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The War On Religion Does Not Exist
(aka, my controversial post of the day)

If you live in the United States of America and you watch the news, you are probably aware of two distinct, yet very related, things. One, this country is a Christian nation, founded on Christian principles by Christian founding fathers and Christian Christian Christian Christians. You will also be aware that Christianity is under attack. Atheists who are doing that not-believing-in-god thing all over the internet and in real life; governments enforcing a thing called the separation of church and state (what on earth is that anyway?); people of Christian faith who are being persecuted for their beliefs. That doesn't sound good at all.

However, the only thing keeping the war on Christianity alive is pretty much... well, Christians. When you try to convince a populace of something that isn't real, it takes a lot of work to keep going, and the idea that there is a war on Christianity is taking a lot of work, but without much success. It's like that kid in kindergarten who keeps screaming at you to stop hitting him when you're not anywhere near him in an attempt to get the teacher to punish you, but no one else in the entire room is paying any attention. The difference between that kid and these Christians is that the kid eventually grew up.

Now, it may sound as though I'm being unnecessarily callous, so I will say that I'm doing no stereotyping here. Not everyone does this, I know. However, of all the people to claim they are being oppressed by [insert random, made-up oppressor here], they've all been religious. This idea of a war strikes me as a pity grab by people in a comfortable position of power who don't want to lose it; now that the scales are evening out, they don't like that. i.e.; they don't get to oppress anyone anymore, so they think they themselves are being oppressed.

However, what I see is simply that: an attempt to even the scales. If you want to worship, do it. In public? Sure. Go to church? Be my guest. There are plenty of them. Everywhere. Wear a cross around your neck? Groovy. Start dictating what people can marry, what women can do with their own body, try to stop someone of another faith from putting up a place of worship, etc.? Now that's crossing the line. And attempting to make sure everyone has equal say and rights does not equate to oppression.

Jon Stewart, a man I personally admire, had some things to say on the subject that I found quite interesting.

"Does anyone know... does the Christian persecution complex have an expiration date? Because, uh, you've all been in charge pretty much since, uh... what was that guy's name? Constantine. He converted in, what was it, 312 A.D.? I'm just saying, enjoy your success.'

'I have to say, as someone who is not Christian, it’s hard for me to believe Christians are a persecuted people in America. God-willing, maybe one of you one day will even rise up and get to be president of this country -- or maybe forty-four in a row. But that’s my point, is they’ve taken this idea of no establishment as persecution, because they feel entitled, not to equal status, but to greater status.'

Sure, there are people who don't like what religion is doing. There are people who just don't like religion. Some people might get furious if you tell them to have a Merry Christmas, and some people won't like Tim Tebow. But to equate what's going on now with any war going on with religion is silly. If there is any war going on, it's against the advancements of civil rights, women's rights, marriage rights, the rights of other religions, etc. but even to call that 'war' is a stretch. And I guarantee that some people who say there's a war on Christianity would try to justify why everything I just said is perfectly okay.

There is no war. Be religious all you want. The war is not against religion, but against oppression. Try being gay. A woman. A minority. Muslim. Jewish. And then, please, try to tell me that the oppression is against Christianity.

(Written for a special friend of mine, and because I was going to eventually anyway.)
Ian Petersen's profile photoCicely Robin Laing's profile photoDaniel Daniels's profile photoP Pasttense's profile photo
Or a combination of those. >_>

But, lovely post as well :D I r share.
The people that believe they are being attacked are the same people who don't agree with separation of Church and, of course they feel attacked. I understand, but government should not create laws or conduct itself with religion in mind....unless all religions are in mind.
+Lauchlin MacGregor: That's why it amuses me when Gingrich said something to the effect that any Muslim he appointed would have to denounce Sharia Law. I don't think any religious law should dictate how our country works, but it's funny to see people go after Sharia Law when so much of this country has traces of Christian influence in it. :P (Granted, people need to understand that Sharia has nothing to do with terrorism, but that's asking a bit much.)
+Daniel Koeker September 11 really warped peoples' minds...and that really irks me...especially when there are people in other countries dealing with death on a daily basis.....death warps logic.

Separation of Church and State is simple...really. Strange how it's so greatly debated sometimes...and ignored others.
I'll buy the whole persecution thing when there are constitutional amendments to outlaw practicing Christianity.

Turnabout is fair play and all that.
Seems to me - about 250 years ago...a group was being persecuted for their religion..........hmm...
Try being in a minority where you're at a 75-90% chance of sexual assault in your lifetime (depending on the source), 2/3 chance of physical assault, blah blah blah. Then tell me you're oppressed. :| Silly people not checking their privilege.
I understand the point you are trying to make. My only thought is, if you don't bug me, I won't bug you. If you insist that the world recognizes that the idea of marriage, the idea of what Sunday is, the idea of faith, the idea of religious freedom, all of these ideas, under one opinion (so if one person thinks Sunday is pointless, then it becomes the norm), then why shouldn't I give my views and even debate at times?

If that made no sense, let me look at the points. What's marriage? Some say it's a legal thing so you can have sex and not get in trouble. Others say it's a special thing in their life. Everyone has a different view on it. The problem is, if you take only one view and try to make it the norm, it affects everyone else. If marriage should be just as casual as a fun date, then if the powerful people with this view are in charge, they may try to make marriage easier to have. Then the special feeling of being married will be lost when your 12 year old son has a wife.

Sunday is another argument that is just around the table right now and hasn't attacked like gay marriage. Some believe that Friday is the start of the weekend and Saturday is the end of it. They feel that Sunday is pointless and we might as well remove it and get back to work. Note I said some. Not everyone. Many treat it as the third weekend day. Whatever. The point is, if the person with the view that Sunday is pointless gets into power, they could suggest to have Sunday removed. Does that sound crazy and unlikely/stupid? Welcome to my point of view of many things.

