IS ATHEISM A RELIGION?

Religions

‘Theism’ means ‘belief in a god or gods’. Believers usually sign up to the values and principles of a godly belief system: it’s an ideology. Theistic ideologies are commonly known as faiths or religions. Many ideologies have the suffix ‘ism’; for example, liberalism, socialism, and communism but, in the case of ‘atheism’, the ‘ism’ ending has merely been inherited from its root: ‘theism’. The prefix ‘a’ turns the meaning around to the negative, that is, ‘not a belief in a god’, so ‘atheism’ is as far from a faith or religion as it’s possible to get.

Atheism is not a belief system, so that should end this article right here, but theists will likely not be satisfied. They might point to the things atheists and religions have in common: religions form churches, atheists form associations; churches and atheist associations appoint members to formal roles such as bishop and president; church members give offerings, atheists pay subscriptions; churches hold services, atheist hold meetings. Churches and Atheists both have literature they value and people they admire.

The problem is, these are superficial similarities and if they make Atheism a religion, they make political parties and table tennis clubs religions too. That is obviously absurd.

There is one organization in the United States which makes it their job to decide which group is a religion and which is not, and that’s The Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Religions receive highly favorable treatment in the USA and the IRS wants to avoid giving these advantages to organizations that are not genuine religions. So the IRS has a set of criteria they apply to any group claiming to be a religion. The primary criteria are listed below with how Atheist groups qualify [shown in parenthesis].

  1. Distinct legal existence [Some Atheist groups are legal entities.]
  2. Recognized creed and form of worship [No creed or forms of worship.]
  3. Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government [No ecclesiastical governance.]
  4. Formal code of doctrine and discipline [No doctrine.]
  5. Distinct religious history [No religious history.]
  6. Membership not associated with any other church or denomination [Atheists may join any number of atheist groups.]
  7. Organization of ordained ministers [No ministers of any kind.]
  8. Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study [No courses of study.]
  9. Literature of its own [No literature reserved for one group.]
  10. Established places of worship [No worship.]
  11. Regular religious services [No religious services.]
  12. Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young [No instructing the young.]
  13. Schools for the preparation of its members [No atheist schools.]

With only one criterion applicable to Atheists (and that one all political parties and many clubs share), the IRS won’t be granting religious tax exemptions to Atheist groups any time soon.

Theists might follow-up by asking why Atheists bother to meet to talk about gods they do not believe in. There are several reasons atheists meet but none of them are to talk about gods they don’t believe in. A common reason, especially in very religious countries, is to find some time to socialize with like-minded people who are not preoccupied with religious beliefs.

In many cases, atheists meet as a reaction against religious intolerance, the infiltration of religious dogma into schools and legislation, or the entanglement of church and state. They meet to get organized in an attempt to combat these religious excesses.

Let’s spell this out; Atheists have no beliefs in common, no gods of any kind, nothing they worship, no scripture, no shared values, and no dogma. They have no clergy, no schools, and no sacred buildings. The only thing all Atheists share is a lack of belief in gods.

Why then do the religious so often claim that Atheism is a religion? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask religious people that question. Perhaps it is to try to establish a false equivalency, an attempt to drag Atheism down to the level of a religion—a set of unsubstantiated beliefs, in a landscape where beliefs are held only on faith. If so, they would be completely wrong about that too. 😯

 

One-Lines Of Wisdom

Billy Crystal

A potpourri of thoughts on life from various comics and entertainers – some wise – some otherwise. See if you can identify any of the submitters.

“By the time a man is wise enough to watch his step, he’s too old to go anywhere.”

“I like a woman with a head on her shoulders. I hate necks.”

“Proof that we don’t understand death is that we give dead people a pillow.”

“Don’t talk to me about Valentine’s Day. At my age, an affair of the heart is a bypass.”

“I used to work at McDonald’s making minimum wage. You know what that means when someone pays you minimum wage? You know what your boss was trying to say? ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.'”

“If God had really intended man to fly, He’d make it easier to get to the airport.”

“Why do they call it rush hour when nothing moves?”

I’m dating a homeless woman. It was easier talking her into staying over.”

“I can’t wait till Sunday, I’m gonna see my favorite niece. And my other niece.”

“Marriage is really tough because you have to deal with feelings … and lawyers.”

“I don’t like country music, but I don’t mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, ‘denigrate’ means ‘put down.'”

“My wife, we get along good ’cause we have our own arrangement. One night a week I go out with the boys, and one night a week she goes out with the boys.”

“I think if I took therapy, the doctor would quit. He’d just pick up the couch and walk out of the room.”

“Women complain about premenstrual syndrome, but I think of it as the only time of the month that I can be myself.”

