Atheists Argue That They’re a ‘Religious Minority’

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A HOLY war is breaking out between an atheist group in Florida and local politicians who reportedly contend that nonbelievers do not qualify under the umbrella of eligible individuals invited to deliver prayers before government meetings.

Following the Supreme Court’s recent Greece vs. Galloway decision that validates invocations at public meetings so long as citizens of all perspectives are invited to pray, David Williamson, leader of the Central Florida Freethought Community, wrote a letter to the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners asking if a member of his organization could “pray” at a future meeting.

“Note that Humanism is recognized as a religion under the First Amendment in numerous cases and excluding a particular faith group from consideration is unconstitutional” he said.

But Mary Bolin Lewis, chair of the commission, reportedly said in a draft letter yet to be sent to Williamson that the atheist group, which is a chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and an affiliate of the American Humanist Association, doesn’t qualify and can, instead, speak for three minutes during the public comment portion at the end of these meetings.

Lewis added that invocations are for members of the “faith community,” according to Florida Today.

Williamson is pushing back, accusing the commission of discrimination and describing the Central Florida Freethought Community as a “minority religion.”

If atheism gets accepted as a religion it will only add fuel to the argument that atheism is a belief system based on faith

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133 thoughts on “Atheists Argue That They’re a ‘Religious Minority’

  1. Well !!
    Like I pointed out before !
    Many religious people insist that atheism is a belief system based on faith .
    And many rule their view of the world totally on WORDS and INTERPRETATIONS and classifying by selective groupings :- Broad brush strokes and generalization .

    Put those two together and it makes it easier to make fools of them .
    Their view of the world is alike a knife that cuts only one way .

    Sob! Sob!
    The nasty Atheists are using our words the same words we claim as special against us .
    As if those words are their possession and the use is only definable to suet their interests .
    Funny how the entity they claim exists requires followers to have full understanding of “DICTIONARIES” , Therosedress and Tunnel vision .
    So I say good luck on those Atheists for being stirrers !

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  2. So Mary Bolin Lewis is a member of the chapter of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, but wants to participate in religious activities. Which is a contradiction in terms.

    Meanwhile we have had people on this website saying that “I am Christian but I am not religious”. And if you read/listen to John Bevere and other Pentecostal ministers’ sermons you regularly hear about Jesus having problems with religious people… always in the context that Jesus and religion are two separate entities and that somehow Jesus’ public ministry was somehow not a religious message! Can anyone explain this?

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    • From another forum-
      Why Christianity is NOT a Religion

      The way to be right with God in every religion is by earning your way. It is based on works, not grace. Christianity is different from every religion in this aspect: all other religions (including Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism) state that you must earn the right to be reconciled with God. It is by what you do in this life (good deeds or bad deeds) that determines your eternal destiny. Christianity is completely different from this. It is not religion. My high school American Literature Teacher, Mr. Patton, (who wasn’t a Christian) described it this way:

      “The difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world is that all other religions are about man trying to reach up to God. Christianity is about God reaching down to man.”

      This is a very important distinction, and it is core to what I believe, so I would like to try to clarify what I mean. Here is the way I am defining religion:

      Religion is a system of beliefs or a code of moral conduct that judges (qualifies or disqualifies) a person based on their adherence and obedience to certain codes, rules, laws, traditions, or the performance of required acts.

      Religion (almost universally) is enforced by those in power in an attempt to maintain, increase, or abuse their power over others. Religion is the creation of man and is not the intention or design of God. A modern day example (taken from the movie “Footloose”, starring Kevin Bacon) is a preacher who believes that dancing leads to promiscuity and destructive behaviour (the Bible does not speak against dancing). He uses (abuses) his influence and his position of authority to convince his congregation that dancing is evil and forbids it. He sets up rules that are not in the Bible and adds additional beliefs that Jesus never endorsed. He is trying to control the people, using their trust of his authority to force them to believe his version of the truth. He adds rules that don’t exist in the Bible. In this example, he even has good motives, but he is still being religious and this “religion” is not from God. This is so very common. People have used Jesus to justify adding so many “requirements” to being a Christian. Here are just a few of the countless examples:

      Not drinking alcohol
      Not listening to certain types of music
      Insisting that church meet on certain days
      Only certain forms of music can be used in church
      You can’t be saved unless you are circumcised
      Reciting ritualistic prayers
      Saying you aren’t saved unless you get baptized
      You can’t eat certain foods
      Requiring you to perform rituals
      Being saved is conditional upon attending church or church membership
      Saying that you have to earn your salvation by doing good deeds

      I could go on and on. When Jesus was on the earth, religion was very rampant, as it is today. There was a group of corrupt religious leaders called the Pharisees who had taken the word of God, passed down from Moses and the prophets (the Torah), and written a commentary on it interpreting what the scriptures said (called the Talmud). Then they wrote another commentary on that commentary called the “Mishnah”. The Mishnah was a list of hundreds rules to meet in order to insure that you were obeying the word of God. These were created by man and had little basis in the actual scripture.

