Atheism is not the opposite of religion

Are you religious, or are you an atheist? It’s a pretty common question, and it goes hand-in-hand with a pretty common assumption: you’re either one or the other. Well, that’s not completely right: space has been made in our culture for the “spiritual but not religious” crew: those metaphysical in-betweeners for whom the organized cultural trappings of religion are either burdensome or distasteful, but who nonetheless like romanticize the unknown. But even so, the atheism-religion dichotomy is deeply ingrained in the way we think. If you identify as “an atheist” you are presumed to not be religious, and if you identify as “religious” then you are presumed to believe in some kind of god.

The idea that atheism and religion are opposites is, however, completely wrong.

The first clue should come from simple linguistics: the opposite of an atheist is a theist. A “theist” is simply someone who believes in a god, and it’s certainly possible to believe in a god without belonging to any particular religion. This is the very spirit of deism, the philosophy held by many of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Benjamin Franklin believed in god, certainly, but was very critical of the organized power structures and trappings of Christianity and other religions. “I cannot conceive otherwise,” Franklin wrote in 1728, “than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us.” Deists would be examples of areligious theists: people who believe in a god, but do not align themselves with a particular religion.

The flips side is true as well: there are religions that do not involve belief in a god. Traditional examples of such religions include Buddhists and Wicca, who believe in divine forces or supernatural agents. But there are some modern religions that go even farther and reject supernaturalism altogether: Modern Satanism and Christian Atheism are two examples. Both involve symbolic frameworks, ritual and a distinct moral lens through which to view the world, but completely reject any kind of supernatural powers, forces, or beings (including gods). These are therefore, by definition, atheistic religions.

The religious-areligious distinction is actually completely independent from the theistic-atheistic distinction. To use the language of mathematicians, they are orthogonal: they can exist in all possible combinations with one another. And when you throw in the fact that atheists can either believe in the supernatural or not, the picture becomes even more complicated.

(click to enlarge)

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These are some difficult distinctions to understand if you have spent your entire life assuming that all religious people believe in a god, and that all atheists shun religion. So to help out, I’ve created a little chart to map out just a few of the many, many philosophical options that are out there for various combinations: atheistic religions, areligious theisms, supernaturalist atheistic areligious philosophies, and so on.

So where do you fall on this chart?



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  1. I don’t know that I would consider Deists areligious. It seems to me that the point of that stance was less about not committing to a particular religion than it was the notion that God’s creation was complete in the first place and hence miracles were unnecessary. It’s a great set of assumptions or those who wish to see in science a direct religious significance. Quite a few Desists were quite devoted in their own way.

    That said, there is only so much precision you can get with any of these labels. One needn’t think the term ‘atheist’ means someone is irreligious to infer that an atheist is irreligious. It could as easily be an inference based on experience of sorts. Most seem to reject religion. That we needn’t do that is easy enough to understand, but it doesn’t change the common pattern.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      “Most seem to reject religion. That we needn’t do that is easy enough to understand, but it doesn’t change the common pattern.”

      Sure, I absolutely agree you that most atheists also consider themselves areligious. But I still think there’s an interesting distinction to be made concerning whether being an atheist entails that someone is irreligious (as many people believe) or being an atheist merely happens to be correlated with being areligious. Some might call it “nit-picking”, and in a purely day-to-day pragmatic sense maybe it is; however, I honestly feel that exploring boundary cases and “exceptions to the rule” is a good way to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts we use every day.

      This is something people do in science and philosophy all the time, right? We gain a deeper understanding of what we mean by the common concept of “intelligence” my looking at the unusual cases where someone excels in some ways but has deficits in others. We gain a deeper understanding of what we mean by “life” by looking at strange self-replicating molecules that seem to match some of the commonly-understood criteria but not others. And so on. So, to me, taking a close look at examples of “atheistic religions” — even if the people who identify with such are a small minority — can be very informative about the assumptions we make about the ideas of both atheism and religion in general.