“Just when I discovered the meaning of life, they changed it.”

“I don’t worry about terrorism. I was married for two years.”

“My father never lived to see his dream come true of an all-Yiddish-speaking Canada.”

“Let me ask you a question, who do you think has more freedom—the married man in America or the single man in communist China?”

“Housework won’t kill you. But then again, why take the chance?”

“I was on a date with this really hot model. Well, it wasn’t really a date-date. We just ate dinner and saw a movie. Then the plane landed.”

“Racism isn’t born, folks, it’s taught. I have a two-year-old son. You know what he hates? Naps. End of list.”

When you are eight years old, nothing is any of your business.”

“I’m a godfather. That’s a great thing to be, a godfather. He calls me ‘god’ for short. That’s cute. I taught him that.”

“Misers aren’t fun to live with, but they make wonderful ancestors.”

“I wish people would stop making fun of fat people. They have enough on their plates.”

“To most Christians, the Bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll to the bottom and click ‘I Agree’.”

“Shirley Temple had charisma as a child. But it cleared up as an adult.”

“Nobody is worried about a government shutdown. They’re worried about it starting back up.”

“I was having a great day until I woke up.”

“Eternal nothingness is fine if you happen to be dressed for it.”

“Now all of us can talk to the NSA—just by dialing any number.”

“My favorite kind of humor is basically, if it was happening to you, it wouldn’t be funny, but to observe it, it’s hilarious.”

“I’m a gentleman and I was always taught it’s rude to talk about a woman’s age or weight unless you are breaking up with her.”

“I look at wives the same way I look at tattoos. I want one, but I can’t decide what I want and I don’t want to be stuck with one I’m just going to grow to hate and have to have surgically removed later.”

“Get-well cards have become so humorous that if you don’t get sick, you’re missing half the fun.”

“Eighty percent of married men cheat in America. The rest cheat in Europe.”

“If you don’t do any self-examinations or see a doctor ever, you’ll live forever. The diagnosis is what gets you. You just have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy with any and all bodily functions.”

“I didn’t wake up in a new Bugatti this morning…. I’ll try again tomorrow.”

“The second day of a diet is always easier than the first. By the second day, you’re off it.”

A Collection Of Atheism-Related Quotes

atheist-i-am

“Through the prior assumption that his beliefs of faith are true, the Christian necessarily concludes that any ‘conflict’ between reason and faith is a mistake. He does not want contradictions, so he will refuse to accept anything as evidence of a contradiction. There is no apparent contradiction that cannot be explained away — even if it entails the castration of the Christian religion and the sacrifice of reason.”

George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God

“Whenever a man imagines that he need only believe the truth of a proposition, without evidence … he becomes capable of anything.”

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

“Because religious doctrines are supposedly ordained of God, the religious adherent cannot easily question the teachings of his chosen church, even when those teachings are provably false. The scientist, on the other hand, is most rewarded when he proves the conventional wisdom wrong and revolutionizes our understanding of the universe.”

David Mills, Atheist Universe

“At this very moment, millions of sentient people are suffering unimaginable physical and mental afflictions, in circumstances where the compassion of God is nowhere to be seen, and the compassion of human beings is often hobbled by preposterous ideas about sin and salvation.”

Sam Harris, Letter To A Christian Nation

“Monotheists have to practise intellectual gymnastics to explain how an all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good God allows so much suffering in the world.”

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

“Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other.”

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great

“Being an atheist is nothing to be apologetic about. On the contrary, it is something to be proud of … ”

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

 

How To Be Taken Seriously

Serious

PLEASE ENSURE MIND IS IN MOTION BEFORE ENGAGING MOUTH

Whoever you are, whether Christian Apologist, Flat Earther, Immigration Protester, or Climate Change Warrior, to be taken seriously, it really helps if you get your facts straight before you start spouting off.

It does little good for the Pope to insist that the Bible is inerrant and free of contradictions, when one of God’s commandments is, “Thou shalt make no graven images.’ and two chapters later, God instructs, “Thou shalt make two graven silver cherubim, and place them at each end of the Ark of the Covenant.”

I’m all for combating global warming, but a do-gooding tree-hugger recently had this op-ed published; Aircraft exhaust 10 or 11 kilometers above the Earth’s surface is thought to have considerably more polluting effect per person-mile, than automobile exhaust at ground level, per person-mile.

I’m not sure what his point was. Only transcontinental flights go up to 40,000 feet – 10/11 kilometers. The pollution from a few thousand flyers each day is much more than offset by the total of hundreds of millions of cars driving around. He could fight a more down-to-Earth battle. He’s tilting at one little Dutch windmill, when there are thousands of giant wind-turbines ruining people’s lives in the name of ecology.

