The Instigator
QandA
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
Nzrsaa
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points

Atheism is a religion.

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/29/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 619 times Debate No: 41405
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (0)

 

QandA

Con

1st round is for acceptance ONLY, followed by rounds of back and forth argument/rebuttal. I will be arguing that atheism is not and cannot possibly be a religion.

Good luck and happy debating!
Nzrsaa

Pro

Hi!
I accept. I look foward to the debate!
Debate Round No. 1
QandA

Con

Thank you for accepting. I look forward to an enjoyable debate.

I will keep my argument for this round short.
By sheer definition, atheism cannot possibly be a religion.

Definition of Religion:
The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods.

Source: (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...)

Definition of Atheism:
disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

Source: (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...)

There is a great comparison between the two. Atheism cannot possibly go under the category of religion as it would contradict what religion actually is.

I look forward to your response.
Nzrsaa

Pro

Hi, Con!

DEFINITIONS

Firstly, Con gives some definitions. And, I disagree with what they say. Because both definitions - of both Religion and Atheism - have more than one meaning.
With Religion, sure, it can mean "The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods". But it can also mean:
- "A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices"
Or even:
- "A cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith"
Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com...

As with Atheism, although it can mean "disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods", perhaps a more accepted definition would be:
- "the doctrine that there is no deity"
Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com...

So, upon different definitions, I think that it is easy to see how atheism is a religion.
If the atheist is asserting that there is no God, then considering he cannot objectively prove the statement, he requires faith. And by using my definitiion ("A cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith"), I think that it is entirely fair to say that atheism is a religion - considering that to assert that there is no God, needs faith.

I would say that 'lack of belief' in God is merely an attribute of atheism - not the definition itself'.

However, even of we take Con's definitions to be true, then I think we can still establish atheism to be a religion.

THERAVADA BUDDHISM

Theravada Buddhism is most certainly a religion. ( http://www.religionfacts.com... ) However, Theravadan Buddhists also lack a belief in God - there is no such thing as God in their beliefs. However, they are by no means atheists! They are positively religious - and it is the same with atheism (taking Con's definition). So, to lack a belief in the Supernatural does not simply make a belief exempt from being religious, like my opponent is suggesting.

THE RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES OF ATHEISTS

My final argument of why atheism is a religion, is to do with how many atheists treat their beliefs.
Recently, there has been a huge rise in 'atheist churches'. Essentially, they are meetings, where a number of atheists come together and have 'sermons', talks, and social interaction with other atheists. What does this sound suspiciously like? Well, like most religions on the face of the earth.
Here is an article on the matter:
http://www.webpronews.com...
And another:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk...
And a video: (at the top of my debate)

The way that atheism is treated like a religion and has religious-like attributes, I think further illustrates just how atheism is a religion.

So, to summerize:
- Atheism is a knowledge claim (if it were not a knowledge claim, it would be agnosticism).
- Any knowledge claim requires proof to assert it to be right. If not, then it requires faith.
- But it is impossible to prove that a supernatural being does not exist.
- So atheism requires faith.
- Any faith system can be defined as a religion.
- Therefore atheism is a religion.

Sources:
http://www.merriam-webster.com...
http://www.merriam-webster.com...
http://www.religionfacts.com...
http://www.webpronews.com...
http://www.dailymail.co.uk...
Debate Round No. 2
QandA

Con

Yes true, there are many definitions for both "Atheism" and "Religion" however they are still all completely unrelated. If as you say, Atheism can also be defined as "the doctrine that there is no deity" then this is still totally different from all the religious definitions shown.

You say that Atheism must require faith however if this is the case then it still doesn't fit into any of the religious definitions. For example even when we look at the religion definition of "A cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith" then Atheism still doesn't fit into this as Atheism does not deal with a cause or principle at all, unlike religion. We have to look at the whole definition here to make a comparison. I also notice that you are trying to pick and choose the best definitions to try and suite you so I will give more examples of how Atheism cannot fit into the definitions of Religion.

Here are more definitions of religion, followed by reasons why they cannot go hand in hand with Atheism.

"1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."