      For example, one of the 10 Commandments (from the Torah) was, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”. The Pharisees had made literally hundreds of rules in the Mishnah that detailed to the n-th degree what you had to do in order to keep that commandment. There was a rule that you couldn’t walk through a field on the Sabbath because your sandal might clip a grain of wheat, and if it did you would be harvesting grain. If you were harvesting, you had worked on the Sabbath and sinned. Another example is that you could not spit on the ground on the Sabbath because your spit would create mud and this was making mortar. If you created mortar you were working on the Sabbath and therefore sinning.

      It goes on, with more illustrations here: http://philippians1v21.wordpress.com/wh … -religion/

      In practice many people still try to turn Christianity into an orthodox manmade religion but it is anything but.
      All things are subject to interpretation.
      Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.

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  3. Maybe the word “religion” needs to be modified to “common worldview” in order to be inclusive to the prayers of atheists. Sounds like they are battling a discriminatory system.

    Oh, and here’s a better cartoon you could have used!

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      • I think I’m becoming a monkey again. I’m devolving.

        Or maybe I could become something else? Can we choose or does it have to be a monkey. I’d really like to be able to fly. Maybe I can will the feathers if I concentrate hard enough.

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  4. “If atheism gets accepted as a religion it will only add fuel to the argument that atheism is a belief system based on faith”

    Non sequitur – if atheism was accepted as a religion then it depends what the criteria for “religion” is.

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    • This may help you Bubba
      from http://creation.com/atheism-a-religion
      The framework set forth by Ninian Smart,commonly known as the Seven Dimensions of Religion, is widely accepted by anthropologists and researchers of religion as broadly covering the various aspects of religion, without focusing on things unique to specific religions.

      The seven dimensions proposed by Smart are narrative, experiential, social, ethical, doctrinal, ritual and material. Not every religion has every dimension, nor are they all equally important within an individual religion. Smart even argues that the ‘secularisation’ of western society is actually a shift of focus from the doctrinal and ritual to the experiential.

      1. Narrative

      Every religion has its stories. Almost all religions have stories explaining where the universe came from and what humanity’s part in it is. Smart calls this Narrative.

      Narrative is a particularly important aspect of western Atheism. As the prominent Atheist Richard Dawkins said, referring to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution:

      “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

      Evolution is an explanation of where everything came from: the cosmos (came out of nothing at the big bang—nothing exploded and became everything); humans evolved from non-human creatures, hence humanity’s place in the cosmos is being just another species of animal. Some have gone so far as to say that humanity is a parasite on earth, and advocate killing up to 90% of humanity. There are some who attempt to combine belief in God with belief in evolution, not realizing the foundational nature of evolution’s connection to Atheism. The testimony of those who after learning about evolution in ‘science’ reject Christianity should alert church leaders to the incompatibility between evolution and the Gospel.

      2. Experiential

      There are two aspects to the experiential dimension. The first is the events experienced before someone founded a religion (for example the Disciples physically saw and touched the bodily resurrected Jesus). It is often asserted that Charles Darwin, after observing evidence from around the world during his voyage on HMS Beagle, developed the theory of evolution. (In reality, he had already learned a version of evolution from his grandfather Erasmus’s book Zoonomia and similar ideas were around at the time).

      According to the Humanist Manifesto II, the only meaning in life is what the person gives it.

      The second aspect of the experiential dimension concerns the experiences of latter adherents. Many people feel certain emotions when they participate in certain religious ceremonies. Atheists often believe that Atheism is freedom from religion, and some Atheists have reported feeling liberated after converting.10 Karl Marx said that the removal of the illusion of happiness by the removal of religion was a step towards true happiness. Atheistic denial of the divine entails denial of an afterlife. If there is no afterlife, then ultimately there is no higher purpose in life for Atheists than to be happy. According to the Humanist Manifesto II, the only meaning in life is what the person gives it. In the Humanist Manifesto III, this was changed to finding meaning in relationships. Belief in evolution also causes people to aim for self preservation and to spread their own genes.

      Smart also seems to include ‘faith’ as part of the experiential dimension. The meaning of the word ‘faith’ is often twisted to make it mean things it does not. In Christianity, faith is logical, being defined in Hebrews 11:1 as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” This is not blindly believing the impossible (which is how many Atheists define faith), but rather trusting the promises of God, whose past promises have all been fulfilled. I would classify Christian faith as part of the doctrinal dimension rather than experiential. On the other hand, Atheism requires ‘faith’ (using their own definition) that the laws of chemistry, physics and biology were once violated and life arose from non-life via chemical evolution.

