The Instigator
Con (against)
12 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
0 Points

Atheism is an accepted religion.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/25/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,232 times Debate No: 44595
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (30)
Votes (2)




PRO ARGUMENT: Atheism CAN be characterized as a religion.

CON ARGUMENT: Atheism CAN NOT be characterized as a religion.

3 Rounds: 1st round is for acceptance, 2nd round is for arguments, 3rd round is for counter arguments and closing statements. No new arguments are allowed. Voters must deduct 3 pts for each new argument made during round 3.

Both PRO and CON must make their case (burden of proof lies with both PRO and CON).

By "accepted religion" I mean that it meets the definition of religion. Definitions for key terms must be defined by both PRO and CON in round 2 (no new definitions are allowed after the second round or voters will deduct 3 pts per new definition). Their interpretations are open for argument in rounds 2 and 3. The definition of "religion" will obviously be important in order to define its boundaries. Its boundaries are not limited to the literal (dictionary) definition of religion. PRO and CON can make logical arguments for societal definitions. There must be logical arguments and evidence presented when presenting "societies" definition or a "working" definition. I urge voters to be critical when reviewing these types of definitions to ensure that the proper evidence is presented.

This is my first debate. I have set some limitations on members that wish to challenge this debate and I admit, I would not meet these limitations myself. However, I feel I have strong arguments and I only want serious debaters. If you don't meet the limitations but feel you are in my boat, please message me and I'll consider the challenge.

Thanks and good luck!


I accept, also Con thinks they have a strong argument because this seems like anyone who is on the Pro side will lose, but I think I will be able to change that. One last thing, as long as the definitions are in a dictionary they are definitions and CAN NOT be denied. With that said, good luck my opponent.
Debate Round No. 1


In many discussions and debates involving religion, I have observed a group of people that identify their religion as atheism. For the purpose of debate, let"s say I had asked several people in a religious forum to state their religion. One identified themselves as a Christian, one as Islamic, one as a Hindu, and one as an atheist. There would be some confusion as soon as the last person identified themselves as an atheist. The person believing in Hinduism would say, "Hey, I"m also an atheist." Perhaps the Christian and Islamic couple would say, "If atheism is a religion, then is also theism?" "If so, then we are both theists." Obviously, this is a catastrophe. Two groups that have been combatant towards one another for millennia are grouped in the same religion (along with about 78% of America according an aggregate of Gallup polls in the year 2013, which can be found at We would also, possibly, have grouped a nonreligious person or a person that completely rejects religion with the fourth largest religion in the world (according to

Atheism is a single belief and cannot be considered a religion because a religion is, in the very least, a set of beliefs. However, there are requirements for this set of beliefs. I will describe in further detail below.

Literary Definitions (Oxford English Dictionary):
1.The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods
1.1.A particular system of faith and worship
1.2.A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion
Latin origin: religio(n-) "obligation, bond, reverence" or religare "to bind"

Indifferent or hostile to religion:
Derivative: irreligion (n)
Latin origin: in- "not" religious (see religious)

Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods
Greek origin: a- "without" + theos "God"

Belief in the existence of a God or gods, specifically of a creator who intervenes in the universe
Greek origin: theos "God" + -ism

1.An acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof
1.1.Something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion
1.2.A religious conviction
1.3.(belief in) trust, faith, or confidence in (someone or something)

1.Inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real:
1.1.Lack of faith

Let"s compare the definition of atheism to the literal definition of religion.
1.The disbelief in God is not the belief in God
a.The disbelief in God is not a system of faith or worship
b.Atheism COULD be an interest followed with great devotion.

At first look, atheism matches the final part of the OED definition. However, this definition covers religion as a figure of speech. Religion can be used as a hyperbole to mean a great interest, especially considering that its Latin origin includes "obligation, bound", etc. This is further demonstrated in the examples that are given in the OED definition. All three examples establish a particular sport as a religion. We can all agree that football, cricket, and rugby are not accepted religions. Therefore, this part of the definition is not useful to us. If PRO wishes to debate this further, she can certainly bring it up in Round 2 and I can address it again in the final round.

We can clearly see that the definition for atheism matches the definition of disbelief. Actually, the word "disbelief" is in the definition itself. Therefore, atheism is the disbelief in God and does not constitute as a religion. Congruently, theism directly matches the definition of belief.


Note: I would normally not consider Wikipedia an acceptable source. However, in this case we are searching for society"s definition of religion. It seems that there is no better source than an encyclopedia assembled by society.