Your favorite jovial old tundra-dweller recently became aware of ‘Blue Monday,’ the third Monday in January. It’s not something that affects me. A sociologist did a somewhat un-scientific study. He took into account things like the weather – cold and snow, the lack of sunlight for the last month, friends and family visitors who have now left, the shopping hassles of Christmas, back to work after some time off, and now the bills arriving. He felt that Blue Monday would be the day that cumulative depression would be most likely to affect/be noticed/felt by the average North American.

Immediately, the usual suspects began their howling. Psychologists, and counsellors whined that the day somehow belittled people with depression, when it actually raises people’s awareness of the condition and its causes.

One denier objected to the way the day was chosen, complaining that, “It’s like adding the speed of your jogging to the color of an apple.” And yet psychologists and penologists know that certain colors of prison uniforms and cells help calm prisoners down. One Arizona Sheriff makes his inmates wear hot pink overalls, and violence has reduced significantly.

It should be taken seriously, yet it is no more real that the chubby Santa Claus that Coca-Cola invented. Speaking of people who don’t know what they are talking about, a local radio announcer doesn’t get it. He claimed that, “It is the most depressing day of the year.” It is not the day that is depressing. It is merely the point in time when all the previous depressing influences come together in a confluence – like the perfect wave – and people are most likely to feel depressed.

A newspaper story about a truck crash wrote of ‘semi-tractors.’ (Surely, they are semi-trailers?) In another, a 10-year-old boy wrote to every automaker in the world, and requested ‘decals.’ He got back a hub-cap, hood ornaments, trunk logos, and key-fobs…. because, aside from those little generic warnings on your car windows – auto-makers don’t use ‘decals.’  I don’t know what he (or the article writer) thought ‘decals’ were.

First my Dismantling of Faith post, then all of these, in one week. Does nobody pay attention to the details of reality anymore? It helps, if you want to be taken seriously.

I Know That I Promised

Island

I know that I promised, and I know that most of you have read about it, but this story was just too precious, not to comment on.

American Is Killed by Bow and Arrow on Remote Indian Island

John Allen Chau had to know that what he was about to do was extremely dangerous.

Mr. Chau, thought to be in his 20s, was floating in a kayak off a remote island in the Andaman Sea. He was about to set foot on one of the most sealed-off parts of India, an island inhabited by a small, highly enigmatic tribe whose members have killed outsiders for simply stepping on their shore.

Fishermen warned him not to go. Few outsiders had ever been there. Indian government regulations clearly prohibited any interaction with people on the island, called North Sentinel.

While I was reading this story, I wondered what this guy was – some sort of super-jock survivalist, out to prove that he had was the biggest dick??! Then came the punch line.

But Mr. Chau pushed ahead in his kayak, which he had packed with a Bible. After that, it is a bit of a mystery what happened. On Wednesday, the Indian authorities said that Mr. Chau had been shot with bows and arrows by tribesmen when he got on shore. It was a “misplaced adventure,’’ said Dependra Pathak, the police chief.

No, it wasn’t!! There is no mystery. This was not “an adventure.” This self-made martyr was an unwelcome Christian missionary, too arrogant and stupid to stay out of harm’s way. The article doesn’t say if he was a Jehovah’s Witness, but apparently there are even some Indian people who don’t like telemarketers. 😯

He violated the laws of India, which clearly forbid him from interfering with the natives. He violated the rules of his own missionary group, who urged him not to go, and he disobeyed Christ’s own Biblical directives. Jesus said to go by twos, to spread the word. Christ obviously knew the need for backup, but Chau insisted on going alone – probably because he couldn’t find anyone else crazy enough to go with him.

Christ said, “If you offer the word to a people, and they refuse it, depart from that place and leave them.” Chau swam ashore one day, and the natives shot arrows at him, obviously not willing to accept him (or Him) and The Word. The only arrow to hit, struck his Bible. He believed that God had spared him. Instead of departing from that place, he swam back out to the fish boat, but returned the next day.

He is apparently unmarried and childless, so he qualifies for the Darwin Award. He’s not your usual, testosterone-infused gym-jock. He is was something even worse – A faith-infused Jesus-Jock. At least he managed to kill only himself.

I repeat from my post, “What’s wrong with a comfortable delusion?” Because, not every time, but ultimately, and inevitably, it leads to the likes of:

Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre – 918 good Christians dead.
Uganda, Nov. 2018 – more than 918 black Christian sect suicide deaths
David Koresh and the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco – 75 faithful and 4 FBI agents dead
Heaven’s Gate cult mutilation and suicides – 39 dead
Solar Temple Order – 74 dead in Quebec, France, and Switzerland
South Korean ‘Benevolent Mother’ sect – 32 poisoned and strangled

And these are just the recent, penny-ante examples. How about the Inquisition, where thousands were horribly tortured and executed, or the Crusades, where hundreds of thousands died on faraway battlefields, or through disease or starvation, including excess population children?