I won't cover the last two, since I tend to drone on and on about stuff that no one agrees with, so I'll end it there. :P
+Robert Gardner "...if you take only one view and try to make it the norm, it affects everyone else."

No kidding. Like the view that it's between a man and a woman, which prevents me from marrying the person I love (or would if I were American).

"If marriage should be just as casual as a fun date, then if the powerful people with this view are in charge, they may try to make marriage easier to have."

That doesn't even make sense. How exactly is this happening? You're speaking in hypothetical concepts -- "they may" or "this could", not "this is". Plus, you bring in child marriages, which are a completely different topic. Sort those issues out, please. It's sort of like the poor person who had to make this infographic (which you may find informative):

Finally, how dare you compare loving marriages to fun dates? If you're comparing these people: and to twelve-year-olds getting married, it's clear you have a fundamental lack of respect for other human beings, and I find that the most distressing part of your whole response.
+Robert Gardner anytime you use a religious term in legal terminology, you're discriminating against those faiths which do not use those terms. The answer is to not use religious terms in law and government. So Sunday is just Sunday and marriage, as a term, would be replaced with a term that is non-religious - perhaps Civil Unions. Religions can continue to have their own terminology.
I've always felt that the problem with "marriage" is a semantic one, not an idealistic one. The term "marriage" means different things between people of different faiths (or lack their of). I've always thought that if you separated the legalistic part into something like a Civil Union (where everyone who is in one has the same legal rights), you can then conduct the Union under any Marriage Ceremony (usually affiliated with religious ideals) you like. That way every person's definition of Marriage is not re-defined, and everyone has the same legal rights in our society. The debate is then truly boiled down to the legal idea of two people joining and it leaves whatever religious overtones that come along with each person's idea of Marriage out of it.
+John Barlow I've been enlightened - as many other terms are also religious in nature (i.e. Bible related) such as divorce, annulment...etc. It really is too tangled up in law - not to mention that people are so identified with marriage that removing it would bring out alot of unrest and anger from the people. While it logically makes sense to me...logic does not always apply.

I see why marriage for some people is between a man and a woman and why they'd object to allowing gays to marry - but I agree with many that this is one case where they should just "suck it up" and allow equal rights under the law.
+Lauchlin MacGregor The "semantics" point regarding marriage as a legal term, and replacing it with "civil unions" is something I have argued for years. That is literally a huge part of the disconnent between the two sides. The religious right doesn't want gay marriage; a lot of that is misinterpretation or speculation that churches would be forced to perform martial ceremonies for homosexual couples. Remove "marriage" from legal terminology, and replace it with "civil union" and we're good. The "gay marriage" crowd is satisfied because if they want a traditional "marriage" ceremony, they can have one,and the leal relationship will be the same, but legally they will be in a civil union that shares all of the same rights and obligations as any other "married" couple in the nation.

With regards to atheism, I have noticed a significant misunderstanding of its position in relation to Christianity and other religions.

Atheism is not a lack of faith in a god or gods. Atheism is faith in a lack of god or gods. There is a fundamental difference there. Atheism, although it does not have its own god, is still a religion. Most atheists have considered religious options before ultimately deciding what they felt was the case. There are fanactical "non-believers", and there are people like Richard Dawkins who compare to the high profile Christian pastors you might think of.
Most of this article is based on a common mis-conception that only those in the minority numbers can be "under attack".

The size of the groups have nothing to do with it, and so your graph looks kind of silly. For example, last time I checked #occupy was about the 1% taking advantage of the 99%, which, by your logic would be an even sillier graphic.
On the point that atheism is a religion, I actually disagree. It can be argued that atheists have 'faith' in that there are no gods, but the same can be said for pretty much anything that is to be expected. I have faith that something I drop will hit the floor or that something I put in the microwave will end up hot. That doesn't mean I'm sharing a religion with everyone else of similar beliefs. Atheism is simply describing the lack of theism; it is the absence of those beliefs. I don't think that alone qualifies it to be a religion or anything akin to that, honestly.

+Landon Zabcik: No, I don't believe that only minorities can be under attack. But I cannot look at Christianity in this country and see that they are being oppressed at all; it has immense privilege compared to other belief systems (or lack thereof) and the people arguing that Christianity is under attack use reasoning that leads me to believe they expect to be of higher status than others, not equal.
That makes me wonder. If atheism is simply not believing in God, then doesn't mean recognize the idea of God?
+Daniel Koeker Sure, I think that's a better way of saying it. I got a little distracted I guess because you mixed in the stuff about them being the largest religion for so many years, and representing a larger part of the population than anyone else. Those don't necessarily translate into can't possibly be under attack.
Sorry. So basically if you are an atheist you don't believe in God. But if you look at politics, a Liberal is one who supports most liberal ideas and doesn't support other political idea. But the liberal still recognizes that there are other ideas, they just don't agree iwth them

If you're atheist, you don't believe that God exists, but you do recognize that God could exist, you just chose not to believe that.
I think you're lumping abortion into this post when you say "what women can do with their own body". I don't think you can lump it in so casually.

I'm an atheist, I'm pro-choice (and offended by the implication that being "pro-choice" makes me "anti-life"), and I agree with everything else in your post. The thing is, I don't think (all) anti-abortionists see the abortion debate as about "what women can do with their own body"; for some (or maybe most or all) anti-abortionists, abortion is wrong because it's tantamount murder.