      3. Social

      The social dimension of religion looks at the hierarchies and power structures present within the religion, such the Hindu caste system. In missionary religions, it also includes how people get converted and how missionaries go about their work.

      Contemporary Atheism has been fueled largely by authors promoting their Atheistic beliefs. In the preface to The God Delusion, Dawkins says,

      “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.”

      Dawkins is saying he hopes that his book converts ‘religious’ people to his worldview—exactly what a missionary of any religion hopes to do.

      Communist countries often made the state religion Atheism, often to the point of persecuting (other) religions. This followed from Karl Marx’s statement:

      “It [religion] is the opiate of the masses. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness.”

      Marxists saw the removal of religion as a step toward true happiness for the common people, although in practice this did not occur, and contemporary critics see Marxism itself as a religion15. (I would contend that Marxism is a sect of a larger religion: Atheism).

      Many scientists are high up on the social hierarchy of Atheism because their research enhances their understanding of the world. Particularly honoured are those scientists who write extensively about evolution. Because of this, many scientists include a little about evolution in their research papers, even when there is little or no relevance (one recent example concerns research into the chameleon’s catapult tongue and suction cap; see Created, not evolved)

      Atheism is also taught to children in many schools in science classes as evolution. As atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse admits, “evolution is a religion”, and it could be considered the narrative dimension of Atheism. Thus teaching evolution is teaching Atheism. Several Atheists even support teaching lies, as long as the end result is more children believing evolution.

      4. Doctrinal

      Doctrines are the beliefs and philosophies that develop out of a religion (not necessarily being specifically stated in the religious narratives, etc). For example, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, while not directly stated in the Bible, is logically derived from it.

      Contemporary Atheism gained popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries, after the ‘enlightenment’. In 1933, some prominent Atheist philosophers realised the effects the lack of a belief in a god would have on the morals of society and wrote what they believed would be a suitable set of beliefs and goals for a secular society in the 20th century. In doing so, they formed the branch of Atheism known as Secular Humanism. By and large, Atheists believe and adhere to the things written in the Humanist Manifesto, even if they don’t know the specifics of the document. After all, many Atheists do want to do what is good.

      The doctrines, ethics and goals outlined in the Humanist Manifesto, while being atheistic and accepting evolution as true, are opposite of what would be expected if they were solely derived from the evolutionary narrative. This is because Humanism also makes the assumption that humans are basically good.

      In 1973 however, the Humanist Manifesto was updated because of the atrocities that humans inflicted upon other humans during the intervening years (specifically mentioned are Nazism and communist police states).

      5. Ethical

      Atheism is a morally relativist religion. Most Atheists adhere to one ethical system or another, but in Atheism there is ultimately no foundation for morality, as atheists Dawkins and Provine admit. Many systems of ethics have been proposed; utilitarianism is probably the most popular one.

      Some people have taken a further step by creating ethical systems based on the evolutionary narrative and the principle of “survival of the fittest”. People who have lived by such principles include the perpetrators of the Columbine Massacre, the Jokela School Shooting in Finland, and on a much larger scale, the Nazis.

      Most people (Atheist or not) inherently know that systems that lead to such atrocities must be wrong, but Atheists cannot give a logical reason for why it is wrong. This contradiction was highlighted by Dawkins when he said “I’m a passionate Darwinian when it comes to science, when it comes to explaining the world, but I’m a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to morality and politics.” It was also graphically shown when two evolutionists wrote a book claiming that rape is an evolutionary mechanism to spread male genes—and see how one of them squirmed to justify why he agreed that rape is objectively wrong under his philosophy.

      A world governed purely by Atheistic, evolutionary ethics has been shown by history to be a horrible place to live. Most Atheists recognise this and choose to live by the ethical systems of other religions instead, or at the very least, live by the laws enforced by the government.

      6. Ritual

      Ritual is the only dimension which on the surface might appear to be absent from the religion of Atheism. In some religions, rituals have meanings attached to them, such as Passover commemorating the Israelites’ escape from Egypt. Because Atheism is a relatively recent movement, it doesn’t have much of a history to commemorate. In other religions, rituals such as sacrifices and dances are done to appease the gods or the spirits. Because Atheism denies the existence of gods and spirits, it doesn’t have the second type of ritual either. Many Atheists do practice ‘secular rituals’ such as their birthday celebrations, or the ‘ritual holidays’ of other religions such as the Christmas and Easter public holidays of Christianity, but this is usually to simply maintain the tradition of a public holiday, and the original meaning of the celebrations are rejected. It’s noteworthy that in recent years, the atheists’ public commemoration of the anniversary of Darwin’s birth each February (and even of the publication of his Origin of Species in November), along with calls for the general public to do the same, is rapidly becoming something of an annual ritual, even in some ‘churches’. One might even say that this modern Atheistic commemoration is being ‘celebrated’ with greater fervour and passion than many longstanding religious rituals.