Religion: an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence.
This definition makes much more sense than the literal definition. The literal definition, in requiring the belief in God, has actually neglected to include Hinduism and Buddhism among other religions that have atheistic beliefs. According to Wikipedia, these are the third and fourth largest religions in the world. Perhaps curiously to you, religion actually does not require the belief in God nor the disbelief. The position on God"s existence can be completely ignored by a system of beliefs and the system of beliefs will still constitute a religion. There are two main requirements dictated by this definition: there must be an organized collection of beliefs and the collection of beliefs MUST relate humanity to an order of existence. In other words, religion must answer questions like: Where do I go when I die? How do I live my life to reach this place? The second question relates back to the origin of the word "religion". What obligations am I bound by? Atheism, even ignoring that it is a single belief as oppose to a system of beliefs, does not answer these questions alone. This disbelief in God does not provide an answer on how we should live our lives.

I have presented, above, both the literal and societal definitions for religion as well as the definition of atheism. Both the literal and societal definitions support the CON argument. I have also presented the following logical arguments:
-If atheism is a religion, so must theism be
- If atheism is a religion, the religion would include vastly different beliefs, including non-religious views with two of the world"s most popular religions
-If theism is a religion, the religion would include almost 80% of the US together, including vastly different religious views

In conclusion, atheism and theism are singular beliefs that can be (but are not required) part of a religion but cannot be considered a religion on their own.

I"d like to end my round 1 argument with a few final words on the religious forum we hypothetically polled at the beginning of my argument. It might be important to understand WHY there would be a group of people that would identify themselves using such a broad term. It seems to me, that this is a somewhat intentional tactic to promote the group"s world views. According to the same Gallup poll referenced earlier, only 5% of those polled could be Atheists (assuming the entire "other" category is made up of Atheists) and only 15% identified themselves as non-religious. This non-religious group includes many different views, including antitheists, secular Buddhists, agnostics, ignostics, nontheists, freethoughters, humanists, etc. This means that the combination of varying forms of atheism and all of these varying non-religious views together are less than half of the number of people identifying themselves as Protestant (only one denomination of Christianity). It is therefore beneficial to use a broader term in defining this groups world views since it would then have a larger inclusion.

I am looking forward to reading PROs arguments and wish her the best of luck.



ChloeMcIverFloyd forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


My debate opponent has decided not to post any arguments during round 2. Since this leaves me with no arguments to counter and since any arguments or rebuttal in round 3 cannot be included in my round 3 cross examination or closing statements, PRO has therefore forfeited this debate. Since my opponent has been on this site, posted for at least one other debate topic, and has not requested more time to present her argument I can only assume that she has conceited due to lack of argument and possibly adaptation of the CON argument as truth.

I do think that there were grounds on challenging the evidence I presented in round one for my societal definition. It"s extremely difficult to prove what "society" "thinks". I believe I made a good argument for using Wikipedia as a societal indicator and it would have been difficult for an opponent to discount this reference. Also, I had the literal meaning on the CON side so perhaps proving society"s definition wasn"t a "prove-or-bust" scenario. I specifically stated that it was an option and I included it to improve the PRO argument since anyone that opened up a dictionary could see that the literal meaning supports CON. I wanted to provide a rebuttal for PRO and to keep it from a debate based on semantics.

There were two PRO arguments I expected. One was mentioned in the comments section, the fact that the first constitutional amendment"s rights have been extended to atheism. This has been evident in several cases, including the one referenced in the comments sections, and also in tax law. However, I provided a rebuttal in the comments section. In summary, and evidenced by the Federal Court"s decision in the referenced case, the court does not distinguish between non-religion and religion and often references non-religion as religion. This is due to the fact that the first amendment "mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion." [1]. In other words, freedom of religion also means freedom of non-religion. Therefore, for first amendment purposes, religion and non-religion are the same. However, this does not prove that atheism is a religion nor does it disprove any part of the CON argument because it does not define religion it only interprets the first amendment"s protection.

The second argument I expected would be an attempt to classify it as a secular religion. However, secular religion is not religion and therefore could be argued that it is not an acceptable argument for this debate. Another case against this argument would be that, by definition, secular religions require a system of indoctrination or code of conduct. For instance, this is the case for the argument that communism is a secular religion and that the Communist Manifesto is it"s code of conduct. However, unlike other secular philosophies there is no one ideology that atheists adhere to. This is mainly due to the fact that it is a singular belief that is adaptable to different religions. Therefore, any code of conduct would conflict with say the code of conduction for Buddhism or Hinduism that have their own holy or sacred texts.

Thanks in advance for your votes. I look forward to debating PRO in the future.



ChloeMcIverFloyd forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
30 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Onyr 2 years ago
Atheism is a religion like 'off' is a TV channel.
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
@kaufmanj1973: Your definition of religion is problematic. You state that it is a religion because it "takes a stance on religious matters, such as the existence of a deity and an afterlife."

- A definition is extremely weak if it uses the term being defined. You state that a religion "takes a stance on religious matters"

- By your definition, the rejection of religion would therefore be a religion. This is a paradox.