I think murder is wrong and I think it's right that murder is illegal. I think my beliefs regarding murder are uncontroversial. So, if you imagined for a second that you believed abortion is murder, I think you could see the logic in making abortion illegal.

I don't think abortion is murder, but I'm kind of squirmy saying that and I can understand why some people think it is murder. I'm squirmy about it because I don't think I could ever (help) decide to abort a fetus and I'm grateful that I've never faced that dilemma. My pro-choice attitude basically boils down to these beliefs:
- there are conditions when it's morally right to choose the woman's life over the fetus's life,
- it's probably impossible to codify that set of conditions in law, and
- it's better to allow some abortions that shouldn't be allowed than it is to prevent some abortions that shouldn't be prevented.

So, all of that rambliness is to say that I think you're right: there's no "war on Christianity" going on in this country, but I don't think you can casually dismiss the anti-abortionists with the same argument. I disagree with one of their premises, but their argument is pretty sound if you assume their premises are true, which is very different from the argument against same-sex marriages.
+Ian Petersen: Granted. I know that some people do think abortion constitutes as murder, though I don't personally agree for a variety of reasons, I see your point. I think there might be some room for debate if religion weren't brought to the table, but I commonly see religion used as the justification for trying to impose legislation that would affect women in these circumstances; they aren't scientific arguments, but religious ones. That's my issue. It's not the people who are bringing scientific arguments to try to define the harmful affects of abortion on a fetus (or whatever else), it's the people saying, 'God says no, so everyone must abide by that regardless of whether they share my beliefs or not.' And of course I know not everyone does this, but this was just aimed at the mentality of some people who believe that their religion should dictate the way an entire country works, get their way a lot of the time, then say they're being oppressed when things start to get more equal.
+Daniel Koeker I think we're in heated agreement. :)

(Edited to say) although, there is a religious argument for legal restrictions on abortion that I can't figure out how to refute (and so therefore I wonder if I should agree with the argument): an individual that's against abortion for religious reasons is within his rights to withhold payment for an abortion and so therefore such an individual should not be forced into funding abortions and so therefore no taxpayer dollars should fund abortions and so therefore public health insurance should not cover abortion.

I'm from Canada where everyone has public health insurance and where I'd expect abortion to be covered (although I don't know if it is) so the above conclusion strikes me as absurd, but I don't know which (if any) part of the argument is wrong.
+Robert Gardner: "If you're atheist, you don't believe that God exists, but you do recognize that God could exist, you just chose not to believe that"

I don't think its a matter of choosing not to believe in a god. For me, and my impression is that this isn't an uncommon atheist view, its the theist proposing "This is what God(s) looks like" (as a concise summary of what one might say), and me saying "but that doesn't make sense because of X, Y, and Z. Therefore I think your making things up."

This is covered pretty well in this blog post, if your interested in reading more:
This has been a very interesting conversation. I have found it enlightening to read through everyone's posts. I am a Middle-Class, Caucasian, Catholic, Male, American. I say all that to serve as background to my entry into reading this. I can greatly appreciate everyone's opinions and agree with some of the points that have been made. For one, I agree that there have been many people who have been "over-sensitive" at times to things that have taken place, but I would think we would agree that these people agree in all groups. I can also appreciate the want of those who consider themselves "non-religious" to have a conversation that is not based on "because my religion told me so" conceptions. Personally, I enjoy having more "academic" (better word?) conversations and enjoy the challenge of justifying my beliefs without using such a phrase.

All that being said, I find the most recent part about abortion most interesting. Yes, my religion says that it is wrong. But that is not the sole reason why I do not support it. I do think that all people have the right to life, and that we should all respect this right, not just for ourselves, but for all. Obviously, this relates directly to my views on murder, suicide, genocide, and the death penalty (but I'm not really gonna go there now). Part of the complexity of the discussion of abortion is the discussion as to when life has been created. I understand this, and I also understand that this discussion is one of the more important that needs to be resolved if the entire issue is to come to some sort of conclusion. Now, this discussion is a little harder to separate from personal beliefs (near impossible, for all sides) so, I'm going to pass that on by here.

I found one of Ian Peterson's statements most intriguing; that " there are conditions when it's morally right to choose the woman's life over the fetus's life". To me, this would say that there are occasions when the woman's life is considered more valuable than the life inside her womb. I find this interesting especially when it is contained within a thread talking about the equality of all people. Perhaps the most repeated argument in this thread has been the idea that those "in power" consider themselves to be of more importance than others. In fact, the idea of devaluing or overvaluing the lives of others is at the very heart of racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. If we all want COMPLETE equality for ALL people, then how can we justify the termination of one life in favor for another? I have no problem with woman's rights, nor the equality of all people. (However, I am going to skip the marriage debate for now, out of consideration of time and the length of this post) In fact, I long for the day in which sexism, racism, and all forms of discrimination are gone, but I find it hard for me to support equality for all humans yet support the premature termination of life in any form.
Ian Petersen, you edited your last post while I was writing mine. Your argument is a very good one and one that I think is very much under the premise of the separation of Church and State (which I am a supporter of).
I have never gotten the sense that Christians consider themselves a minority, at least not in America (obviously the level of persecution is much more intense in countries like Iran, Iraq, parts of Asia) - but one does not have to be a minority in order to be persecuted, by the very definition of the word. Even your post here is a somewhat passive attack.
Now, the topic of oppression is very different indeed, especially in terms of "exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner". But that is a different argument.
The war on Christianity does in fact exist, but it is more accurate to say there is a war against religion - we are in the midst of a great struggle with morality - both personally and socially.
Even liberty has rules.
+Brad Broge so from what you're saying, you don't have to recognize the existence of God to decide not to believe in God, rather you put together things that make sense and if God doesn't fit in your logical world of ideas, then He must not exist?
Christians should take a lesson from the Jews: Do Justly, Love Mercy and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). The operative word in this case is humbly. We would like Christians to stop their Public Displays of Religion in the same manner we don't want public displays of affection.
+Daniel Koeker "this was just aimed at the mentality of some people who believe that their religion should dictate the way an entire country works, get their way a lot of the time, then say they're being oppressed when things start to get more equal." - Throughout the thread, I perceive that the terms "war on religion" and "being oppressed" are being intermixed. I think that there can be a war on religion, currently under way, without the religious folks necessarily being oppressed, currently. Eventually, if the war continues, and the pendulum swings beyond "equal", as you put it, then you would find the religious becoming ever more oppressed, as those who are intolerant of them today become even more so. That possibility is concerning, for the religious. So, perceiving a war, and the need to combat it, seems to make sense.