      7. Material

      While Atheism by its nature of denying the divine can’t have objects that represent the divine (such as icons or idols), nature is treated as sacred by some Atheists in and of itself.

      The material dimension of religion, says Smart, includes all the physical things created by a religion such as art and buildings, and also natural features and places treated as sacred by adherents. While Atheism by its nature of denying the divine can’t have objects that represent the divine (such as icons or idols), nature is treated as sacred by some Atheists in and of itself.

      There are two extremes in the range of ideas held by Atheists on the ‘material’:
      natural resources are here to be exploited because of ‘survival of the fittest’ and humans are obviously the fittest species; or
      we should respect all of nature, particularly living things because to kill them is tantamount to murdering a cousin. This second view essentially holds that all life is ‘sacred’.

      Both ideas can be derived from the evolutionary narrative, but views tending towards the second idea are more prevalent than the views tending towards the first. But as G.K. Chesterton said a century ago:

      “Darwinism can be used to back up two mad moralities, but it cannot be used to back up a single sane one. The kinship and competition of all living creatures can be used as a reason for being insanely cruel or insanely sentimental; but not for a healthy love of animals. … The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”

      An Atheist’s view of the material dimension is strongly influenced by their view of the ethical dimension.

      Conclusion

      Atheists often claim that their belief is not a religion. This allows them to propagate their beliefs in settings where other religions are banned, but this should not be so.

      Contemporary Western Atheism unquestionably has six of the seven dimensions of religion set forth by Smart, and the remaining dimension, ritual, has also started to develop. Thus it’s fallacious to assert, “Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair colour”. Perhaps a better analogy would be calling a shaved head a ‘hairstyle’. Other than the denial of the divine, there is little difference between Atheism and other worldviews typically labelled as religions.

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    • “The framework set forth by Ninian Smart,commonly known as the Seven Dimensions of Religion,…….”

      May or may not be the same framework as used by the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners. Until we know if it’s the same framework or not then it’s irrelevant to this conversation.

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      • Because what’s at issue in the article above is that if an group is or isn’t a religion according to the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners.

        Unless we know the criteria that the Board uses for determination then speculation is irrelevant.

        What if for example the Board is happy to declare the Central Florida Freethought Community a religion merely based on them obtaining 5,000 supporting signatures on a petition?

        I that case should the Central Florida Freethought Community then get the desired recognition as a religion the only definite statement we would be that they were able to obtain the necessary amount of signatures. Anything else is just mere speculation.

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      • The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that Atheism warrants the same protection as “all other religions”, and has spoken of “religions based on a belief in the existence of God [and] religions founded on different beliefs.”

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  5. Bryan you keep relying on that word “BELIEF”
    Many billions of people know of Genghis Khan and probably a hundred billion will know of him in the next four thousand years .
    “WHY”
    Because he “believed” in himself as more important at the cost of having empathy for others.
    And those around him “BELIEVED “in him and did his deeds.
    The world sees him as a conqueror that swept across the world .
    Not as the greatest mass killer of all time per number that lived and percentage the were killed.
    All done on a “BELIEF”

    As for killing people how about mentioning the thousands pushed out of planes at great hight .
    With the blessings of yankland
    Do a bit of history of yankland from the civil war.
    Start from what they did in CUBA

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  6. “Contemporary Western Atheism unquestionably has six of the seven dimensions of religion set forth by Smart…” So does rugby league. Turns out I’m religious after all.

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      • Sure I get it! Religion is such a broad concept as to be meaningless. Mal Meninga is the messiah, Huddersfield is the new Jerusalem and Union is heresy!

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      • Atheism is a belief system which makes claims about spiritual things. Atheism says there are no gods, but so do other belief systems which no one denies are religions, such as some forms of Buddhism. Atheism contrasts with religions, rather than social or political movements like egalitarianism, anarchism, communism, so it makes sense to classify it as a religion. In a way, atheism is the religious parallel of anarchism – just as anarchists deny political structures as being valid, atheists deny spiritual beings as valid. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be classified as political and religious systems respectively.

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      • Interesting definition of atheism. I wonder what dictionary you’d find that in…….

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      • ‘Atheism says there are no gods” No “it” doesn’t. Neither does Buddhism (some Buddhist traditions mention the existence of gods). If you exclude the divine as necessary part of religion, then the term becomes so meaningless as to include rugby league and tiddlywinks.

