Enough with this tired-ass distraction.
Because they’re losing ground by the second, theists have tried to latch onto a tactic that’s as (or more) inane and stupid as most of their other ones aimed at atheists, nonbelievers, and infidels. Knowing they come under fire for being a part of the largest con job around (hint: it’s religion), they’ve taken to playing a game of “I know you are, but what am I” in an effort to bring rational thinking people down to their level and help them restore their delusions of smug superiority. If they get the atheist to either waste time defusing it or get them to second guess themselves, so much the better.
To help put this particularly soiled canard to bed, here’s a discussion between theist Abbey and atheist Becky, already in progress…
Becky: …and that’s why it’s ridiculous to assume god exists or cares about us.
Abbey: Well, you know Becky, atheism is as much a religion as any others.
Becky: You’re really going to try this one? Really? I know you’ve heard the whole “Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color” and “like off is a TV channel” bits before.
Abbey: Yeah! I mean, look, you have “holy scripture” in the form of books like The God Delusion and Origin of Species, you have your prophets & evangelists in people like PZ Myers, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins, and you’re all banded together to fight us believers!
Becky: Eh…wow. I mean, I know how often I wake up and have to read passages out of Origin, or have them read to me at all of the not-religious services I attend. I once had to kill a man because they wouldn’t accept punctuated equilibrium. The sacred voice of Dawkins told me to do it!
Abbey: You’re being sarcastic again.
Becky: And you’re grasping for straws again. Sure, I might like and respect those books or those people, but give me a break – prophets? Really? “Oh hey I’m PZ Meyers, and I prophesize that…oh wait, I don’t.” Seriously, being a fan doesn’t mean worshiping. I mean, you like whatever pop stars or sports stars you do and you don’t worship them, right?
Abbey: I guess not. But…but you guys have organizations even. That’s religious!
Becky: The local board game club is an “organization”. Unless they’re worshiping the almighty dice in the bubble-popper thing, I don’t think they’re a religion. People group together for any number of things, so what? It doesn’t make them religions.
Abbey: Wh…fine. But the courts have called atheism and secular humanism religions!
Becky: Aren’t those the same courts that also make you fume when they strike down anti-gay marriage laws, or, y’know, things like Roe v. Wade? The courts aren’t always right, especially according to you.
Abbey: Why are you so noisy about promoting atheism if you’re so sure about it? Isn’t your faith being upset?
Becky: Why do you need to insert your religious nonsense into all aspects of life? It’s 2012 and “holy men” are trying to deny women basic birth control, let alone stem cell research and safe abortions, among many other things specifically because of their beliefs. Why are you afraid of being questioned and ridiculed if your faith is so strong and your god is so mighty?
Abbey: You talk about it too much though!
Becky: What’s “too much”? Christians in the US have radio and TV channels, and those that aren’t exclusively religious might as well be most of the time…you know, like Fox. There are an obnoxious amount of churches putting out their messages. There’re Christian stores that do nothing but sell bibles and trinkets. You’re seriously scared of a few billboards, the internet, and li’l ol’ me? Are you serious?
Abbey: But you can be so dogmatic about things!
Becky: We’ll be glad to give up our dogma when you do.
Abbey: But you still are!
Becky: About what? That we don’t believe in any gods and don’t have any good reasons to? How do you distinguish dogma from enthusiasm anyway? There are plenty of outspoken groups you wouldn’t call religions that get into arguments and discussion all the time, like Star Wars fans, sports fans, or political junkies. You might apply a “religious” or “zealot” label to them, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Anyway, I happen to like making my worldview more and more accurate. Why don’t you?
Abbey: You never let us be right about things!
Becky: Like trying to falsely label the lack of religion as religion? Or saying “you believe in not believing” or some variant of that dumb line? Are you saying you prefer being “right” rather than really seeking out the truth? Why should you get away with bullshit?
Abbey: Well, it DOES take more faith to be an atheist, I mean, where did all this stuff come from?
Becky: No, and let me stop you right there. It does not. Atheism is only the lack of belief in gods. That is not and cannot be a belief, it is not a faith, a philosophy, a belief system, or whatever you’re trying to weasel it into being today. When you say “atheism is a faith” it’s like saying “darkness is really a form of light”. Saying “goddunnit” is an act of faith because you don’t have the evidence. Atheists generally say “we don’t know, but here are some hypotheses”. You can’t believe a non-belief, that’s stupid. You don’t believe in the ancient Greek gods, the Viking gods, or Egyptian gods, and if I tried to say you have a belief in their non-belief, you’d say I was playing stupid word games, and rightly so.
Abbey: Atheism is a religion because you believe in nothing!
Becky: Didn’t I just tell you that it is not a belief? How do you “believe in nothing”? It sounds like saying “nothing to eat” is a valid menu choice at a restaurant. “What will you have, ma’am?” “The nothing entree with the nothing appetizer sounds good.” “Right away, ma’am. Would you like some nothing to drink?” Come on. Stop parroting what you hear about us and think for a change. What does “you believe in nothing” even mean? Do you think I wake up and pray to the nothing god to grant me nothingness through my nothing day? Are you sure you’re not thinking of nihilism or solipsism?
Abbey: You believe that all this came from nothing!
Becky: Again, already covered that nonsense, and just so we’re clear, no, I don’t – you folks are the ones who believe there was absolutely nothing, and then – poof! Magic man dunnit all out of nothing. So let me ask you some things. You don’t believe in Zeus, Ra, Thor, and thousands of other gods, which makes you an atheist with respect to them, right?
Abbey: Uh…I guess. But those guys don’t exist. There’s only my true god.
Becky: Doesn’t matter; you are an atheist with respect to them because atheism means you don’t believe in those gods. By your logic you have thousands of religions, each about not believing in any other god that has ever been dreamed up.
Abbey: That’s silly! I only have one religion.
Becky: Exactly. Just another reason why atheism isn’t a religion, and really can’t be one at all. Anyway, if being a religion is so bad as you seem to imply, why not drop yours?
Abbey: It’s not! I just want you to realize you’re making it into a religion, because of how involved with it you are.
Becky: No, that’s actually what you’re doing, and we’ve already covered that. I’ll give you my answer: you want to try and equivocate us to religion so that all the horrid things we keep finding and making noise about can be more easily rationalized and dismissed by saying “Well, they’re a religion too”. Anyway, last one: why keep claiming atheism is a religion, anyway, knowing how dishonest it really is? What do you get out of it?
Abbey: Um…’cause it’s true…
Becky: No it isn’t, as I’ve shown you about four hundred ways now. And what do you get out of it, anyway? Is it just to try to insult us? Waste our time? Distract us? Try to make us second guess ourselves? Try to make yourself feel better?
Becky: I’ll just check “all of the above”.
Abbey: Hmpf! I’m still going to say atheism is a religion, no matter what you say!
Becky: Yes, because you, like many believers, don’t care about what is true, only what makes you feel good. We’ll be glad to give up our “religion” when you do.
Abbey: I’ll pray for you.
Becky: I accept your apology and hope you won’t try this nonsense again.
- Rosa Rubicondior: “Of Course Dear! Atheism is a Religion”
- Grail Diary: “What Saying Atheism is a Religion is All About”
- Loathsome Human: “Atheism & Secularism Are Not Religions. Stop Saying They Are.”
- Volokh Conspiracy: “Is Atheism a Religion?”