Atheism is indeed a set of beliefs (or lack of belief) in this case. However it does not deal with the cause, nature or purpose of the universe. It only goes against the religious ideas of the cause, nature or purpose of the universe. There is a big difference between Atheism and Science. Atheism does NOT consider a superhuman agency and most certainly does not involve devotional or ritual observances. Also atheism does not contain a moral code on how humans should behave.

Therefore atheism cannot possibly fit into this definition.

"2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion."

Again atheism is not fundamental set of beliefs in respect to the origin of the universe. It does not make claims about how the universe started, it merely refutes religious theories on the subject. Also atheism holds no practices agreed upon by a number of persons.

Again atheism cannot fit into this definition.

"3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions."

It could be argued that atheists adhere to a set of beliefs in the sense of non belief however again, there is NO particular set of practices involved with Atheism at all. It is all independent in this respect. You see, even one word in the definition can discount the notion that Atheism is a religion. Without analysis atheism can easily, but wrongly be associated with these definitions.

Lastly,
"4. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice."

Atheism absolutely does not follow a point of ethics or conscience, it is all independent in respect to these values. There is no atheistic law that states how a person must act, feel etc.

Therefore atheism cannot fit into this definition.
Source: (http://dictionary.reference.com...)

"Theravada Buddhism" (Your point)
Ah but you see this most certainly is a religion because it (according to your source) "follows the original beliefs and practices of the Buddha and the early monastic Elders". It is a religion because it follows certain beliefs and practices such as four stages etc. Atheism on the other hand follows no such system of practice. It is again merely
"the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods" with no rules or practices to follow. This is the different between a religion and a non-religion, as I have showed through the definitions.

"THE RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES OF ATHEISTS" (Your point)
Just because Atheists have meetings in churches does not mean that it is magically a religion now.
1) A few atheists church meetings still can't change definitions.
2) If they are just having sermons, talks and social interactions then those things aren't part of the religion definitions. There is still no practice or set of rules to follow which is mainly how the definitions separate atheism from religion.
Taking all this into account, Atheism cannot possibly be a religion.

I look forward to the next round.
Nzrsaa

Pro

Hi!

DEFINITIONS
Firstly, Con says that I am choosing the best definitions to suite me. But of course I am! Just like you are picking and choosing definitions that means that atheism does not fit into it. So, for the sake of the debate, we need to establish what is the best definition for both atheism and religion. We then need to see whether atheism fits into those definitions of religion.
I brought in Theravada Buddhism to show that your first definition of religion was wrong - as they have no such belief or worship of the supernatural, but is still a religion. ( http://www.beliefnet.com... ) (note, Karma is a natural; not a supernatural law). So, we need to establish a better definition of 'religion'. Con has offered a few, so let's go through them.

"1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."
Well for the first statement, I would say that Atheism certainly fits into this definition - as atheism states that no such being as God created the universe. This is a positive statement about the cause of the universe - 'it was not God'. For the rest of the definition, the wording is very important - there is an 'especially', 'usually' and 'often'. This implies that not all religions adhere to the practices, and so a set of beliefs can still be a religion without adhering to them. To give examples: I have already explained that Theravada Buddhism does not concern the "creation of a superhuman agency or agencies". I would consider Quakerism to not adhere to any rituals, but is still a religion. ( http://www.patheos.com...-(Quaker)/Ritual-Worship-Devotion-Symbolism ). Finally, I would think that Paganism, such as particular Folk Religions have no moral code, but are still considered religions. ( http://en.wikipedia.org... )
So, I don't think that this definition is sound at all.

The 2nd definition that Con gives is this:
"2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion."
Well of course atheism is included in this. Even by Con's definition, all atheists have to lack a belief in God - otherwise, they wouldn't be atheists!

Con then gives a 3rd definition:
"3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions."
Con admits that atheism could be seen to be adhering to a particular set of beliefs in the non-existence of any deity. As for the second part of the deginition, I have already explained that a religion does not have to necessarily adhere to any particular practices in order to be considered a religion. So, I think that this definition is not true either.

The final definition Con gives is this:
"4. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice."
I agree with Con when he says that Atheism does not follow this definition. But, I explained in the first definition how a religion does not have to necessarily adhere to a moral code in order to be considered a religion - so this definition is also not accurate.

So what is an accurate definition of 'religion'? Well, I would define it like this:
"A common set of beliefs that gives answers about the nature of the universe".
Every religion follows this definition. Coincidentally, so does atheism. And so, I think that it is a suitable definition for 'religion' - and I hope my opponent agrees with me.

