Usually I agree with Portland's Thom Hartmann, Air America's progressive talk show host. But this morning he kept saying that atheism is a religion – that not believing in God is a belief system.
That's ridiculous. It shows that no matter how smart and articulate Hartmann is, he's got some blind spots. Those logic-obscurers likely stem from his Christianity.
Not being a regular listener of Hartmann, I didn't know before today that he's a Christian. But he told a caller that he prays every day. And not to some universal being, but to a personal God.
This probably explains why Hartmann has fallen prey to one of the myths about atheism: that it is a religion. Over on my Church of the Churchless blog I regularly argue with commenters who claim that not believing in God is as much a belief as believing in God.
Huh? I point out that there is a huge difference between (1) not believing, and (2) believing, in the existence of something.
To assert otherwise is to engage in a form of sophistry where words don't mean anything. Sure, you can say that for many people "golf is a religion" or "watching Lost is a religion."
But this just means that they regularly engage in those activities. Like atheists frequently thinking, "I don't believe in God."
By that token, everything that humans do is a religion, rendering the word meaningless. This is one of the points of an excellent piece, "If atheism is religion, 'albino' is a suntan."
The author does a terrific job debunking the notion that atheism is a religion.
If someone asked you about unicorns, would you say "I believe there are no unicorns", or would it be more honest to say "I do not believe in unicorns"? These are two different answers. Nobody disbelieves in unicorns purely as a matter of personal faith.
Again, apply the same reasoning to the Gods of other religions. Example : if you are a Christian, do you believe the Hindu God Ganesh does not exist? Or do you not believe in Ganesh?
If you believe that unicorns do not exist, then may I say that you are a member of the "No unicorns" religion? Is it a matter of faith that unicorns do not exist? Can I come along to your non-unicorn church with you tomorrow?
If you are a Christian, do you believe Ganesh does not exist? Why, then you must be a devout follower of the "No Ganesh" faith!
Do you see where this is going? [ Sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, but it's excellent for getting a point across. 8-) ]
If me not believing in your God is a faith, then you not believing in other Gods is an equal faith. How many Christians do you know who would say they do not believe in other Gods as a matter of faith?
If my atheism with respect to your deity is a religion, then your atheism with respect to other deities is also a religion.
Thom Hartmann, are you listening?