  2. Rusty says:

    Hey Greg,

    I like your chart a lot, because I enjoy distilling and crystallizing distinctions between these kinds of ideas, and your chart seems to do so very succinctly 🙂

    I’m wondering how did Deists wind up in the Theist column? My current understanding is that Deists do not believe in a ‘personal’ god. That is, while they maintain the existence of some supreme [creator/force/set of cosmic laws/power/whatever], they do not subscribe to the idea that this power is actively involved (or even interested) in human affairs. I’m not even sure if it would be accurate to say that all Deists necessarily claim that this supreme power is a “being” in the classical sense – some descriptions of Deist perspective seem to reject the whole notion of attributing ‘personhood’ to the supreme power.

    Theists, on the other hand, do indeed believe that the supreme power is a being – and further, that this being takes an active interest in its creation.
    I want to say that projecting at least *some* anthropomorphic qualities onto the supreme power is a criteria for being called a Theist. *If* I’m correct on that position, then I think that this premise, in and of itself, should stand as a good reason to not include Deists in the Theist category.

    Thoughts?

    -Rusty

    P.S. As an afterthought, if my thinking is so far coherent, then I imagine it would actually be possible to be an Atheist Deist…

  3. Rick Chapman says:

    +++ There are, in fact, atheistic religions. +++

    I don’t think that’s possible. Without a belief in supernatural deity(ies) or force, all you can have is a belief system. This belief system can include a moral compass, but atheism must, by definition, exclude religion. By your definition, Communism, Stalinism, Fascism, Pol Potism are religions. But I think that’s a ridiculous viewpoint.

    Deists believe in a supernatural force outside of nature but ascribe no particular religious framework to this force. Formal religions do.

    Satanists and Wiccans are not good examples, I think. Satan is a supernatural force, and Wiccans believe in various spirits and deities which exist outside of nature.

    Rick

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Well, perhaps this is a fundamental question of definition! 🙂 My position is that religion is a complex cultural system of moral tenets, symbols, historical traditions, and rituals that create a narrative of purpose and ethics. I think most people would agree that that captures at least PART of the concept of a religion.

      I say that one can have a system like that, but have no supernatural beliefs at all, and it is still a religion.

      You seem to say: No, the system must also include some kind of supernatural belief, such as a God or gods or souls or spirits, otherwise that system is merely a “belief system” and not a religion.

      If this were merely a language issue, I suppose it wouldn’t matter. I say “religion”, you say “belief system” or “Weltanschauung” or some other word, and in the end it is just a label… who cares?

      But, religion also interacts with politics and our culture in very special ways. Suppose you live in a culture that privileges religious views over non-religious views. Suppose you live in a culture that says, “Religious morality is so important, that we must be extra careful to give allowance to deeply held religious beliefs.”

      In that world, let me ask you a question: Is it sensible–is it rational or fair–to define “religion” in such a way that the moral beliefs of any person who does not believe in the supernatural are AUTOMATICALLY less important than the moral beliefs of someone who believes in ghosts and souls and spirits?

      Because if you restrict your definition of religion to only those people who have supernatural beliefs, that is what you are saying. In the United States, we have laws that give special power to “deeply help religious beliefs.” If religion is defined by belief in “the supernatural”, then nobody who does not believe in some kind of “spirit world” is protected by those laws.

      To me, that is supremely strange. I am an atheist. I do not hold any supernaturalistic beliefs. I don’t believe in God, or gods, or souls, or “divine purpose.” But I also have very strong moral convictions: I believe strongly that murder is wrong and causing people deliberate and pointless pain is terrible, for example.

      Are my moral beliefs somehow less valuable — less worthy of legal protection — only because they are not rooted in belief in an invisible sentient “god”?

      That is specifically the argument made by modern Satanists who adhere to the Satanic Temple’s Weltanschauung, by the way. Modern Satanism is an atheistic religion, with no belief in a literal God or Devil. But they consistently make the argument: is it not bigoted to say that morality MUST be rooted in superstition in order to be recognized by the state?

