Is atheism subject to separation of church and state?

Asked by: othercheek
  • Our country is designed to be secular.

    Jefferson put it best the government shall "'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State." Atheism states that God claims have not met their burden of proof so Atheism in itself makes no positive claims regarding religion and does not compel a holder of that philosophy to behave in any particular way. However the government should not endorse Atheism like promoting in the school system. I think secularism i=is what our founding fathers prescribed and it is the fairest form to be objective and prevent abuse over minorities.

  • Yes, it is.

    Since atheists have been forming their own 'churches,' they're equally subject to separation of church and state, which means that their stance on abortion, evolution, and homosexual marriage are on equal ground as that of us Christians. Which, then, would be the better foundation for our country: an objective holy scripture or a godless ever-changing set of morals?

  • Atheism is a belief system

    Atheism is a belief system . Many people are not atheists so yes , a distance should be maintained between atheism and nation state . Simply put , Atheism can inspire many laws that can't happily coexist with certain belief systems . An atheist government can prohibit building of churches . This willmcoflict with freedom of religion.

  • Hold All Religious Opinions To The Same Stardard

    Allowing atheism to operate outside the rules which apply to all other religiously oriented organizations is holding one religious opinion to different standards than all the others. Atheism isn't somehow exempt from playing by the rules just because it claims to be against religion.

    Atheism offers a religious opinion so it should be held to the same exact standards as any other religious opinion.

  • Atheism is not necessarily a religion but is lack of one.

    Atheism is simply the lack of religion. Because it replaces a "conventional" religion, it should be regarded as a religion as far as the law is concerned. Just because atheism is not exactly a religion doesn't mean that atheists should not be subject to the same restrictions that other religions face.

  • In a way.

    The government is supposed to stay out of all religion and be neutral. Atheism is not a religion, but a lack of religion. However, if the government took the stance that there was no god, they are making a claim that goes against many religious beliefs and I believe that would also be violating the separation of church and state.

  • An atheistic state.

    Atheism doesn't have any doctrine, no rules, it is not even a believe system, just the lack of belief in any deities.
    Atheism doesn't take any position on political matters or any other issues, expect the existence of any deity.
    For the state to really be secular, it must act without regarding any gods or religious beliefs. So to speak, the state must be atheistic.

  • Atheism is lack of religion.

    Just as bald isn't a hair color, and abstinence isn't a sex position, Atheism is not a religion.
    The definition of religion according to Google is as follows:
    "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. A personal God or gods."
    The definition of Atheism is as follows:
    "disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods."
    And last but not least, the definition of Separation of Church and state:
    "The separation of church and state is the distance in the relationship between organized religion and the nation state."

  • Is Atheism a religion?

    In order to assess if Atheism is a religion -- and therefore even mentionable in the separation of church and state argument -- we need to define religion.

    According to Merriam-Webster Online (http://www.Merriam-webster.Com/dictionary/religion), religion is:

    "1. The belief in a god or in a group of gods
    2. An organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
    3. An interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group"

    If we use the last definition, Atheism is most certainly a religion. But if we use that definition, so are sports, hobbies and politics. So unless we decide that the government must stay out of anything people find interesting, this third definition is more of a hyperbole than a legitimate viewpoint in this discussion.

    With the third definition eliminated, the first and second definitions are all that remain, and they clearly cite the belief in or worship of a god or gods as a requirement for religion. Since Atheism is the belief that no god exists, it clearly cannot be considered a religion.

    I also looked into the claim that Atheists have their own "churches." I found the below articles mentioning this:


    Church is a misnomer for what is really an atheist community club. The groups may promote philosophical teachings, fellowship, charity, and group singing, but the lack of a holy scripture or doctrine or general belief in a deity or even supernatural forces completely discredit the notion of atheist groups being churches.

    If we call these atheist groups churches, we must surely call every social club a religion: The Boy & Girl Scouts of America, the Masons, fraternities and sororities, etc. All of these have mission statements and promote different philosophies and character traits among their members, and some even have religious affiliations, but being a club does not make an organization a religion nor its members a church.

  • Atheist is NOT a religion.

    I am amazed at the ignorance people keep showing on the other side of this argument. Atheism is not a religion. You need to have a doctrine, a deity and a church to be a religion which atheism does not have. Atheism is a simple belief which does not necissarily have any other connotations and that is why atheism is not subject to church and state. Religion on the other hand has specific designs on what everyone should be doing. There is no part of atheism that tells its people to hate any other people where as religion implies hatred and violence towards large groups of people.

    Religions prejudace and violence is what mean it needs to be kept out of government so you dont institutionalise any kind of prejudace against any groups of people. A true atheist prime minister or president might be very anti religion but he/she might also be completely tolerant of everyone and their oppinions whereas a true Christian/Muslim/Jew will have have some explicitly unpleasant beliefs that he/she will think is their duty to enforce on the unwilling.

  • Atheism is not religion so it is not subject to separation of church and state

    These are traits used to determine how religious something is:

    Belief in supernatural beings (gods).
    A distinction between sacred and profane objects.
    Ritual acts focused on sacred objects.
    A moral code believed to be sanctioned by the gods.
    Characteristically religious feelings (awe, sense of mystery, sense of guilt, adoration), which tend to be aroused in the presence of sacred objects and during the practice of ritual, and which are connected in idea with the gods.
    Prayer and other forms of communication with gods.
    A world view, or a general picture of the world as a whole and the place of the individual therein. This picture contains some specification of an over-all purpose or point of the world and an indication of how the individual fits into it.
    A more or less total organization of one’s life based on the world view.
    A social group bound together by the above.

