Saturday, February 12, 2011

Is atheism a religion?

Been brushing up on the history of the Intelligent Design movement --bit of a trip down memory lane. One cardinal ID argument goes something like this:

1. A religion is a "set of beliefs about the cause, nature and purpose of the universe and of life."

2. Atheism and secular humanism are religious positions characterized by
- a belief in a self-existent universe evolving via unguided physical processes
- a rejection of the supernatural
- appeals to reason and science as the best source of guidance in human affairs.

3. In Kitzmiller v. Dover, Judge Jones rejected ID as "religious." But he defined religion narrowly as simply a belief in the supernatural. Had he used the broader definition above, he would have been forced to expel secular humanism from the classroom as well ID theory.

4. By excluding ID theory from the classroom, secular humanism is promoted to students by default.

Couple of different ways to rebut this argument.

The "definition of religion" angle is basically one big distracting red herring. The state can recognize that something called "religion" is important to people without imposing its own definition for the term.

Not everything experienced in this life is well captured and expressed via the written word. Much of living is subjective and personal. And rightly, with respect to all those things the government says, "Hey whatever floats yer boat; none of my beeswax," as it turns its attention toward matters of verifiable fact.

Really it was the lack of factual evidence that killed ID in court. The religion angle only served to explain why some people needed a big box of Kleenex the day a conjecture with no associated verifiable or falsifiable claims was deemed "non-science."

Qualia Soup offers another rebuttal to the "atheism is a religion" argument in the video below. Rejecting a claim or belief does not necessarily equate to an assertion of some other claim that must be justified.


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