- You state that atheism takes a stance on the afterlife, please provide your source. All the definitions I have found state that atheism only takes a stance on the existence of God. With regard to the afterlife, atheism contains a large range of beliefs ranging from reincarnation (Hinduism), to no afterlife (non-religious), to being brought back to life by an advanced extraterrestrial supercomputer (Raelism).
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
*Correction for my post below:

First paragraph, near the end, sentence should be "I did NOT state that Communism was a religion."

My apologies.
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
@kaufmanj1973: I do agree that it was unfortunate that Pro conceded and without any supporting arguments.

I brought up secular religion because I was expecting this type of argument from PRO. As I stated in the final round, this type of argument would have been a dead end. For one, because atheism is not a secular religion. Also, because this is a debate on religion and not secular religion. I did not give communism as an example of a secular religion. I simply said that it has been given as an example by others, specially by Reinhold Niebuhr [1]. Other possible examples: Comtism and Freemasonry [2]. I did state that Communism was a religion. I believe you have confused secular religion with religion. Please see my source [2] for a definition for secular religion. Wikipedia also has a definition but I prefer it less.

I'm not sure exactly why this is important as it was not an argument I made in support of CON. I was simply providing a counter argument to a possible argument that PRO would have had. This was required since PRO could only provide three sentences in support of the PRO argument.

I reviewed the case study on the other side of the link you provided. I provided my rebuttal both in the comments section and in round 3 so I'm not sure what you mean by paying attention. The federal court's decision is not related to the definition of atheism. This should not be a surprise, as the role of the judicial branch is only to interpret the law. They have absolutely no responsibility or power to DEFINE anything. They only INTERPRET what has been defined in the constitution. The federal court found that the first constitutional amendment should be extended to both the religious and the non-religious. Their judgment stated specifically, "the Court understands the reference to religion to include what it often calls "nonreligion." [3] I mean no disrespect, but I do not know how to make this point any more clearer. By all means, please provide a rebuttal.
Posted by kaufmanj1973 2 years ago
It is unfortunate that Pro conceded this debate. However, I would like to note that Con's examples of "secular" religion such as communism are not correct. If you would pay attention to the federal court decision that I cited, the federal court included Atheism within the definition of religion because it takes a stance on religious matters, such as the existence of a deity and an afterlife. Communism does not do this, and therefore would not qualify as a religion. The same would hold true for many other things. A "philosophy" and a "religion" are two entirely different things.
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
@ Seeginomikata Here is a better analogy (sorry no farm animals):

Atheism is a religion like an ingredient is a main course.

Or maybe:

Atheism is a religion like apples are a food group.
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
For reference, the quoted text in my post to kaufmanj1973 was taken from the link he provided a few posts earlier. Thanks and good luck CON. I should be able to post round two tonight.
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
@ ChloeMcIverFloyd: As stated in Round 1, which I am hoping you read before accepting this debate, we are debating both the literal AND the SOCIEITAL definitions. Please see my post below to kaufmanj1973. Also, I don't have to accept anything that your propose as this is a debate. Otherwise, we'd be discussing this on a

@ Kaufmanj1973: Please ignore the last line in my post below. That line was meant to be deleted and must have been hidden below my scroll view.
Posted by ZenoCitium 2 years ago
@kaufmanj1973: Perhaps you are correct and this is my attempt to "clear the air" and correct the misconceptions about atheism. I do agree that the literal definition is lacking greatly since it rejects the third and fourth largest religions in the world. However, this is why I have opened the debate for a societal definition that includes specific examples of its use. In other words, this debate will allow either ChloeMcIverFloyd and/or I to assemble a meaning for religion that is demonstrated by society. We will test our definition with real world examples.

I say "perhaps you are correct" because I get the sense that ChloeMcIverFloyd plans on arguing a technicality rather than confront this debate thoughtfully. I came to this conclusion after reading his Round 1 comments. I guess we will see.

I actually disagree, I'm sure to your surprise, that the federal court ruled atheism to be a religion. I am in no way an expert on Kaufman v. McCaughtry but in reading the court's decision I found that "the Court understands the reference to religion to include what it often calls "nonreligion." This is because "the First Amendment mandates government neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion", Therefore, atheism is protected under the First Amendment, whether it is defined as without the belief in a supreme being or defined as rejecting the belief in God altogether, as was the view of Kaufman, in this case, as it makes mention of "Kaufman's insistence that it [atheism] is the antithesis of religion". Antitheism is considered irreligion, not religion, and as I stated above irreligion is still protected by the First Amendment.

ruling also stated, the Court understands the reference to religion to include what it often calls "nonreligion."
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by theta_pinch 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro forfeited. Con was the only one to give an argument. Con was the only one with sources.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Yup, if theism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby. Pro didn't show up: made no arguments, cited no sources, and lost conduct for repeated forfeits. It would have been a little to have instigated as Pro on "Atheism is not a religion." Double negatives are pointless confusion.