      It is an interesting conundrum… although possibly one specific to the United States because of our laws concerning “deeply-held religious beliefs.”

      • Rick Chapman says:

        +++ My position is that religion is a complex cultural system of moral tenets, symbols, historical traditions, and rituals that create a narrative of purpose and ethics. I think most people would agree that that captures at least PART of the concept of a religion. +++

        Religion can indeed include all of the above. But so can a belief system. The Soviet Union under Leninism/Stalinism/post-Stalinism also had all of the above. But these systems denied any claim that they had any “transcendent” qualities. Quite the opposite; they claimed they were based on religion and the inexorable tide of human progress.

        +++ . In the United States, we have laws that give special power to “deeply help religious beliefs.” +++

        I’m not sure that’s an accurate description of the state of affairs. Our government, while founded on a belief that our rights flow from a transcendent force, not by an act of government, does not favor one description or belief system as to the nature of this transcendent force.

        It’s also goes to great lengths to not compel a person to not perform actions against their religious beliefs. I’m not sure that can be defined as “special powers,” though triumphalist faiths such as Islam do claim such rights on behalf of their adherents.

        But I don’t see why you would draw the conclusion that aetheists are not protected by our laws. Your rights inhere outside of man. Our law ultimately derive from this core belief. There is no requirement that you believe in the transcendent and the religious are granted no charter under this belief to violate your rights.

        +++ I do not hold any supernaturalistic beliefs. I don’t believe in God, or gods, or souls, or “divine purpose.” +++

        And you have the liberty to believe this based on the concept that your liberty transcends the right of an earthly power to deprive you of this belief.

        Which I think works out rather well.

        +++ Are my moral beliefs somehow less valuable — less worthy of legal protection — only because they are not rooted in belief in an invisible sentient “god”? +++

        I think that’s another issue. I will say that the concept of your rights flowing from a transcendent power seems to be superior to a belief that man is the measure of all things. After all, non-religious belief systems have led to the world’s greatest slaughters, as the 20th century bore witness to.

        +++ Modern Satanism is an atheistic religion +++

        Isn’t Satan a transcendent being? God’s opponent? Fallen angel?

        If not, then who do you identify as Satan? Donald Trump? Nancy Pelosi? Bill Gates? Steve Jobs?

        In the eyes of some, all have vied for the title.

        +++ is it not bigoted to say that morality MUST be rooted in superstition in order to be recognized by the state? +++

        You’ve salted the question with “superstition.” It is not “irrational” to believe in a transcendent force.

        And I think the genius of our system is that belief in the transcendent. Your rights do not require the “state” to “recognize” them. They are yours independent of the state.

        +++ since I don’t think your country has the same laws +++

        I’m an American! From Da Bronx!

        rick

        • Greg Stevens says:

          Me: “In the United States, we have laws that give special power to “deeply help religious beliefs.””

          You: “I’m not sure that’s an accurate description of the state of affairs”

          Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.: Their argument was specifically rooted in the claim that their opposition to enabling certain types of contraception was based on their deeply held religious beliefs, and that therefore, on the basis of the guarantee of freedom to exercise religion, they need the ability to opt out of paying for insurance that covers those forms of contraception.

          If they had been atheists who similarly were against abortion, and that this was a deeply-held SECULAR moral belief, their legal argument would have had no standing. That is the core of the problem. In many individual states, there are laws that specifically make allowances for “deeply held religious beliefs”. The word “religious” is actually IN THE LAWS THEMSELVES. That’s the problem. As long as these laws exist, and if we interpret religion as requiring belief in the spirit world, then you are de facto creating a system where people who do not believe in spirits are not covered by those laws.

          You: “I think that’s another issue. I will say that the concept of your rights flowing from a transcendent power seems to be superior to a belief that man is the measure of all things.”

          And it’s your right to have that belief. I don’t think it’s your right to bake that belief into law in a secular society.

          You: “Isn’t Satan a transcendent being?”