And these are still penny-ante! How about the delusionally manipulated European peasants of the Dark Ages?? The Church convinced them that cats were the minions of Satan, so they killed them all off – which allowed rats to proliferate – which promoted the growth of fleas infected with bubonic plague – which killed off over 1/3 of the total population of Europe…. Millions and Millions!

Anyone who doesn’t see, or denies the relationship, is more than comfortably deluded. Not to seem harsh, but, aside from the FBI agents in Waco, I don’t really give a damn. It’s a self-solving problem. It’s about as important as being unfriended on FaceBitch: it’s like the garbage taking itself out. 😈

Delusion does nothing but hold us back. Truth is far more important than all of the soothing lies and should be sought in all instances. I know that sometimes the lies can give you temporary peace, but in the end, somebody always gets hurt.

What’s Wrong With A Comfortable Delusion?

What’s Wrong With A Comfortable Delusion??!  Take a look here.

Delusion

Some Christians get upset when others argue against all their unproven assumptions. There’s everything from the ranting and raving, “How dare you disagree?” to a less confrontational, honest request for quiet acceptance of their beliefs and actions.

This morning, I found a YouTube video from The Atheist Experience, with the above title. Then I came down to read the newspaper, and found this article.

Farmer burned down barn, shot at house

Actions a ‘cry for help,’ judge says, sentencing man to 22 months for arson, firearms offences

In a ‘cry for help’, a depressed and guilt-ridden Mennonite farmer set three fires on his property – including one that burned his barn to the ground, killing seven cattle and a horse, causing $400,000 damage. Later he shot five or six times at his house with a .22 caliber rifle, while his wife and two young children were inside.

“It would appear that much of his angst arose from guilt that he felt over pursuing some secular interests that may have been contrary to his religious teachings.”

His lawyer was asked outside court about his secular interests. “He got a phone, as necessary for the operation of his cattle farm. The cell-phone was a Smart Phone, with access to the internet, and he started to retreat to the barn to watch Hollywood movies. So he was watching movies like “Superman” or something. It wasn’t pornography or anything.”

What’s wrong with a little comfortable delusion? Nothing, until it changes to psychopathy, and becomes uncomfortable, both for the deluded person, and the rest of society.

This is not an isolated incident, and it’s not restricted to Christians. The same paper contained an article about a Christian Pakistani woman who has been held in jail for 7 years, much of that in solitary, because a neighbor accused her of blasphemy. The raging mob demanded her execution, and that of the judge who finally freed her.

Don’t be deluded; it can be very dangerous.

Speaking of being deluded…. My contract says that I’ll be back here in a couple of days, I hope, with a new 100-word Flash Fiction.  Don’t let me down.  🙂

 

WOW #36

Lonely Man

I’m Just a Lonely Boy – or so Paul Anka claimed he was.  I’m not.  Thanx to a chance encounter with a dictionary, (Hah!  As if any encounter I have with a dictionary could be ‘Chance’) I find that I can apply the honorable title of

SOLITUDINARIAN

Noun

a person who seeks solitude; a recluse.

It’s not that I want to beat this concept to death; it’s just that I keep finding more and more dignified words to describe my chosen lifestyle.

Hate People

I don’t hate everybody.  I haven’t met everybody.  Aside from you lovely people, who come here and brighten my days, the less I have to do with the rest of the Smart Phone-wielding, gullible, ignorant- yet opinionated masses, the better for everyone involved.

The chains on my mood swing just broke.
Run!

I once admitted to a reader that I occasionally read Christian web-posts.  Shocked, he demanded to know why I would do such a thing.  It’s not Masochism.  It’s not generally intentional.  It’s that a surprising – almost frightening – number of Christian bloggers label their output with an ‘Atheist’, or ‘Atheism’ tag.

Between them, and the Flat Earthers, and the Conspiracy Theorists, (See Buzz Aldrin’s outrage that the recent movie, First Man, didn’t show the planting of the American flag on the moon) I feel comfortable in my own company.

Many Fundamentalist (with the accent on ‘mental’) Christians refuse to accept the Theory of Evolution, because they don’t want to admit that they might be related to monkeys.  There are just too many folks out there, otherwise known as wastes of space and resources, who act like they are related to jackasses.

Thanx for reading.  See you again soon.  😀