this one complaint – and Mr [sic] Gish is but one of many to make it – the literalists are absolutely right.  Evolution is a religion.”
  • “This was true of evolution in the beginning, and it is true of evolution still today.  …Evolution therefore came into being as a kind of secular ideology, an explicit substitute for Christianity.”


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