          Modern Satanists use the symbol of Satan as the literary and cultural figure to represent rebellion. They don’t believe in a literal Satan. I’ve written on this before, if you’re interested in a quick summary:

          http://www.dailydot.com/politics/satanic-temple-interview/

          • Rick Chapman says:

            +++Their argument was specifically rooted in the claim that their opposition to enabling certain types of contraception was based on their deeply held religious beliefs, and that there, on the basis of the guarantee of freedom to exercise religion, they need the ability to opt out of paying for insurance that covers those forms of contraception. +++

            Let’s be more precise about this issue as it impacts the discussion. Hobby Lobby objected to being forced to provide abortafacients, which kill a human in an early stage of development by preventing it from implanting in the womb of the mother.

            There are many religions and belief systems that object to the killing of humans absent a strong moral justification. Some oppose killing under any circumstances. And a belief in morality does not require religion. The Soviet Union was aggressively anti-religious, but still regarded murder as immoral and punished it.

            Now, it’s true that a “Creator” is given pride of place in the First Cause sweepstakes in the US; from this flows the concept of inalienable rights, which I personally think is a triumph of moral thinking.

            But I also note that in such cases as a refusal to serve in the armed forces, you don’t have to be religious to apply for CO status. You DO have to demonstrate a deep commitment to your beliefs, but that’s also true if you claim exemption on religious grounds.

            I believe that at the core of your attempt to assign the status of religion to atheism is a belief that atheists are treated unfairly by the law. That may be true (though I think you’d have to demonstrate that on a case by case basis), but I don’t think the answer to the problem is to force compulsion on the religious by discarding the DOI and constitutional protections on the free exercise of your faith.

            But regardless, I believe your attempt to assign the status of religion to a belief system fails because you’re making a fundamental category mistake. Inherently, a belief in a transcendent force outside of nature is a fundamental characteristic of religion. Catholicism and Communism are two different things. Their belief systems are not the same.

            And Satan, if defined as a societal force, is not transcendent (though constantly being in a state of rebellion sounds exhausting)! He sounds like Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” and I don’t think Marlon was ever confused with a deity. Except maybe in “Dr. Moreau.”

            Now, you may feel that a believe in a Big Daddy in the Sky is irrational and unscientific, but this is besides the point when you possess a belief in the transcendent. It why religious people are called “faithful.”

            On the other hand (and I’m not religious), I think of Big Daddy in the Sky protecting my inalienable rights and say let him be.

            rick

          • Greg Stevens says:

            I think we may have to simply agree to disagree, my friend! You keep saying this,

            “Inherently, a belief in a transcendent force outside of nature is a fundamental characteristic of religion.”

            And I think that is wrong. I think that it has been a historical coincidence that old religions have been rooted in mysticism and spiritualism. But that alone is not sufficient cause to believe that it is a NECESSARY component of religion. Up until a certain point, religions were all polytheistic: that didn’t make polytheism a “fundamental characteristic” of religion, either.

            I’ll leave you with one last thought: Please don’t misunderstand or misrepresent my position by saying, “your attempt to assign the status of religion to atheism”. This is the fundamental category error that I believe YOU are making. “Atheism” is a description of a set of possible belief systems. It is not a belief system. It is analogous to “theism”, which is also not a belief system in itself, but rather a description that applies to a set of belief systems.

            OF COURSE “atheism” isn’t a religion. It has no set of symbols, it has no set of stories, it has no particular moral framework, and it has no narrative for explicating purpose. My argument is that one can have a belief system that does all of those things without superstition or the supernatural, and that there is no meaningful reason to not assign that kind of system the label of “religion” except by inherent prejudice against unbelievers.

            But, I understand that you disagree. It’s a fundamental definitional disagreement. As long as there are laws on the books that tell me that people with “deeply held religious beliefs” get special consideration that does not apply to “deeply held non-religious beliefs”, I will contend that we need to allow for the existence of atheistic religions. As I said earlier, if it were not for the legal ramifications of calling something a “religious belief” — if our constitution protected the “free practice of belief-systems” instead of the “free practice of religion” — then I wouldn’t care two wags of a finger what the label was.