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      • Stu, Re-appropriating the term atheism is what is causing the issue. If we break the word down it is clear that the first definition should be “a belief that there is or are no god(s).” The prefix a has long been used as a reversal, or negation, for the term that follows it. The suffix ism has long been used for any kind of belief or organized thought system. The actual term is derived from the Greek word for god.

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  7. “Stu, Re-appropriating the term atheism is what is causing the issue.” No it isn’t. What’s causing the issue us that some religious people want to to conflate the absence of belief with belief. The question for you is their motive for doing so.

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    • In the US, atheism is protected under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. In August 2005, in a case where a prison inmate was blocked by prison officials from creating an inmate group to study and discuss atheism, the court ruled this violated the inmate’s rights under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed previous Supreme Court precedent by ruling atheism be afforded equal protection with religions under the 1st amendment.
      There are also online churches that have been created by atheists to secure legal rights, to ordain atheist clergy to hold ceremonies, as well as for parody, education, and advocacy.[

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      • @ Tracey “In the US, atheism is protected under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.” Yet in law, some US jurisdictions prohibit non believers from holding some public positions. @ Bryan: Because some US courts classify atheism as a religion doesn’t make it correct. I’m sure you could find some laws in the US you find abhorrent.

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      • There is such a large deal of faith that comes along with being an atheist, that it is very similar to a religion. Given the facts that: (1) we haven’t seen 99.999% of the visible universe, ) (2) 80+% of the universe is un-observable dark matter, and (3) who knows what we don’t know, it seems like a gigantic leap of faith is needed to proclaim, “Yea, I despite these facts, I thought about it, read some books, did some maths and I KNOW there is not a God.” Sounds like a large leap of faith to me.

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      • @ Joe ” I KNOW there is not a God.” Sounds like a large leap of faith to me.” Most of even most the public of atheists don’t say that. Do you KNOW there are no Unicorns? If so is it a large leap of faith for you to not to believe in Unicorns?

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      • Hey Joe,

        I don’t know if there is a god or not. Thor could be out there somewhere battling frost giants as I type. Regardless I don’t believe in god/gods.

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      • HI Bryan

        “The question is their motive for doing so.” That is indeed the question – why do the US Courts classify atheism as a religion? Until we’ve established that it’s kind of irrelevant what or how they classify atheism.

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      • This is typical atheist. strawman argument ” bringing up the unicorn when talking about God. I’ve read a lot of atheist comments using the unicorn argument. They must teach that at some Atheism 101 course. They’re not serious objections given by serious atheist/agnostic thinkers

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      • @ Joe “This is typical atheist. strawman argument ” bringing up the unicorn when talking about God.” It’s not a strawman – it’s an analogy designed to get the theist to explain why feel they can assert the existence of one supernatural entity (their god) and deny the existence of another (insert unicorns, or any other faith claim you choose). Care to have a go?

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      • This analogy is false because it presupposes the non-existence of God so it can make God analogous to something ridiculous. It is like “I don’t believe in God and I don’t have to show my evidence because of my unbelief in God”. It’s circular. So are there any better argument you’d like to share? Thanks!

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      • Hey Joe,

        “I don’t believe in God and I don’t have to show my evidence……”
        No offence but that doesn’t make a ton of sense, what evidence would you like of unbelief? How exactly does one go demonstrating a lack of belief ?

        As to the unicorn here’s the thing from an unbelievers point of view the unicorn and God are about the same. Both of them are supernatural creatures which could possibly exist that I don’t believe in. I understand that from your point of view God is a special case and should be treated differently from all the other supernatural entities out there, but that’s not how I see it.

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      • @ Joe: “This analogy is false because it presupposes the non-existence of God” How does it do this Joe? Where have I asserted that god doesn’t exist?

        “make God analogous to something ridiculous” Are you asserting that the existence of unicorns is ridiculous? What basis do you make the claim?

        “I don’t have to show my evidence because of my unbelief in God” I’m not asserting anything in realtion to god(s), it is the obligation of the person asserting something to back it up with evidence.

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      • Stu This is a favorite of atheists, to say that believing in God is just like believing in unicorns. The story use to be: believing in God is like believing in Santa Claus. But this analogy didn’t work to the atheists’ advantage… so they changed the story line.

        Let me show you from 1 Corinthians 15:14-17:

        (14) And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (15) More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about ×God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. (16) For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. (17) And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.

        Paul here is saying that this person Jesus is a historical being, and that his resurrection happened in history. Even the most ardent sceptic knows that Jesus existed in actual history, whereas we can say most probably that unicorns do not exist. So the unicorn analogy is already falling apart.