THERAVADA BUDDHISM
We agree on the fact that Theravada Buddhism is a religion. However, as I explained, Buddhists also do not believe that any such God exists. Does that make them exempt from being religion? Of course not. The same could be said about atheism - sure, atheists don't believe in God. But I guess you could say the the 'practice' of atheism, is to not engage in any religious practices! There is a claim and belief in atheism - as you put it, to 'lack a belief in the existence of God'. But it is a belief nonetheless. If you did not 'lack a belief in the existence of a God', then you would not be an atheist. So in order to be an atheist, you have to adhere to a set of rules. So, just like Theravada Buddhism, atheism is also a religion.

RELOGIOUS TENDENCIES OF ATHEISTS
I agree with Con when he says that the religious tendencies of atheists alone does not make atheism a religion.
Rather, I would say that this is a part of a cumulative argument. 'Sects' within atheism adhere to very religious practices - which fits in the definition of 'A personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices'. So, we can see how for some people, atheism really is a religion. This increases the strength of my argument.

Sources:
http://www.beliefnet.com...
http://www.patheos.com...-(Quaker)/Ritual-Worship-Devotion-Symbolism
http://en.wikipedia.org...
Debate Round No. 3
QandA

Con

Thank you for your response.
I will begin by defending my stance that atheism cannot fit into the definitions of "Religion".

1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Atheism cannot fit into this definition. Atheism does not deal with the cause nature or purpose of the universe at all. It merely just claims that a God does not exist. Atheism itself (in it's basic form) holds no theories as to how the universe came about or why we are here, therefore it does not deal with a "cause", "nature" or "purpose". Already it is impossible for Atheism to fit into this definition however I will continue to rebut. Granted the words "especially", "usually" and "often" are used in this definition however as the first part of the definition is there as well; "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe", then that rules out the possibility of Atheism being able to fit into this definition. It does not use words such as "especially" or "often"when explaining this part of the definition. Therefore by definition, a religion MUST be "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe". As I have said previously, atheism does not deal with the cause, nature AND purpose of the universe. It merely claims that a God does not exist. This rules out atheism for being able to fit into this definition of religion.

2. "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion."

Again Pro, Atheism cannot fit into this definition of religion as Atheism holds absolutely no "practices". "Practices" is the key word here. Yes Atheism holds a set of beliefs (no belief) however there are no practices or rules etc. to follow in Atheism. It is all independent. The definition states a "set of beliefs AND practices". Which means that practices must be involved for it to be a religion. Since Atheism follows no practices it cannot fit into this definition.

3. "the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions."

Again here, like number 2, the word "practices" rules out Atheism being able to fit here. It's interesting that you claim that you have showed that "a religion does not have to necessarily adhere to any particular practices in order to be considered a religion." However this statement is flawed. As you are referring to the examples you have given I will start with Theravada Buddhism.
This is a quote from your own source which completely contradicts your recent statement. It says:

"Theravada means "The Way of the Elders" in Pali, reflecting the Theravadins' belief that they most closely follow the original beliefs and practices of the Buddha and the early monastic Elders." (http://www.religionfacts.com...)

The words "BELIEFS" and "PRACTICES" here really strike out. You claimed that this religion has no such thing yet can still be called a religion but your own source says otherwise. Furthermore I can pick out examples from the source where it shows such beliefs and practices.
Example 1: "The purpose of life for Theravadins is to become an arhat, a perfected saint who has acheived nirvana and will not be reborn again". This certainly sounds like a practice to me.

Example 2: "There are four stages to becoming an arhat:
(http://www.religionfacts.com...)

Bringing this all back to the main point, you claim that Atheism must be a religion because Theravada Buddhism is a religion and it like atheism holds no set of practices etc. However I have shown from your own source that you have contradicted yourself and it does indeed hold practices and that is why it must be a religion. Atheism, on the contrary holds no practices and that is a key reason why it cannot be a religion, as the definitions also state.

Lastly,
4. "something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice."

You say, "I agree with Con when he says that Atheism does not follow this definition. But, I explained in the first definition how a religion does not have to necessarily adhere to a moral code in order to be considered a religion - so this definition is also not accurate."