          • Rick Chapman says:

            +++ You keep saying this “Inherently, a belief in a transcendent force outside of nature is a fundamental characteristic of religion.” +++

            Yes. Any attempt to assign a non-transcendent belief system to the category of religion leads to absurdity. Stalin would have sent you to the Gulag for this. Mao to the Gobi desert. Pol Pot to a killing field.

            +++ . I think that it has been a historical coincidence that old religions have been rooted in mysticism and spiritualism. +++

            A belief in the possibility of the transcendent seems to be an inherent characteristic of our species, as is a moral sense. Humans cannot not speculate on the transcendent and must think in moral terms. To not do so is to be diagnosed with a mental disease or flaw.

            This does not mean this belief is true, but it’s always there. To assign the transcendent to a belief system destroys both reason and language. You cannot do it. When you do, you end up descending to the absurd.

            +++ Up until a certain point, religions were all polytheistic: that didn’t make polytheism a “fundamental characteristic” of religion, either. +++

            We don’t know that. It is possible that initial beliefs focused on single transcendent force, then evolved into a belief in multiple forces, then later “devolved” back into monotheism. Absent a time machine, we will never know this.

            +++“Atheism” is a description of a set of possible belief systems. It is not a belief system. +++

            Atheism IS a belief system. It is a belief system that states the transcendent is an invalid assumption. Atheism is not anarchic nor devoid of morality.

            But by inherent definition, it can never be a religion. Again, to make this claim results in a logical absurdity.

            +++ It has no set of symbols, it has no set of stories, it has no particular moral framework, and it has no narrative for explicating purpose. +++

            Certainly it does! Communism had its “Bible,” (Das Kapital), its “Moses” (Marx), heroes and stories, the Soviet Union had a legal code, which was a reflection of an atheistic moral belief system, its rituals (vast military parades, celebrations of the Bolshevik uprising, Politburo watching on Lenin’s tomb and much, much more.

            But to say the Soviet Union claimed Communism was a religion leads you to the absurd.

            +++ My argument is that one can have a belief system that does all of those things without superstition or the supernatural, +++

            And I have just agreed with you!

            +++ As long as there are laws on the books that tell me that people with “deeply held religious beliefs” get special consideration that does not apply to “deeply held non-religious beliefs”, I will contend that we need to allow for the existence of atheistic religions. +++

            You are arguing for an absurdity. What you CAN argue for is that non-transcendent belief systems receive equal legal footing with religious systems.

            Of course, you run up against the problem that you deny our inalienable rights, and I don’t think you’ll garner much support for this concept.

            Also, you have to argue that non-religious people have been denied their equality of the law under the DOI and the Constitution and that’s a difficult case to make.

            And since I’m not a lawyer, I won’t attempt to make it!

            rick

          • Greg Stevens says:

            Alright, again I’m going to begin with the observation that we simply have definitional differences of opinion, so this probably won’t get anywhere in terms of using rational discourse to tip the scales of the discussion to one side or another. YYou think the word “religion” requires superstitious/supernatural beliefs, I do not. You repeating the word “ABSURDITY!” over and over isn’t evidence that you are correct, because it doesn’t seem absurd to me. And me explaining that there are people who claim to belong to “atheistic religions” is not something you accept as evidence, because you will simply claim that they are mistaken. So there you have it. We can agree to disagree.

            However, having said that, I do want to correct a particular point where I think you are misunderstanding what I said — not so much to “convince” you of anything, but just to make sure that you aren’t misunderstanding my position. (I’m fine with you disagreeing with me, as long as you understand what you’re disagreeing with! LOL)

            Me: “Atheism” is a description of a set of possible belief systems. It is not a belief system.
            You: Atheism IS a belief system.