        Read more: http://religiopoliticaltalk.com/atheists-challenge-accepted-unicorns/#ixzz3C1dDln1b
        ,

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      • Hi Bryan

        Thanks for the link, it would suggest that the Court when equating atheism and religions is considering a narrow legal purpose rather than a general day to day useage of the terms.

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      • You’re welcome.

        The federal court of appeals ruled . ×Wisconsin prison officials violated an inmate’s rights because they did not treat atheism as a religion.

        “Atheism is [the inmate’s] religion, and the group that he wanted to start was religious in nature even though it expressly rejects a belief in a supreme being,” the 7th Circuit Court of ×Appeals said.

        Atheism is a belief, not an act. It is a faith of things unprovable. Ergo ; it is a faith, a religious view.

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      • @ Joe (noting you have chosen to ignore most of my previous post to you). “whereas we can say most probably that unicorns do not exist.” So, you have gone from unicorns are a “ridiculous analogy” to “probably don’t exist”. Which is it?

        “Jesus existed in actual history” Even if this is true, it is not evidence of the existence of a god. All sorts of historical figures have made claims of divinity. Like the existence of unicorns, on what basis do you dismiss a claim of divinity?

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      • Hi Bryan,

        The Court also said:
        “But whether atheism is a “religion” for First Amendment purposes is a somewhat different question than whether its adherents believe in a supreme being, or attend regular devotional services, or have a sacred Scripture.   The Supreme Court has said that a religion, for purposes of the First Amendment, is distinct from a “way of life,” even if that way of life is inspired by philosophical beliefs or other secular concerns. ”

        and
        “We have already indicated that atheism may be considered, in this specialized sense, a religion.”

        and
        “The Supreme Court has recognized atheism as equivalent to a “religion” for purposes of the First Amendment on numerous occasions, ”

        and
        “But when the underlying principle has been examined in the crucible of litigation, the Court has unambiguously concluded that the individual freedom of conscience protected by the First Amendment embraces the right to select any religious faith or none at all.”

        and
        “In keeping with this idea, the Court has adopted a broad definition of “religion” that includes non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as theistic ones.”

        Further the judgment uses parenthesis around the term religion on a number of occasions and makes it plain that it is considering what is or is not a religion only for the purpose of a First Amendment Claim.

        To attempt to take this beyond a narrow legalistic definition into something of a broad everyday use would be a somewhat dishonest misrepresentation of the Court.

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      • Take it up with the US Courts what a great idea. Let’s try a first draft and see how that would run: “Dear US Courts there’s a blogger in Australia grossly distorting one of your judgements because he has some weird lil ol bee in his bonnet about atheism”.

        I wonder what kind of application you lodge for that ? 🙂

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      • .there’s a blogger in Australia grossly distorting one of your judgements because he has some weird lil ol bee in his bonnet about atheism”.

        No Bubba. There are much more important things to think and talk about. Compassion, grace, redemption, love…Any thoughts on those things or do you just get uppity and passionate about challenges to your little atheism?

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      • Actually I was just staying on topic. Unless you’re struggling with ADHD that shouldn’t be too hard to keep up with.

        And as you’re the guy setting the topics,,,,,

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      • If you believed in unicorns, it would be belief in observable and perhaps material objects. Is this not irrelevant to belief in God, who can be experienced but remains a Mystery, a Spirit, a Force, or any other concept we might identify the Divine with?

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    • First they should be defining which sort of atheism they are referring too. Those who believe God doesn’t exist, or those who don’t believe God exists. The first is obviously a belief system, the second abjures belief.

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    • Stu, Christians don’t have to show any evidence for affirming the non-existence of rational thoughts in atheists.
      The silly unicorn argument is a variation of Bertrand Russell’s “Celestial Teapot” analogy. It doesn’t hold water (or tea!). That is, it fails on a number of levels. For instance, there is no Creator/creature distinction in the analogy. God creates all things, and makes humans in His image. In doing so, He provides the preconditions for knowing, learning, making sense of the world, communicating, etc. No pink unicorn or celestial teapot does that (a unicorn is just another creature, even if it is supernatural; it is certainly not self-existent). It is possible that a . unicorn may exist apart from anyone ever seeing it, but that makes absolutely no difference in how I come to know the world or what I know or believe about it or how I live my life. Another difference would be that this analogy does not take into account that God reveals Himself through Holy Scripture; no unicorn does that. And certainly no unicorn became man, walked among us, or died and rose again.

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      • @ Joe “Christians don’t have to show any evidence for affirming the non-existence of rational thoughts in atheists.” What does this even mean and when did I ask for evidence of the non-existence of anything?