Back to the idea of things becoming "equal" as opposed to the religious getting their way. When you move beyond revisionist history, and dig into the libraries of many of our founding fathers, it becomes tough to debate the idea that they founded this nation on Judeo-Christian beliefs. While Jesus was not common to both those people groups, the God behind it all was. I don't think that any of our founding fathers fathomed the idea of America entertaining any gods beyond the one and only Judeo-Christian God. To open that can of worms, and try to put it under the heading "separation of church and state" doesn't work for me. Again, with just a little digging, it is immediatly apparent that the "separation of church and state" was focused solely on the idea that America would not have a state religion. In other words, the founders were abandoning the model of our parent country, where the King/Queen (still to this day) is the head of the Church of England. The founding fathers only wanted to separate the idea of a single church, from the state, which never included the idea that you should separate Judeo-Christian values, beliefs, etc, from the governing of that state. In fact, several writings by these founders clearly state their belief that a country separated from God's hand is doomed for ruin. The idea that most Americans have about the separation of church and state is a very uninformed opinion that they picked up from the rhetoric, and not the research.

Why are the Judeo-Christian folks so concerned about being equal? Because, since the country was founded, they have not been equal. And equality is not the vision. Equality means that the Judeo-Christian values have been diluted. Regardless of which camp you are in, there is no arguing that this country's pendulum is swinging, ever faster, away from the founding Judeo-Christian values, and the idea of absolute truth. Exactly what it is swinging toward is a troubling thought. In your words, it was starting "to get more equal." What does that mean? In most circles, it is considered to be postmodernism. Your truth is your truth, my truth is my truth. I do what I want, and you do what you want. Judeo-Christian values demand that a person hold onto the idea of absolute truth. Or, as you put it, because "God says so".

Watching the country slip away is most concerning for those who truly believe. Sort of like gazing upon a 10 story building, with it's roof on fire. You holler up to the guy in the second story window and tell him that he better get out cause things are going bad. He can't see the fire yet, and sincerely believes that there isn't one. He is angry that you keep hollering up to him, cause he is trying to watch the baseball game, and drink his beer in peace. Nothing wrong in his world, but to the guy out on the street, it is most troubling indeed.
+Adam Lesko , you said "Part of the complexity of the discussion of abortion is the discussion as to when life has been created."

I agree 100%. I'm OK with "Plan B" (i.e. emergency contraceptives, a pill you take after intercourse because your condom broke, say). I'm not OK with killing a fetus the day before its natural delivery. Somewhere between the two extremes is a line where abortion changes from OK to not-OK for me, and I don't know where that line is. The later you get in the pregnancy, the greater the need must be for the abortion, I think and eventually there is no need great enough.

You also said "If we all want COMPLETE equality for ALL people, then how can we justify the termination of one life in favor for another?"

I think the problem with your question is that sometimes you must choose one over the other. Suppose a woman with cancer is pregnant; chemotherapy will cure the cancer but kill her fetus and foregoing chemotherapy will kill her but allow the fetus the chance to be born. Which is the moral choice: take the chemo or don't?

(That's kind of a tricky dilemma because chemo is not always a guaranteed cure, sometimes it's just an extension of life but ignore that for the sake of argument.)

My belief is, if you know the chemo will cure the mother, then the moral choice is to kill the fetus and, knowing that's my belief, I conclude I must value the mother over the fetus. I don't feel even a little squeamish about that conclusion. I don't have the philosophical chops to articulate why, but I think there's some sort of fundamental difference between valuing a mother over her fetus (which I find morally unobjectionable) and valuing a white person over a black person (which I find morally abhorrent). That's not to say the fetus has no value!

You also said "Your argument is a very good one and one that I think is very much under the premise of the separation of Church and State (which I am a supporter of)."

I'm not sure I understand. Can you elaborate?
+Robert Gardner "you don't have to recognize the existence of God to decide not to believe in God"

Let me focus on the key word in this - "decide"

Its not a matter of deciding "oh, I feel like a non-theist today despite that I was a theist yesterday". Its following the evidence that is supplied by the world and the underlying rules - specifically that nature behaves in a consistent manner. If someone claims "hey, there is an dragon in my garage" you going to want proof. When none is forthcoming, I'm inclined to think that your going to be pretty skeptical about that claim.
+Bob Virkus , I don't have a problem with public displays of affection or religion. My problem is with impositions of religion upon me (and thus upon others, too).

I think belief in god(s) is a bit loony and so I don't hold such a belief and I get peeved when someone else's beliefs inconvenience me (or worse), but I don't have a problem with people holding such beliefs or acting on them in ways that don't bother other people.