            I think you’re not hearing or understanding my point here. Atheism is not ONE BELIEF SYSTEM. The word “atheism” does not refer to a single systematic worldview. I don’t know how to phrase it any more clearly than that. The label “atheism” does not refer to a particular view of the universe, or a particular moral framework. It is a description that accurately includes many, many, many different views of the universe, views of morality, and views of the purpose of life. When I say it’s “not a belief system” that’s what I mean: it is not a specific, single, concrete narrative.

            Rather, it is an attribute that applies to a great number of narratives or “worldviews”… all of which can be described as “atheistic worldviews”.

            “Theism”, similarly, is not a SINGLE belief system. You can be a Christian theist, or a Jewish theist, or you can be a theist who believes in the Greek pantheon! All of these are different “belief systems”, but they are all “theistic” belief systems.

            So, if you still don’t understand what I mean when I say “atheism is not a belief system”, then we should probably drop it. I literally don’t know how to make the point any more clearly.

  4. Lorien says:

    I really enjoyed this article. As a sort of “wannabe” Wiccan, I am attracted to that religion because of it’s respect for the Earth and natural forces, and the approach to womanhood (maiden/mother/crone). I have to stop short of ceremonies, but not by much. I view general religion as having caused a lot of strife in the world, which to me is purely just sad, but I’m also trained in science, so I’m OK with believing the universe doesn’t need a God to have formed. Long story short, it’s nice to see the spectrum described as a true spectrum, not a binary either/or.

  5. Damien says:

    Et bien !

    It’s truly difficult to communicate with you… You invite me some concepts (“personnel God, genuine, authentic”) I never use.

    When you use the Law it’s firm… not an interpretation, an flying argument, some arbitrarily words.

    In European Union, particularly in France Religion is a political subject. It’s absolutely not a personal construction. You can do what you want, but every organizations are watched by State.

    I think that we don’t speak about the same reality when we speak each other Religion. Because the concept and the legal framework are very different.

    You are American. I am French. We are different. Don’t be sorry. It doesn’t matter.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      I am enjoying our dialogue! I hope you are as well. It is very enlightening to me to be challenged with some of these ideas that may very well spring from differences in our cultures — things that I may otherwise take for granted, or not question about my own perspective.

      I agree that the whole concept of a government being able to decide what is or is not a religion is very strange from an American perspective. Yet, I also must even question exactly how that works in France. Maybe you can help me understand people’s attitudes about it.

      When you talk about “The Law”, do you mean political laws from government, which say “Christianity is a religion, but Pasta Worship is not”? Or are you referring to religious laws, such as “Christians must accept Christ as God in order to enter heaven” or “To be a Jew you cannot eat pork”?

      The second category (religious law) does seem at least partially up to interpretation. Some Christian philosophers believe that it is a sin to work on the Sabbath, others do not. The status of many “Old Testament” commands are somewhat in contention. There is not an official judicial body to decide these things, except for Catholics (where the Pope decides). But even some Protestants consider Catholicism to be “not authentic Christianity.”

      The first category (government law) is not as ambiguous. But help me to understand: does the government define what religions exist (e.g. Christianity but not Satanism, for example), or does it actually define WHAT QUALITIES someone must possess to be a member of that religion?

      If the first is the case but the second is not (which I suspect is the fact of the matter), then I have to ask: What if someone in France says, “I am a Christian, but in my practice of Christianity it is not required to believe in God! I am a Christian Atheist!”

      Does the government not recognize that person as a Christian? By what laws is that defined?

      • Damien says:

        I am enjoying too. 3 or 4 years ago, I had discussions with the virtual members of GCN (Gay Christian Network). It was interesting, but very limited. I was banned out of the Forum just ’cause I have written something about American Nation. I argue that many French, German, Italian, Spanish… died for the Patrotisms through Pétain, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco… It’s so silly, I was banned ! I was one of the only man who is not anglo-saxon. There are no men or women from Québec, no spanish-speaking guys, no Native Nation’s men… only WASP or closed. A girl – not gay – living in London and French take care of me (all in the virtual world of the Net). She had to create another Network more open-mind. I’m quite shy, so very sensible. It was not a happy time.
        It’s more more pleasant to discuss with you.