        “there is no Creator/creature distinction in the analogy” So what? I’ve only ever referred to the evidence (or not) of the existence of the supernatural, not the characteristics of individual supernatural entities. So I’ll ask the question you ignored, again: on what basis do you dismiss a claim of divinity?

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      • Stu, I don’t think you have been reading what I’ve posted. You’ve ignored many of the points made about the rather trite and unoriginal analogy that is remote from any respectable intellectual tradition.

        When atheists compare God to unicorns they make themselves look silly and ignorant..;

        As philosopher William Vallicella says,.the key problem with this thinking: we have all sorts of reasons for believing that God exists. True, atheists may not find them compelling. But so what? “The issue is whether a reasoned case can be made for theism, and the answer is in the affirmative,” says Vallicella. “Belief in God and in Russell’s teapot (and unicorns) are therefore not on a par since there are no empirical or theoretical reasons for believing in his teapot (or unicorns).”

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      • Hey Joe,

        Again it boils down to your belief in God. God is important to you because you believe in him. However that importance doesn’t really exist independently from the belief.

        And your original complaint re atheism was that we lack the complete knowledge requisite to say definitively that there is no God. And that’s where the analogy works. If for example we change your earlier sentence to ““Yea, I despite these facts, I thought about it, read some books, did some maths and I KNOW there is not a Unicorn.” Then you wouldn’t bat an eyelid.

        I don’t have the knowledge to know that unicorns absolutely do not exist, yet I don’t believe in them and that’s the same with the thousands of other supernatural creatures, gods myths etc.

        Belief can exist independent of a state of knowledge.

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  8. “Stu, I don’t think you have been reading what I’ve posted.” The irony meter just broke. I suppose you didn’t see where I’ve actually quoted you. “You’ve ignored many of the points made” Which points? And why is it okay for you it ignore questions from me? “there are no empirical or theoretical reasons for believing in his teapot (or unicorns).” What empirical reasons are you providing that make it likely that your god exists? How do you dismiss the existence of the gods of others?

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    • I’ve just caught up with this discussion. It seems that Stu is going around and around in circles of nonsense again.

      As Joe said, he may not accept the evidence for the existence of the .God. But he does not offer much by way of demonstrating that the .arguments for God’s existence are false.

      .If Stu wants to posit various silly competitions to the existence of God to minimise and trivialise belief in God then that’s fine but this does not even remotely get us close to addressing the serious questions in regard to the origin of life and the universe. The . unicorn – and other analogies – are nothing more than a mock kindergarten attempt at ridicule by the atheists ..

      People do often simply ignore things that they don’t believe in.

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      • Hi Tracey. Welcome back. “he may not accept the evidence for the existence of the .God. But he does not offer much by way of demonstrating that the .arguments for God’s existence are false.” I’m assuming the “he” refers to me. Nowhere has Joe provided evidence for the existence of god, and why is it up to me to provide arguments against the existence of god? Do you disagree that the onus is one the person making an assertion to back it up with evidence? If not, why? Maybe the argument is going in circles, but maybe it’s because you a Joe ignore the primary points and selectively answer questions. So I’ll ask you, Tracey, the question Joe ignored: on what basis do you dismiss a claim of divinity?

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      • Hello Stu, You do seem o be ignoring the point put to you several times that your unicorn analogy (even Dawkins has stopped using it) is rather silly. So is your question related to it. That’s why, I imagine, we all ignore it. You are a bit of a religious fundy aren’t you?

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      • Oh Dawkins has done something, quick let’s all fall into line.

        Hate to tell you Bryan it don’t work like that. And besides not everybody is as obsessed with Dawkins as you are.

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      • Stu you say Some theists don’t recognise strawmen in their own arguments.
        Which strawmen? As Bryan says: Do you have any original arguments to add to the debate? Anything at all?

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      • @ Ben: “Stu you say Some theists don’t recognise strawmen in their own arguments.” See the post where Joe says my argument presupposes the non existence of god and then attacks that position. (Post at 1 Sept 2014 at 11.41)

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  9. @ Bryan: I haven’t ignored criticisms of the unicorn analogy. I’ve made the suggestion that Joe choose any faith claim (try the existence of Allah or Shiva) and asked him (and now Tracey) on what basis they dismiss those claims. Joe argued that that the analogy presupposes the non existence of god – I asked him how and also where I’d asserted god didn’t exist. No response. I also argued that the onus is on the person making an assertion to provide the evidence to back it up. I’m not expecting a response to that one either. But thanks for weighing in and adding your customary ad hominem to the debate.

