In a survey of over 327,000 American adults, Gallup found that 78 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian, while 15 percent did not subscribe to a religious identity. Of those adhering to a religious identity, Americans who considered themselves Christian made up 95 percent of respondents.

A coalition of atheist and secular organizations are coming together on Saturday to hold what is being billed at the largest gathering of atheists in history.

David Silverman, chairman of the event committee and president of the American Atheists, said the rally is aimed at uniting atheist organizations and letting the religious know that there are nonbelievers among them.

The event is headlined by Oxford professor and author Richard Dawkins. “The Reason Rally is part of an effort to combat the attack of the theocrats,” Dawkins told CNN. “There is in this country at the moment a great revival of atheism, and the number of atheists in the country is much larger than people realize.”

Dawkins, who is widely regarded as the most respected figure in atheism, is lending his voice to this event because he says freedom for atheists is “constantly under threat from people who would like to turn this country into some sort of a theocracy.”

Directing his comments at Congress, Dawkins said, “You have been neglecting them, overlooking them and riding roughshod over them as though they didn’t exist. Well, they do exist and they outnumber some of the other lobbies that you have been so assiduously sucking up to all these years.”

What Constitutes a “Religion”

The terms “atheist” though specifically contrary to theistic religious teachings, (e.g. Christian, Jewish, and Muslim) do not by definition mean the opposite of “religious”. There are religions, in fact, that classify some of their followers as agnostic, atheistic, or nontheistic.  The true opposite of “religious” is the word “irreligious” or “anti-religious”. Irreligion describes an absence of any religion; anti-religion describes an active opposition or aversion toward religions in general.

Critics of religion consider it to be to be outdated, harmful to the individual (e.g. brainwashing of children, faith healing, circumcision), harmful to society (e.g. holy wars, terrorism, wasteful distribution of resources), to impede the progress of science, and to encourage immoral acts (e.g. blood sacrifice, discrimination against homosexuals and women). A major criticism of many religions is that they require beliefs that are irrational, unscientific, or unreasonable, because religious beliefs and traditions lack scientific or rational foundations. Some modern-day critics such as Silverman and Dawkins hold that religion has no function in human society and regard it as irrational.

According to the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “Atheism is the position that affirms the non-existence of God. It proposes positive disbelief rather than mere suspension of belief.”

Atheism is defined in the contemporary western sense as not just the lack of belief in God, but the assertion about the non-existence of any gods, spirits, or divine or supernatural beings. Atheists in this sense are metaphysical naturalists, and as such, DO follow a religion.

Contemporary Atheism has been fueled largely by authors promoting their Atheistic beliefs. In the preface to The God Delusion, Dawkins says, “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” Dawkins said he hopes that his book “converts” religious people to his worldview – exactly what a missionary of any religion hopes to do.

Atheism is also taught to children in many schools in science classes as evolution. As atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse admits, “Evolution is a religion”, ( and it could be considered the narrative dimension of Atheism. So teaching evolution is teaching Atheism and could be viewed as proselytizing.

In some religions, rituals have spiritual meanings attached to them, such as Passover, Christmas and Easter. Rituals are a dimension which on the surface might appear to be absent from Atheism. But many Atheists practice secular rituals such as birthday celebrations, or the ‘ritual holidays’ of other religions such as the Christmas and Easter public holidays of Christianity, but they claim that this is to simply maintain the tradition of a public holiday, but the original meaning of the celebrations are rejected.

In recent years, the atheists’ public commemoration of the anniversary of Darwin’s birth each February, (along with calls for the general public to do the same) is rapidly becoming something of an annual ritual. Some say that this modern atheistic commemoration is being ‘celebrated’ with greater fervor and passion than many longstanding religious rituals.

Atheists often claim that their belief is not a religion. They have said, “Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color”. But other than the denial of the existence of God there is little difference between Atheism and other beliefs typically labeled as religions.

The meaning of the word “faith” is often twisted to make it mean things it does not. In Christianity, faith is logical, being defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is not blindly believing the impossible (which is how many Atheists define faith), but rather trusting the promises of God, whose past promises have all been fulfilled. And yet, Atheism requires “faith” (using their own definition) that the laws of chemistry, physics and biology created life from non-life via chemical evolution.

I don’t believe that Atheism should be taught or enforced any more than any other religion. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ….” This means that the Constitution should prevent ANY religion to be favored by a religiously neutral government.

Coming soon: “What if there was no religion?”

  1. Paul Koski says:

    Good word Jonah.

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