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. 😯

 

A Drive In The Country

pig

The difference between men and women in one
paragraph:

A man is driving up a steep, narrow mountain
road. A woman is driving down the same road.

As they pass each other, the woman leans out
the window and yells, “Pig!”

The man immediately leans out the window and
replies, “Bitch!”

They each continue on their way, and as the
man rounds the next corner, he crashes into
a pig in the middle of the road.

(The sad, real joke about that, is that it took FOUR more paragraphs.)

***

The past, present, and future all walk into a bar. It was tense.

***

A 75-year old man went to his doctor’s office
to get a sperm count. The doctor gave the man
a jar and said, “Take this jar home and bring me
back a sample tomorrow.” The next day, the
75-year old man reappears at the doctor’s office
and gives him the jar, which is as clean and
empty as on the previous day. The doctor asks
what happened, and the man explains, “Well, doc,
it’s like this. First I tried with my right hand,
but nothing. Then I tried with my left hand, but
nothing. Then I asked my wife for help. She tried
with her right hand, but nothing. Then her left,
but nothing. She even tried with her mouth, first
with the teeth in, then with the teeth out, and
still nothing. Hell, we even called up the lady
next door, and she tried with both hands and her
mouth too, but nothing.” The doctor was shocked.
“You asked your NEIGHBOR?” The old man replied,
“Yep, but no matter what we tried, we couldn’t
get the damn jar open!”

***

Great Signs

In a Dry Cleaner’s Emporium:
“Drop your pants here.”

On an Electrician’s truck:
“Let us remove your shorts.”

On a Butcher’s window:
“Let me meat your needs.”

In a Beauty Shop:
“Dye now!”

On Maternity Room door:
“Push, Push, Push.”

In a Veterinarian’s waiting room:
“Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!”

On the side of a firewood delivery truck:
“Fulfilling all your burning desires!”

At an Optometrist’s Office:
“If you don’t see what you’re looking
for, you’ve come to the right place.”

On a fence:
“Salesmen welcome. Dog food is expensive.”

Outside a Muffler Shop:
“No appointment necessary. We’ll hear you coming.”

Outside a Hotel:
“Help Wanted. We need inn-experienced people.”

In the front yard of a Funeral Home:
“Drive carefully, we’ll wait.”

On a Music Teacher’s door:
“Out Chopin, Bach in a minuet.”

On the door of a Computer Store:
“Out for a quick byte.”

***

Don’t Piss me Off. I’m running out of places to
hide the bodies.

***

Atheism is a non-prophet organization.