Well Pro, on the contrary I have just discounted your notion that a religion does not have to follow "a point or matter of ethics or conscience". This notion is certainly not the case for your used example of Theravada Buddhism.

You claim to have invented your own definition of religion as being "A common set of beliefs that gives answers about the nature of the universe". Two things:
1. You cannot simply invent a definition to suit your argument.
2. Even with the imaginary definition you have given you have still made it impossible for Atheism to fit into it. Atheism does NOT give answers about the nature of the universe. It merely discounts religious theories.

Theravada Buddhism
I have already thoroughly discussed the problems with you trying to compare atheism with Theravada Buddhism. Simply, T.B contains a set of practices, rituals etc. while atheism does no such thing. Again that is what separates the definitions of religion from the definitions of Atheism.

Religious Tendencies of Atheists
My opponent has failed to give examples of atheistic sects that adhere to religious practices however if there was examples, then this would not enhance my opponents argument at all. A few individual sects cannot count for or alter the whole definition/ idea/notion of "Atheism". It is like saying that a few Christian priests are pedophiles therefore Christianity is a pedophiliac religion. It is a ridiculous notion.

All in all I think a realistic conclusion can be drawn that Atheism is not and cannot possibly be a religion.
Finally, I would like to give some definitions of well-known religions.

Christianity:
1. the RELIGION derived from Jesus Christ, based on the Bible as sacred scripture, and professed by Eastern, Roman Catholic, and Protestant bodies
2. conformity to the Christian RELIGION
3. the RELIGION that is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ
(http://www.merriam-webster.com...)

Islam:
1. A monotheistic RELIGION characterized by the acceptance of the doctrine of submission to God and to Muhammad as the chief and last prophet of God.
2. the RELIGION of the Muslims, as set forth in the Koran, that teaches that there is only one God, Allah, and that Muhammad is His prophet.
(http://www.thefreedictionary.com...)

Buddhism:
1. a religion of eastern and central Asia that is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha
(http://www.merriam-webster.com...)

And now something you wouldn't typically associate religion with
Scientology:
the doctrines and beliefs of a RELIGIOUS movement founded in the mid-20th century by L. Ron Hubbard
(http://www.thefreedictionary.com...)

Notice I have cap locked the word "religion". See whether it's predominant religions or unusual religions the definition still contains the word "religion" in it. But no where is the word religion used to define Atheism. It is simply not a religion, just a group of people that claim God does not exist. Absolutely no practices, rituals etc. involved.

There is a quote that often sticks with me

"Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color."
- Don Hirschberg.

Thus, I rest my case. It has certainly been a pleasure debating with you and I wish you all the best!
Nzrsaa

Pro

Hi Con!

DEFINITIONS
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Con says:
"Atheism does not deal with the cause nature or purpose of the universe at all. It merely just claims that a God does not exist. Atheism itself (in it's basic form) holds no theories as to how the universe came about or why we are here
And atheists give an answer - it was not a God. "

By here's the thing - "it was not God" is PRECISELY a theory as to how the universe came about. Atheists are saying 'God did not create the universe'. That is a positive claim about how the universe came about, the cause of it, and and it's purpose. Merely because it rejects other theories, DOES NOT MEAN that it is not a theory in itself.
So, it is entirely possible for atheism to fit in this claim, as I have explained.

2. "a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion."

Con admits that atheism has a common set of beliefs, but asserts that they have no practices. But I guess that it entirely depends on what you consider to be a 'rule' or 'practice'. Because in order to be an atheist, you HAVE to believe that God doesn't exist. Does that count as a rule or practice? It is debatable. I would say so, but I would suspect my opponent would think otherwise. It is most certainly a rule, but I would think that a practice expands to mental practices, and beliefs. For example, a Christian may 'practice' the belief that Jesus is God. I guess it is similar to atheism 'practicing' the belief that God doesn't exist. Regardless, having practices is not essential to being considered a religion, as I explained in the previous round.

3. "the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions."

I explained in the 2nd definition why atheism could be seen to follow practices. But, it is nevertheless not essential to have certain practices to be a religion.
I think that I actually cited Quakerism, not Buddhism in the practices point. Because I would certainly agree that Theravada Buddhism follows a set of practices. However, Quakerism follows no particular set of practices, yet are certainly a religion. That was the point I was trying to make.