I also think that asking for "no public displays of religion" is inappropriate in the same way that asking gay people to stay closeted is inappropriate. Public displays of religion are expressions of self as protected by the constitution.
+Ian Petersen "I agree 100%. I'm OK with "Plan B" (i.e. emergency contraceptives, a pill you take after intercourse because your condom broke, say). I'm not OK with killing a fetus the day before its natural delivery. Somewhere between the two extremes is a line where abortion changes from OK to not-OK for me, and I don't know where that line is." - Interesting feedback, especially since you clarify that don't know where the line is. If you pinned me down, I would have a hard time with that also, and would have to consider the implications of the "Plan B" or morning after pill.

As I stated in a post above, the Christian is obligated to honor the idea of God's absolute truth. In other words, not what I think, or what is convenient for me, IF there is something to be said about it, in God's word. The general consensus, in Christian circles, is to consider Jeremiah 1:5 where God says "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." That is why Christians come to believe that the "line" you don't cross is the point of conception. Whether it is a fetus, or life, or whatever term the argument pulls in, that is not the point. Whatever it is, God "knew" it even before that point in the womb. We can only conclude that "knew it" means to know it as His creation, a human, a soul, predestined for existence, by Him, even before the body, or life as we define it, starts to form.
Aren't you oppressing Christians by slandering them?
I'm not sure how this is slander in any sense. much less oppressive. :P
There is a difference between "I can't say I believe that" and "you are wrong." Atheism, the lack of belief in a god or gods is the first one. Strong Atheism (yes, there is such a thing), is the second one. Neither one is a religion.

Atheism is a religion like aunicornism (unicorns don't exist) or alocknessism (Loch Ness Monster isn't real!) is a religion (they're all not); they all denounce the falsifiable claim, "x has not been shown to exist." You are skeptical, until proven otherwise.

Religion, on the other hand, is primarily based in *un*falsifiable claims-- ie :God exists. You cannot disprove this statement because you simply can't observe the whole universe and any other realms, so you have faith.

Religion is faith. Atheism is skepticism.

Sense made?
Actually, it's agnosticism that's more similar to skepticism -- atheism is its own kind of faith.
How does it require faith to say, "I don't believe in any of the gods worshiped by humanity"?
And weak atheism, the more common kind, is very close to agnosticism.

Atheism is faith in the same way that believing unicorns and witches don't exist is faith.

If its falsifiable, and the alternative it's not, only the unfalsifiable side is faith. The other side is implicitly more likely until it is disproven.
The people who complain about the war on Christianity never bothered to learn that the United States was purposefully established as a secular state in response and revulsion to the Christian vs. Christian Wars of The Reformation in Europe. The "separation of church and state" was designed to protect you from other Christians. Get it right.
Atheism is a religion. Here's why. To be an atheist, you have to devoutly believe in the lack of any god or spiritual figure of significance. Instead, Atheism is - effectively - the religious worship of the scientific advances of man.
But buddhists are atheist. atheism is absence if belief in a God. Nothing else. You don't have to believe in science or evolution.

Also, once again, it is a FALSIFIABLE CLAIM, whose alternative is UNFALSIFIABLE. Theists have faith in a God, atheists don't. That's not just another faith, that's skepticism. So regardless of whether atheism is a religion, it is not FAITH.
+Paul Domanski Atheism is a religion like an empty box is an engine block; except there's no box either. Try as you might there's nothing in there to pick up.
+Daniel Daniels Not all buddhists are atheists. The Chan and Zen sects could be described that way but the Tibetans are most assuredly not atheists. They've got more deities and spirit's than fans at a World Cup football match.
Atheists have a belief that is as equally strong with regards to whether a god exists. I was speaking particularly of American "entitled as shit" atheists, but Buddhism illustrates perfectly. A religion that neither has nor wants a god. Of course "atheism" as a religious term is the same as Christianity; it encompasses a wide range of groups that often completely disagree on issues.
+Tom Andrewartha You are looking for Agnosticism. Agnostics have a lack of religion or belief in any god, but they are not sure whether there is such a being or whether none such exists. Being atheist puts you firmly in the "I believe gods do not exist" and that is what makes it a religious situation.
+Paul Domanski, if you're not an atheist, then you have no business speaking on behalf of atheists, or attempting to explain what we think.

I am an atheist, and my views are not nearly as simplistic as "I believe there are no gods". Instead, I do not think there are any gods. But if I am proven wrong, I will change my mind -- and then set my mind to the task of developing weapons with which to protect the human race against the tyranny of gods.

I didn't think so. Now, simply replace "unicorns" with Loch Ness Monster. Still not religion or faith. How about giant slug monsters from Mars? 5 legged witches?

Oh, but as soon as we replace "unicorn" with "god," it becomes a religion or a faith. That argument is logically flawed and indefensible.
When you have a large portion of the population arguing vehemently and angrily about why unicorns and/or the Loch Ness Monster don't exist against people who argue the other side strongly, and the first group of people basically says "You can't prove it, nah, nah, nah, nah" as the argument, come back to me with that analogy.

Also, getting it out of the way that I think creationism is completely idiotic... can you or any other atheist provide an explanation for where we all came from? How we came into being? What happened before the Big Bang?
I can see that we clearly have two different ideas of what exactly we are arguing about here...

The idea that atheism is or is not a religion is not terribly important to me. However, I must stress strongly that atheism is not FAITH, it is skepticism.

Do you disagree with that statement?

Atheism's lack of an attempt at explanation of where the universe came from, any outlined moral set, or general doctrine of life is exactly why I wouldn't consider it a religion. But once again, that part of the issue really isn't important to me.
Atheists have a belief that is as equally strong with regards to whether a god exists.

