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Sunday, April 03, 2005


A response

I was checking to see if there had been any notice elsewhere on the internet of my posts on this blog, and I found this comment:

I find it strange that so many people have trouble understanding that atheism and secularism aren't religions. These aren't difficult concepts to figure out, but so many people continue making the mistake.


Disbelief in gods can no more be a religious belief than disbelief in elves. Obviously irreligion isn't a religious belief — that's like saying white is the same as black. Secularism is no more a religion than being a bachelor is the same as being married.

So, where are the problems with not recognizing such obvious non-religions as religions? Of course it's true that non-religious systems have the ability to propose laws or inspire fanatical followings, but what's the problem here? I don't see anything bad about that.

I do, however, have a problem with the presence of a "tacit, informal agreement" for the government to promote "Judeo-Christian fundamentals" over and above other religions and other belief systems. The government doesn't have the authority to single out Christianity for special treatment.

I wouldn't want to dismiss the possibility that there are serious elf-worshippers around, though I've never heard of them, but if there were, certainly they would want their geniune beliefs taken seriously and respected.

Black is considered a color along with white, green, and purple; and bachelorhood is a marital status along with married, separated, and divorced. While the ancient Greeks argued that 1 is not a number, (number necessarily implying plural), and others have argued that 0 is not a number, arithmetic is based on the assumption that "one" and "none" are legitimate arithmetical quantities and can be treated as other numbers, although they do have special properties that distinguish them from other numbers.
In a similar manner, secularism, atheism, agnosticism, and other varieties of non-religious belief are competitors to or substitutes for more traditional religious belief, and I find it extremely awkward to do a sufficiently complete survey of varieties of religious belief with no mention of the varieties of disbelief.

From a legal POV, it's hardly fair to argue that the freedom to disbelieve should be included along with the freedom to exercise religious belief, but be exempted from the "establishment" clause of the Constitutions on the grounds that it isn't a religion.

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I can see where you're coming from, but in reference to the bachelor argument, you say that being a bachelor is a 'marital status', and in the same way isn't atheism a status of belief?
I argue elsewhere that religion usually includes belief, practice, and organization. Atheism falls into the general category of "religious" beliefs because it include a belief about God (i.e. there is none).
While it lacks objects or practices of worship, it cannot help but suggest substitutes, things people look to for meaning or happiness.
Chiefly, it lacks formal organization. But there are other systems of recognized religious belief that also lack formal organization.
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