        In France, we have a big History with Religions. During French Monarchy the State (“I’m the State” said Louis XIV) is the “older Daughter of the Church”. Church is only the Roman-Catholic Church. Before him, the King Henri IX stop many centuries of Relgions’war (between Protestants and Catholics) with the Edict of Nantes (1598). The Roi-Soleil revoke it (1685)
        The French Republic (born with the French Revolution) decide to create statues for Jews and Protestants( 1791). The Empire of Napoleon create the citizenship for Jews and Protestant. It called the Concordat (1801). The French Republic decide to separate Religions and State (1905) through a very French concept the Laity . It’s confirm by an inscription inside the Constitution of the Fifth Republic of France by De Gaulle (1958).

        Actually, everybody can choose, change for ever or for one day religion, philosophy, or nothing as he wants.

        If the State is separate with the Religions is not sensibleness. Religions can indocrinate, recruit or kill some citizen. State protects them. All the relgious, a-relgious, philosophical, cultural associations are watched by Inner Minister. Especially for the Sects an inter-ministerial Agency is watching it… but it dosen’t work for the recruiting of Daesh soldiers in Syria and Irak. Many are French.

        It was the part one.

      • Damien says:

        Now the second part : religious law.

        Each Religion can write his own Law. Thorah for Jews and Christian. Kuran for Muslim. Veda for Buddhism and Hinduism…

        It’s not correct to say that only Roman-Catholics have some juridical court. Jews have a court too (in France it’s the Consistoire). But the verdict of this religious tribunals have no impact in the citizen daily life of this believers… but for the Faith. When you are banned out of your community. It’s difficult to live. You are gay like me, you know that experience.

        I am Christian. It is rare for a French Citizen. It’s more rare for a gay men. It’s extremely rare for an ecologist.

        I was born Roman-Catholic. I did studies of Theology in the same time I was banned because I’m gay from Roman-Catholic Church. Now I’m Old-Catholic (from Union of Utrecht).

        I really know the rules of the Roman-Catholic Church. It’s codified in the .

        It’s difficult to speak about all the Christians (the Christianity). There are many differents between confessions. For exemple : the LGBTI will go on Hell by Baptism, Pentecotist, Traditionnalist Catholics. In my Church, there is no problem. LGBTI are not worst or better than straight. They are being.

        Who is christian ? It’s a big question that Saint Augustin, Saint Vincent de Lérins, Saint Irénée de Lyon or Saint Thomas d’Aquin have reflexions.

        They are a strictly rule from a Council of all Christian (except Armenians, Copts of Egypt and Ethiopia who accept it, after) : the Credo of Nicea and Constantinople ( 325 and 381). It’s recognize by all the Christians Churches.

        Of course, we can find some people who are think Jesus is just a man. It’s OK. In fact, they are quitte silly ; they don’t know nestorism, monophysitism and augustinian heresia…. And many of this guy constructed the United States of America. This “mad” familly were ostracised from Europe (most from UK, France, Germany and Switzerland) create some out-of-law communities.

        The Constitution of USA and French République are lay. The both. But the sense of this laity is different… maybe opposite ?

  6. Damien says:

    I’m not agree with your chart. Polytheist, animist, agnostic miss your analysis.

    Jews, Christian and Muslim must believe in God. In the opposite case there are not Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers. Religions are based on Laws ( respectively Torah + Midrashim, Pentateuch + Gospel, Coran + Hadiths ).

    Buddhists and Hinduists are not atheistic. They are polypolypolytheistic. They are 4 big ways inside the Buddhism (Great Vehicule, Diamond Vehicule, Tibetian Vehicule, Ancient Vehicule). The “Western” Buddhists say about them-selves a-religious, but in Asia (East and Far-East) it’s very codified.