I don't think that believing in something alone qualifies it as having religious-esque levels of faith, though. Religion, on one hand, is a very specific set of beliefs, lessons, morals, etc. It's like a way of life. Praying, eating habits, dress codes, attending religious ceremonies, and why? Because of faith that there is some higher power that is in control of the universe and every one of their lives. Simply choosing not to believe in that doesn't make the lack of belief a religion in its own right; it's simply not accepting it, as opposed to providing counterpoints. Atheism doesn't mandate any personal beliefs, lifestyles, etc. It only references the lack of belief in gods. A lack of belief, in my opinion, is not enough to call it a religion.

Now, you might say, but people provide scientific counterpoints to things like creationism, such as evolution. That is true, but I don't find that it takes faith to believe in scientific evidence, just the ability to see proof. When a theist asks me to believe something, I'm always given something that would require sharing their faith, which isn't helpful. Atheism isn't held back by that little issue, so there's no requirement of faith involved. And remember, atheism and science are two different things (though not mutually exclusive).

Cosmology isn't my field. I'm a writer and a programmer. Nor do I care what preceded the Big Bang.
Sorry, Christians are not allowed to only pick parts of the Old Testament that they like and ignore the others. Unless you commit yourselves to obeying all 613 of G_d's commandments stop using it to support your twisted view of reality.
Either that, +Bob Virkus, or drop the goddamned Bible in favor of Thomas Jefferson's The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.
Well if there were a truly benevolent god up there, I woudl bet that he WOULD condemn the bible...
+Daniel Koeker +Daniel Daniels +Tom Andrewartha Skepticism is not the same as Atheism. Skepticism is Agnosticism. Meaning that you are questioning whether or not a god or gods exist.Atheism is a complete faith that there is no such thing as a god or gods.

I am not a Christian. Please do not make assumptions that may offend people. Amusingly, of course, you sit there and say "non-atheists can't speak for or about atheism" and then turn around and spout all about the ways of other religions.

Just as many of those who are highly religious strongly follow what their religious leaders say, many "hardcore" atheists tend to refute even scientific evidence that states events in the Bible/Torah/Quran as well as "myths" from other religions may have actually happened simply because it is attributed by a religion as an "Act of God" and there is no modern day record of the event. The city of Troy was found. There is a great amount of scientific evidence supporting the basic information of the tales of Sodom and Gomorrah.

At that point in human history, "God did it" was the only explanation people could conceive of, because a meteor falling out of the sky in 3123 BC and destroying an entire population wasn't something that happened everyday, or that people even though COULD happen. Your city was destroyed? I guess God didn't like it.

But today people who reject scientific explanations (such as creationists) are generally considered to be ignorant, living in a hole, etc. Even by others of their religion.

Finally, different religions have different beliefs. But if you were simply skeptical, and a theist gave you information regarding their religion, you wouldn't consider it to be "not helpful". And if atheism weren't actually a religion instead of simply a lack of religion, atheists wouldn't believe so strongly in the ignorance/stupidity/etc. of "believers" and speak with such an air of superiority as if NOT being religious somehow makes you a better person.
Your first two sentences show you really do NOT understand how atheism and agnosticism relate to skepticism.

Atheism and Agnosticism are BOTH skepticism, but skepticism is not atheism, nor is skepticism is agnosticism. Learn your rectangles, and learn your squares.

You then go on to say "Atheism is a complete faith that there is no such thing as a god or gods." Once again, I must bring up unicorns. I assume you don't believe in unicorns, but you don't consider THAT to be faith. Once you replace "unicorn" with "god," it somehow becomes faith, and the only justification for that transition that I've seen is the number of people who believe in unicorns vs the number of people who believe in god. On the playing field of logic, POPULARITY HAS NO BEARING. Atheism is as much faith as aunicornism-- zero.

In fact, atheism, by definition is the DOUBTING of your (not you personally, but theists in general) theistic faith. Doubt is just about as much a polar opposite of faith as you can get.

Saying atheism is faith just like theism is akin to saying not playing golf is a sport, just like playing golf. JUST BECAUSE A METAPHORICAL COIN HAS TWO SIDES DOES NOT MEAN THEY (the two sides) FIT INTO THE SAME CATEGORY.
Atheism is a religion just like baldness is a hairstyle!
Ha. I love that. :P
+Daniel Daniels The definition of atheism is "the doctrine that there is no deity". Skepticism is "the questioning or doubt about the truth of something", and Agnosticism is the idea that a person (or man in general) does not have sufficient knowledge to determine whether or not a deity exists.

I used to be a professional copy editor; knowing the subtle differences between the meanings of similar words was something I was PAID for.
"Skepticism is 'the questioning or doubt about the truth of something.'"

Which is exactly why atheism is skepticism. Atheists doubt the existence of a god. Simply not agreeing with faith does not inherently mean that you have faith going the other way.

Regardless of what you were paid to do, the meaning of atheism is very different from different sources and demographics. In whatever business you worked for, it may have had different connotations and denotations than it has where I live. Either way, you have not adequately proven that atheism is a faith.

And if atheism is a faith, then you must then implicitly admit that disbelief in a six-headed snail monster is also faith, that denying existence of 18 foot tall man-eating carrots is faith, and that, once again, belief in the non-existence of unicorns is faith.

Even if atheism is not skepticism, it is still not faith. If there is one sentence I want you to respond to, it's the one preceding this right here.
+Daniel Daniels As I have said before, atheism is not equivalent to skepticism because skepticism implies uncertainty, while atheism is a certainty in that no deity exists in reality.
It seems to me that the trouble here is that you're equating a willingness to be proven wrong with uncertainty. Maybe that "implies" uncertainty to you, but I think that's more about your inferences than the concept of skepticism. Skeptics can be very sure, especially if the arguments and evidence for something are lousy.

