In this post, I will actually be addressing something that doesn’t exist; should make for a pretty short post!
A favorite figment of atheists’ imaginations is the vaguely defined, rather broad category of “religion.” Atheists seem to really enjoy arguing against this monster they have invented in their own minds; it is, after all, the perfect straw man. Muslim terrorists blow something up? “Religion” is violent! Hindus in the boondocks of India worship a cow with a strange genetic mutation? “Religion” is stupid! Animists somewhere in the wilds of central Africa practice female genital mutilation? Religion is misogynous! And so on and so on this fallacious argument rolls.
The problem, though, is that the horrible thing called “religion” is a fiction the atheists have invented to justify themselves. I’m not defending “religion” and I don’t know of anybody who is; the very idea is ridiculous. Muslims don’t defend Aztec human sacrifice; Mormon fundamentalists don’t defend Muslim jihad; and Orthodox Christians don’t defend Mormon fundamentalists’ polygamy.
Imagine that I told you that democrats, republicans, monarchists, greens, libertarians, fascists, communists, anarchists, liberals, autarchists, conservatives, czarists, moderates, baathists, socialists, centrists, zionists, black nationalists, and agorists were “all the same” because they all are in the category of “political ideology.” You’d at least give me a concerned look and, if you’re as blunt as I am, you’d probably call me an idiot; and you’d be right. The same is true of atheists when they try to lump all “religions” into a single category and say they’re “all the same.” The only thing that Hindus, Taoists, Wiccans, Buddhists, Baha’is, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Orthodox Christians, Animists, Asatruars, Anglicans, Satanists, Rastafarians, Sikhs, Shintoists, Mormons, Zoroastrians, and atheists all have in common is the name “religion.”
Did you catch that? Yes, I included atheists on that list; atheists can deny it all they want, but atheism is indeed a religion. According to Dictionary.com, “religion” is defined as
“a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.”
Atheism is certainly “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe” and even atheism posits that the creation of the universe is the result of “a superhuman agency or agencies.” According to the same website, “superhuman” is defined as “above or beyond what is human; having a higher nature or greater powers than humans have.” I don’t know of any atheists who think that humans can or did create the universe; they posit a “superhuman agency” in the form of the “big bang” or some other similar event (or, if you’re Richard Dawkins, aliens did it!).
Continuing with our definition of religion… Religions “usually” involve “devotional and ritual observances,” but that’s usually — not always. We’ve already seen that atheism contains no moral code beyond hedonism, but religions “often” — not always — contain one.
I can hear even now the objections of atheists: “But I don’t believe in a god though!” Neither do Buddhists. “But I don’t believe in an afterlife!” Neither did Sadducee Jews. “But, but, but…” Atheism is indeed a religion.
That’s okay though; it’s an inescapable aspect of human nature. Humans naturally wonder if there is something greater than themselves and, if so, what — or who — that might be. Humans naturally think about what happens to them after death. And so on. Every human being on the planet has religious ideas, even if those ideas are a constant “no” answer. Atheism is not the rejection of religion(s); atheism is a religion. As an Orthodox Christian, I reject every other religion than Orthodox Christianity; mine is still a religion.
If atheists want to be honest in their arguments (and if they want their arguments to be taken seriously), they’re going to have to admit that and they’re going to have to consider and argue against every other religion than atheism individually, not as some imaginary mass.
Now that we have cleared away the figment of “religion,” in the next post of this series we will get more specific and look at Christianity — and why its central truth claim is so very — and uniquely — strong.