    Who is yet deist ??? The last one died with the “Supreme Being” (l’Être Suprême) after the Terror of the French Revolution’s theoreticians Saint-Just, Robespierre and Marat. The Freemassons don’t believe it anymore in France. Most of them are really atheistic. They don’t believe in the Great Architect of Universe (it’s more scotish).

    The Religion is relative to the religious policy of a Country. For exemple in European Union, the Church of Scientology is not a religion, except in Spain, in Portugal, in Sweden, in Hungary, in Croatia and in Slovenia. But everywhere it’s a sect. It’s a closed case for the Mormons.

    Atheism is an a-religion. Michel ONFRAY or André COMTE-SPONVILLE are theoriticians of the a-theism.

    • Greg Stevens says:

      Damien, I understand what you are saying… but you are mistaken. The entire point of the chart is, in fact, to point out that it is a common misconception that people have, to believe that “atheism” is an “a-religion”. There are, in fact, atheistic religions. There are a great number of them. You can simply assert, I suppose, that you do not think they are “real” religions.. but I do not think it is your place to do so.

      Also, there are many people in the United States who identify themselves as “deists”, in the tradition of believing in a “architect of the universe” who does not participate or interfere. They do not see themselves as belonging to any particular religious organization but have discovered the label “deist” and adopted it for themselves. Once again, I suppose you can somehow claim they are not “real deists” but I would wonder, again, how it is your place to make such definitive claims.

      • Damien says:

        Are you sure you “understand” what I said ? Do you think I have not enough knowledge to argue my sentences. The philosophers I quote exist. They are still alive.

        I never wrote “real religions” or “real deists”. You invented me this words. They are not mine.

        The laws (religious or civic) are the laws. Every people out of any acts, rules or charters do what they want to create. Of course they might definite themselves as they want.

        Do I claim anythings ? No. Who am I to claim anything ?

        And I finish to say like you Atheism is a religion… but not through the Laws.

        • Greg Stevens says:

          I am sorry! It is absolutely possible that I misunderstood what you were saying. My impression was that you were saying that to define yourself as a Christian, Jew, etc, you must adhere to a particular set of proscriptions (e.g. Gospel, Torah, etc). However many people interpret these texts differently, and some of them do not even envisage the texts as “religious law” per se. Thus, you seem to be (arbitrarily) defining Christianity within a narrow band of the many ways that one can interpret “following the teachings of Jesus”. You did not use the word “real Christian”, but this is what I inferred when you seemed to imply that anyone who does not believe (e.g.) that Jesus was the literal incarnation of a personal God CANNOT be a Christian. Thus, you seem to imply that “Christian Atheists” are not … whatever word you would like? true? real? genuine? … Christians. However, I question whether your particular decision on how to define “Christian” is any more authentic.

          Secondly, you said “Who is yet deist?” I thought you intended to imply that there are no people who currently identify themselves as deists. That is simply not true. Once again, you never used the phrase “real deists”. However, if you assert that there are no deists, but it is the case that some people who call themselves deists, it is merely a logical conclusion that you do not think they are genuine.

          Finally, I do not understand your final assertion about atheism is “a religion”. There exist many world-views that include no god. All of them are atheism, but they are not all the same set of beliefs, nor are they all the same set of laws. If I assume for the moment that religions are defined by a set of laws (I do not agree with this, but you asserted it and for the sake of argument I can take it as a premise), then clearly Atheism is not any one religion, but a vast possible set of religions. The following statements are, linguistically, exactly parallel:

          Theism isn’t a religion, but it is a characteristic of belief that describes many religions

          Atheism isn’t a religion, but it is a characteristic of belief that describes many religions as well.

          To call “atheism” A religion is quite simply a category error. It would be like someone saying, “Belief in God is A religion.” It is not. It is a property of some religions… and not even all of them.



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  1. […] religions, and the fact that religions can be either theistic or atheistic, you may want to read Atheism is not the opposite of religion by Greg […]


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