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Is Atheism a Religion?

In this post I want to ask the question, is atheism a religion?

What is Atheism?

Traditionally, atheism has been defined as, ”the position that affirms the non-existence of God. [Which] proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief” [1].

Today’s atheists often claim the exact opposite. Atheism, they say, is not a positive proposition, but rather, a suspension of belief. Though atheists are, of course, free to adopt any definition they’d like, this word play certainly makes for confusing conversation.

The concept of “agnostic”, it seems, has been evicted from it’s letters and forced to take up residence in the seemingly muscular shell of “atheism.” The concept of “atheism” now appears to be cohabiting with “naturalism.” The two seem very happy together [2].

In considering the question, is atheism a religion, I want to deal, not with the novel (suspended-belief/synonymous-with-agnosticism) definition but with the traditional (positive proposition) one.


According to, Religion can be defined as:

1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Atheism is a set of beliefs concerning the cause (it has none), nature (it is the result of matter + time + chance), and purpose (there is none) of the universe.

It is interested in answering what religions are interested in answering: “Is there such a person as God? How should we live? Can we look forward to life after death? What is our place in the universe? How are we related to other creatures?

[Atheism] gives answers here: there is no God, and it makes no sense to hope for life after death. As to our place in the grand scheme of things, we human beings are just another animal with a peculiar way of making a living”[3].

Devotional Practices?

You might be thinking, okay, what about the “devotional and ritual observances” part? Atheists don’t do that do they? umm, they’re starting to. They even have a Sunday schedule:

  • Welcome / notices
  • Song
  • Guest speaker
  • Song
  • Reading
  • Final Address
  • Song

What? No donuts!? Classic rookie mistake. Anyway, those are my thoughts… What are yours?


[1] The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Also, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy states: “According to the most usual definition, an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no God.”

[2] Atheists are by no means the only group guilty of this word play. I’m sure most of you recall that unfortunate video, “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.”  Some of the atheist YouTube commentators I’ve seen have been merciless in condemning the video as a distinction without a difference; I’m in full agreement with them.

[3] Plantinga, Alvin, Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.

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