Atheists are willing to be proved wrong, but nobody's done it yet. Solid evidence of a deity's existence is nowhere to be found, despite thousands of years worth of claims.
+Paul Domanski Skepticism may or may not imply uncertainty depending on use and context. However, my skepticism of the Christian religion is very certain, until further notice.

You also failed to address the absolutely core question that I asked: Is atheism a faith, and if so, how is it different (logically- not socially) than denying the existence of anything else you assume not to exist?

You constantly respond to my fringe points, that I have stated are not core to the argument, and yet you ignore that fundamental question.

Is atheism faith?
The difference is the fact that atheism is the concrete faith that no deity exists, while your other examples are of mythical or legendary creatures that may or may not have existed. You can certainly place "aunicornism" alongside atheism but the major difference is that unicorns are not considered to be omnipotent world-creators. Of course, maybe the Earth was really created by a unicorn. Or possibly, someone riding one.
You seem to be defining atheists in such a way as to make your argument correct by definition.This strikes me as a kind of circular reasoning -- it's as if you said that atheism is like faith, because atheism is a faith that no deity exists. Or, it's faith, because it's faith.

Also, I can't think of any way that the different natures of world-creators and pointy horses could be relevant to a discussion about believing in them. Why would not believing in a god require "faith", while not believing in a unicorn does not?
+Paul Domanski But to an atheist, god is a mythological and legendary creature. You have still failed to denote why god is the exception to that rule, in any logically sound manner.
+Daniel Daniels Just because an atheist does not believe in a god or gods, that does not mean that their supposed powers are lessened in the way you suggest. That's like saying Jesse Jackson is some kind of supernatural being with otherwordly powers when viewed by black people, but an ordinary man when viewed by other races. To further your example; what if a Greek believed in the same pantheon as was common, but did not believe that the sirens existed? Now reverse it. Is it the same? Hardly.
+Paul Domanski +Jeremy Shannon The common meaning of the words atheism and agnosticism have been corrupted from their original meaning. Both come from Greek, atheism literally means "not theist", and agnosticism means "not gnostic". Theist refers to what you believe, gnostic refers to what you know. Agnostic means you don't know, or maybe that you don't think you CAN know, and Gnostic means you do know, or think you do. Likewise, Atheist means simply that you don't believe. This means that the term "agnostic atheist" has meaning, it's someone who doesn't believe, but doesn't claim to know, or to be certain. This is the classical "skeptic" position that many people just call agnostic these days, but is still a form of atheism, as originally defined. A gnostic atheist, on the other hand, is someone who both lacks a belief in a god or gods, and is convinced that they don't exist. Same with agnostic and gnostic theists, someone who doesn't know for certain, but believes anyways, and someone who is convinced in the existence of a god/gods.

Basically, the terms gnostic and agnostic actually have nothing to do with religion, they refer to whether or not you have knowledge of something. Also, the term atheist doesn't imply anything about what a person actually believes, it just refers to a LACK of a belief in a god/gods. Many atheists ARE in fact convinced that there are no gods, but that's not because they are atheists, regardless of the popular perception of the term. Of course, this is all semantics, and the meanings of words do change over time, but the original meanings should always be relevant in my opinion, especially when the root is from another language, and we know it's meaning.
But +Paul Domanski , Jesse Jackson is an ordinary man; there are no men with otherwordly powers! As for your hypothetical Greek, what difference does it make "what was common"? Regardless of the zeitgeist, there is no evidence for the Greek pantheon so I'm as comfortable saying it doesn't (and never did) exist as I am about all other gods so I don't see where the faith kicks in.

There's an important difference between weak atheism (I lack a belief in gods) and strong atheism (I have a belief that there are no gods). I agree that strong atheism is a faith because there's as much evidence for the existence of gods as there is for the non-existence of gods: none (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence). But weak atheism is merely an absence of faith. It's sort of like my relationship to you: I don't like you, but I don't dislike you either; we're strangers so the only rational opinion for me to hold towards you is "no opinion".
+Ian Petersen Strong atheism is not faith either, because no evidence of existence is evidence of nonexistence. Note that I said evidence, not proof.

By your standard, Ian, you'd simply have faith that millions of crazy wackjob ideas don't exist (flying octopigs?), and that would all be faith. But it's not. Until some evidence is uncovered showing their existence, the only rationial (see: "not faith") thing to do is not acknowledge existence, or acknowledge nonexistence-- until further notice.
+Daniel Daniels , maybe we need to clarify what we mean by "faith". I like this phrase from Wikipedia's article on faith: "trust or belief without proof". Perhaps also I should mention that I go about my life treating low-probability things as non-existent and high-probability things as existent, but when I wax epistemologic, I tend to start sympathizing with Descartes and his solipsism.

+Daniel Koeker , did you expect such a long-winded discussion? :)
+Ian Petersen I can't say that I expected quite this much, ha. I figured one or two people might read my comment, but eh, it's nice to get a bunch of people talking religion on the internet and keeping it civil, I must say.
If you define faith as "trust or belief without proof," then nothing is 100% proven. Faith is "trust or belief without *evidence.*"

And following that train of thought, no proof of existence is not proof of nonexistence. Conversely, no evidence of existence is evidence of nonexistence.

Thus atheism would not be classified as faith.
+Daniel Daniels , you said "...then nothing is 100% proven". I did say I lean solipsist when you ask me how I know that I know something. Solipsism is not a useful philosophy on a day-to-day basis; you can't get away with murder or avoid paying taxes by asking for incontrovertible proof that the corpse or the IRS even exist. I do think it's sound, though; cogito ergo sum but all else is indistinguishable from living in the matrix.