4. "something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice."

I certainly used Theravada Buddhism for many examples, but I believe I cited Folk Religions as a religion that does not follow a particular ethical code.

I then gave an appropriate definition for 'religion':
"A common set of beliefs that gives answers about the nature of the universe"
However, Con said that I "cannot simply invent a definition to suit your argument". But, It was a carefully thought up definition, that is a suitable term that fits into the definitions of every religion out there!
He then goes on to say:
"Atheism does NOT give answers about the nature of the universe". But this is fundamentally false! Atheism positively asserts that God did not create the universe! I would think that this would be obvious.

THERAVADA BUDDHISM
I originally brought Theravada Buddhism to show that merely because atheism 'lacks belief in God', does not mean that it is exempt from being a religion. I was not trying to draw parallels between the beliefs and practices of Theravada Buddhism and those of Atheism.

RELIGIOUS TENDENCIES OF ATHEISM
The main point that I was trying to get across was the fact that Some parts of atheism DO adhere to very religious beliefs, and so, it gives an insight into how at least some parts of atheism can be construed as religious in a very obvious way. It was not an argument in itself. It was a part of a cumulative argument.
Here is a link to 'the first church of atheism' (if you believe it or not)
http://firstchurchofatheism.com...

Finally, Con gives a quote:
"Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color"
I am not sure, I think that it best describes agnosticism; I think that atheism makes a positive claim - 'I don't believe in God', whereas agnosticism does not - so I would substitute 'atheism' for 'agnosticism' in that quote.

CONCLUSION
It has turned out that the debate has been mainly about definitions. We both have our opinions. However, I would like to stress that Con's definitions result in inaccurate portrayals of religion; there are several examples of how my opponent's definitions fall short. As a result, I provided a more accurate definition that covered the whole spectrum of religion. Coincidentally, atheism fits into this definition.

Thank you for a great debate!

God Bless

Sources:
http://firstchurchofatheism.com...
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Babayetu 2 years ago
Babayetu
""A common set of beliefs that gives answers about the nature of the universe"
However, Con said that I "cannot simply invent a definition to suit your argument". But, It was a carefully thought up definition, that is a suitable term that fits into the definitions of every religion out there!
He then goes on to say:
"Atheism does NOT give answers about the nature of the universe". But this is fundamentally false! Atheism positively asserts that God did not create the universe! I would think that this would be obvious."

Saying that I don't believe Barry made a chair, does not give any answers as to the nature of chairs, i have not stated their purpose, what they are for, or even who uses them, JUST that i don't think Barry made it.
Posted by Babayetu 3 years ago
Babayetu
ALSO

An agnostic is someone who does not make any claim, and does not claim any knowledge."

Agnostics say that nothing can be known about God this is a claim.
Posted by Babayetu 3 years ago
Babayetu
Nzrsaa

Fine i concede the point of anti theism, but agnosticism by the definition you provided has nothing to do with this debate, agnosticism addresses knowledge not belief, it states that "a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God." with this definition its perfectly possible to be an agnostic theist and an agnostic atheist. I have met many a theist that state that God is unknowable hence making them agnostic. Again atheism in of itself is NOT a claim. much like in a courtroom "not guilt" is not the jury saying they believe the accused is innocent, they are saying the prosecution has not fulfilled their burden of proof so they can not say he is "guilty". not believing someone is guilt IS different to believing they are innocent.
Posted by Nzrsaa 3 years ago
Nzrsaa
Babayetu,

Here is an atheist's definition of 'anti-theism'.
http://rationalwiki.org...
Anti-theism is not a knowledge claim, it is a perspective.
If atheists say 'there isn't enough evidence for me to accept that', then they aren't really atheists, they are agnostics. An agnostic is someone who does not make any claim, and does not claim any knowledge. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...
Posted by Babayetu 3 years ago
Babayetu
Atheism isn't a knowledge claim. anti-theism is a knowledge claim. Atheism is the disbelief of god claims not the claim that god does not exist, that is anti-theism. since you cant prove god does not exist anti-theism requires faith. atheism does not. you are saying "god exists" and atheists say "there inst enough evidence for me to accept that" hence, atheism isn't faith based and the pro debaters argument doesn't exist.
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