    Atheism does not have a belief in supernatural beings.
    It has no distinction between sacred and profane object.
    It has no rituals.
    It has no moral code believed to be sanctioned by gods.
    It does not arouse characteristically religious feeling in presence of sacred objects and rituals because it has neither.
    It has no form of communication with gods.
    It has no overall purpose or point of the world as indication to how an individual fits in it.
    Atheists don't perform total organization of their life based on world views.
    It has no social groups bound together by the above.

    Therefore Atheism is not religion; and so it is not subject to separation of church and state.

  • Atheism is anti religion, therefore anti church

    Since Atheism is anti religion, it is therefore anti church so the rule of separation of church and state would not apply. Just because Atheism is setting up "churches" does not mean it is a faith or a church. Atheist "churches" are nothing more than a meeting hall for people with like mind to gather and socialize. Church is more about worship than social interaction at the core, therefore even though they call their meeting place a "church" it is by definition a meeting hall not a "church". So therefore since there is no "church" there need be no separation.

  • Atheism IS secular society

    Whether you like it or not, the U.S. is, or at least is meant to be a secular society. The country's secularism is laid out in the Constitution, that religion will not have laws established that protect or grant it special privileges. But the part that most people get confused on is that there will be no law prohibiting religion. No one is prohibiting religion, unless its on public, government ground. Once again one must remember that if signs of religion are seen on government, public ground, then this is the government endorsing religion. Atheism is not subject to a separation of church and state, because atheism IS a separation of church and state. It simply is very nearly the embodiment of the first amendment. Atheism is not a religion, ergo atheism is not subject to the laws of religion.

  • No, it's not.

    Atheism isn't a religion just the same that theism isn't a religion. That's really all that needs to be said. Religions offer guidelines and worldviews, therefore religion should have no part in politics, but the personal religious beliefs of the politician don't matter as long as it doesn't interfere with political decision making.

  • There is no Atheist church to separate the state from.

    Atheism, by definition, is the lack of a religion. Hence, this question is irrational, since there is no "Atheist church" to separate the state from in the first place.

    However, it is important to highlight that an "atheist" government is not one that condones all religious practices, but instead, one that does not favor one religion over the other.

  • A non-belief is not subject to separation of church and state.

    There is no doctrine for atheism. Atheism is a dis-belief in "God". There is no way to push atheism unless there is a teaching that "God is not real", but mentioning that would not be subject to separation of church and state because it is an opinion, not pushing an ideal. If a teacher says they are Christians, they are not subject to separation of church and state.If they preach their religion, they are. How can you preach a non-belief in "God"? By pointing out science? If we take science away from the classroom, our education would fall.

    Posted by: SNP1

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Quan says2013-12-30T13:29:10.177
Yes, insofar as the government cannot force you to be atheist or to follow atheist doctrine. Which is surprisingly easy to accomplish, seeing as atheism does not even have a doctrine which you could be forced to follow.
slo1 says2013-12-30T17:22:24.757
It is hard to vote on this. An atheist group that has an activist type agenda should be subject to the separation of church and state as well as be eligible for tax exempt status, but I'm not certain that theists can accurately separate secular beliefs from atheist promotion behaviors. IE: does teaching evolution become an atheist belief that has to be taken out of school. The answer is of course not as evolution can be believed in across a wide range of religious and non-religious belief systems.
Quan says2013-12-30T17:27:31.407
That's precisely why I think it would be foolish to classify atheism as a religion. Suddenly everything secular will become misconstrued as atheist doctrine and public schools will be forbidden to teach damn near everything. (Then again shutting down the public education system may not be a terrible idea, but that's another debate entirely and this wouldn't be the way to go about it.)
dvande28 says2014-01-08T14:13:51.363
Ninian Smart was a pioneer in secular religious studies. He proposed a 7 part definition of religion, that includes 7 dimensions that religions posses.

Doctrinal and philosophical: systematic formulation of religious teachings in an intellectually coherent form
Narrative and Mythic: stories that work on several levels. Sometimes narratives fit together into a fairly complete and systematic interpretation of the universe and human's place in it
Ethical and legal: Rules about human behavior
Ritual: Forms and orders of ceremonies
Experiential and emotional: dread, guilt, awe, mystery, devotion, liberation, ecstasy, inner peace, bliss
Social and Institutional: belief system is shared and attitudes practiced by a group. Often rules for identifying community membership and participation
Material: ordinary objects or places that symbolize or manifest the sacred or supernatural

Now if I were to assume atheism is a religion I could go through the list and give an example of where separation of church and state would need to be applied for each dimension for both atheism and Christianity.

Experiential and Emotional:
This is a private matter and would not need to fall under the separation of church and state.

Atheism - Has no objects or symbols
Christianity -Nativity scenes could not be placed on government property, unless that property were to be open to demonstrations by any group

Narrative and Mythic:
Atheism - Has no narrative
Christianity - No teachings these stories in school

Doctrinal and philosophical:
Atheism - Has no doctrine
Christianity: No teachings this doctrine in school

Atheism - Has no rituals
Christianity - No prayer in schools

Ethical and legal: Rules about human behavior
Atheism - Has no rules
Christianity - No laws could be implemented based on religion

Social and Institutional:
Atheism - Prohibit those from attending institutions that are not atheistic
Christianity - Prohibit those from attending religious institutions that are not Christian

Firstly, with atheism only falling under one of these categories, it is clear that atheism is not a religion.
Secondly, being a fan of a certain sports team, or political affiliation would also fall under social and institutional.
Thirdly, the first amendment also guarantees freedom of religion and the right to peaceably assemble.

In other words, atheism is not subject to separation of church and state as it is not a religion, but because of freedom of religion and the right to peaceable assemble, the government would have a difficult job creating a law that promoted atheism, without being unconstitutional.