If you took an empirical approach and used observations of my behaviour to determine my god-related beliefs, you'd conclude that I believe there are no gods, but I deny that there is proof of the non-existence of gods and I cling strongly to my weak atheism, and my firm belief that it takes faith to claim to know what I think is unknowable: that there are no gods.

If that doesn't satisfy you, we'll have to agree to disagree because I can't find another way to word it.
Well I guess I took that a little out of context. Either way, the statement no evidence of existence is evidence (not proof) of nonexistence remains true.

As such, the atheistic belief is motivated by (lack of) evidence; atheism is a conclusion from the data set we have.

Further, when you have two possibilities, one of which is unfalsifiable, you must assume the falsifiable side until further notice. In the theistic debate, atheism is the falsifiable side, and thus the default hypothesis-- and until further evidence is presented, the conclusion as well. You must then make a leap of faith to the unfalsifiable side.

The same rule holds true for unicorns, which as we have already discussed, is not faith.
I mostly agree with your latest comment, +Daniel Daniels . Using your frame, I think my point is that you can't falsify "there do not exist any gods", so believing that also takes a leap of faith, just like believing "there exist gods" does.
Umm, no. You can easily falsify "there do not exist any gods." Just prove there's a god, any god at all.

Give us a direct observation, or show the god's effects upon the world, or come up with a solid, irrefutable reason why one must exist. Any of those three should be sufficient to falsify the no-gods premise. Do that, and you'll see me in the theist camp tomorrow.

It's impossible to prove a negative, but you can falsify one just fine.
Oops. Good point, +Jeremy Shannon , I shouldn't post before my morning coffee.... I've got a meeting to attend now so I can't say any more than this. I'll have to try to remember how I convinced myself that strong atheism is faith; maybe I was wrong earlier.
Due to a coincidental time of posting, this message made me look like an ass rubbing it in. I have edited it accordingly.
I think the "murder" point that +Ian Petersen fits nicely. If you take the corpse as analogous to a god, that would bring it around like so: the corpse has not been found, atheists believe no murder has been committed, and theists believe one has. In such a situation, it would be difficult to actually prove a murder had occurred. You would end up with a lot of circumstantial evidence, and depending on how you interpreted it, you would come to different conclusions.
+Paul Domanski That is a wonderful metaphor! If you assume that the person is dead without evidence, then that is faith-- until evidence is uncovered, they are assumed missing.
I'm worried this is a dead horse that I'm beating here, but I've been mulling it over and still think strong atheism requires faith (although I realized, too, that calling it "a faith" invites connotations that are probably wrong).

I agree with +Daniel Daniels , the rational default assumption is to assume there are no gods and await evidence before changing your assumption. I think where we disagree is whether or not there's a significant difference between assuming there are no gods, believing there are no gods, and knowing there are no gods.

As I said before, I think "belief without proof" is a good definition of faith. As +Jeremy Shannon pointed out, you can't prove a negative. The two things together mean that it takes faith to believe a negative. Believing there are no gods is just a specific example of believing a negative so, if you accept my definition of strong atheism as "believing there are no gods" and my definition of faith as "belief without proof", I think you have to accept that strong atheism requires faith. If you reject either definition then we disagree, but I don't have a problem with that. :)

Related to assuming and believing there are no gods, some people might say they know there are no gods. I think these people are just wrong. The kind of thing that meets the typical description of a god could exist without being detectable, so I don't think it's possible to know one way or the other.

Using the above distinctions between assuming, believing, and knowing, I think there's an argument for assuming that the person in +Paul Domanski 's metaphor is dead that doesn't require faith. In many jurisdictions, if someone disappears you can get a death certificate after sufficient delay and due-diligence because it's not practical to keep living with the inherent uncertainty. If you assume that the person is missing and might come back, it's useful to keep their bank accounts open, their clothes in the closet and their car in good repair. If you assume that the person is dead, though, all of those activities are a waste of time. You could assume they're dead, sell all their things, and still believe that they're "just missing" if it's the most practical choice (you could use the money and the closet space, but you want the comfort of thinking they're not dead).

So, in sum, I think assuming there are no gods is the rational thing to do, I think believing there are no gods takes faith, and I think it's impossible to know there are no gods.

Oh, and +Daniel Daniels , thanks for editing your comment; I was disappointed that our civil discussion had taken such an antagonistic turn so I'm happy to learn that wasn't your intention.
They keep keep telling me that I am "... going to go to hell." ... but the only time I am in hell, is when they are talking to me...
+Jeremy Shannon You ask for proof that a god does or may exist. This may not push you into the "theist" camp, but it should push you into "agnostic."

What happened before the Big Bang? How was the matter in the universe created? We know from all of our scientific research that it all traces back to the Big Bang. What caused the Big Bang? The recently suggested "white hole" theory is very interesting in that regard. But even then, it would require that another universe exist for black holes to swallow matter into, in which it could then explode into our universe as the Big Bang.
But if you bring up that BS point, and beg the question of what came before the universe, then I beg the BS question of what came before god.

I'd have to assume that there was a god that created that god, and a god before that, and before that...

At some point, ALL logic degrades. The big bang gets farther before degrading than creationism. Plain and simple.
+Daniel Daniels But the "Big Bang goes further" logic doesn't work; the point can be suggested that God created everything with the Big Bang. Which means that the only thing we truly know is that we don't know.
And since we truly know that we don't know, we don't just pretend to know that it was a mythical being's doing.
+Daniel Daniels Which furthers my point. The only true "Gnostic (knowing)" people are the agnostics. Ironic.
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