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      • I love being challenged Bryan. Even more than that I think being proved wrong or being given a new perspective is a gift. “It’s funny that Stu and Bubba spend so much time here arguing against the God they say doesn’t exist.” And that’s where you refuse to accept the point (we don’t say any such thing. Quote me if you can.) and where the irony lies. The irony being a bloke with a Chistian blog who’s every second post is about atheism. Count how many posts I or Bubba comment on where you just want to say how nice Jesus is, versus posts asserting thing about atheists that are demonstrably false. You’ll find our motives there.

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      • Every second post is about atheism? Well no. That’s, as you might say, demonstrably false.

        You complain about me adding ad hominem to the debate, yet you compare belief in God to belief in unicorns. Does it ever strike you that may be insulting to people of faith?

        This is all too typical of some atheists and if you want to be taken seriously at all, you guys need to learn how to respect other people’s beliefs

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      • Yeah Stu try stepping out of the box, specifically step out of the box by agreeing with Bryan and his little flook bleating along. 🙂

        Step out of the box by confirming. You’re a hoot sometimes Bry.

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      • “Every second post is about atheism? Well no.” I wasn’t being literal Bryan, but I think you know that.

        “compare belief in God to belief in unicorns. Does it ever strike you that may be insulting to people of faith?” I’ve been quite prepared to take the focus away from unicorns and have given two faith based alternatives for you, Joe and Tracey to use instead. So far no response. And I’m not complaining about your ad hominens, just noting them. I’m not comparing Christianity with unicorns btw – just the basis on which individuals like Joe choose to assert or deny the existence of supernatural beings. I think you know that too.

        “respect other people’s beliefs”: I respect people’s right to hold and express their beliefs, so long as in doing so they don’t infringe on the rights of others who don’t share those beliefs. I note you didn’t come to the defence of the beliefs of Muslim men when one contributor to your blog recently made blanket claims about how they see “Australian” women. You were too busy getting bogged down in criticising Bubba’s analogy.

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      • I’ve noticed that a significant number of atheists who profess a desire for rational debate often degenerate their own arguments into accusations and insults. When this happens, it means they have nothing rational to offer..
        On the other hand, I have had some very good conversations with a few atheists who were polite and reasonable. We disagreed, but neither side ended up in name-calling.

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      • For you Stu, if you really do love being challenged.
        .
        How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind

        There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself—which is far more complex than the physical Universe—can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins’ comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a “lucky chance.” If that’s the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion.

        I note in my book that some philosophers indeed have argued in the past that the burden of proof is on the atheist. I think the origins of the laws of nature and of life and the Universe point clearly to an intelligent Source. The burden of proof is on those who argue to the contrary.

        http://www.strangenotions.com/flew/

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      • Tracy – I’ve read this article before. In the article Flew asserts that there is evidence for an “Intelligent Source” but doesn’t say what it is. If you can quote the bit in the actual book that says what it is – then I’d be prepared to examine those claims. I’d also like to know on what basis he shifts the burden of proof – I’m not asserting that there is no “Intelligent Source” so how can I provide evidence to support a non-claim?

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      • @ Bryan “Really?” Yes, really.

        “But you think believing on God is some way akin to believing in unicorns.” No I don’t. Read what I actually said about the basis of dismissing the existence of supernatural beings and suggesting that you compare your own faith claims against those of others (relating to Shiva for example). Given the amount of times I’ve asked you, Joe and Tracey to do this, I’m not expecting a response.

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      • So do you believe in God or not Stu? It’s a simple question you seem unable to answer.

        As Joe and Tracy and myself have pointed out several times, faith in God is dependant on evidence established for His existence. Have a look at the Flew interview I posted and maybe you’ll get a better idea of where we are coming from.

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      • “So do you believe in God or not Stu?” No.

        “faith in God is dependant on evidence established for His existence” Provide that established evidence please. How does that evidence for your god disprove the existence of Shiva or any other deity?

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      • Thanks for the honest response (finally) Stu. But I don’t think you’re really interested in looking at any evidence for God’s existence. It has been provided to you before and you just ignore it. You’ve made up your mind (sadly) and nothing I or anyone else will say will change that. Only God can change your mind. And I hope and pray He does.

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      • I’ve made my absence of belief clear to you and others many times Bryan. “It has been provided to you before” If you think I’ve ignored evidence, be specific, and I’ll deal with the allegation on its merits. It’s rich for to you assert I’ve ignored anything when you refuse to answer a question put to you multiple times.

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      • Your question has been answered multiple times Stu. And, as I said, are you really interested? You’ve already decided haven’t you? What evidence do you have that atheism is true?
        That’s a question I doubt you can answer.

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      • “Your question has been answered multiple times Stu.” No it hasn’t. If it had,the word “Shiva” would be include in the response. “are you really interested?” In what, specifically? “You’ve already decided haven’t you?” No. I’m open to the existence of a higher power. “What evidence do you have that atheism is true? That’s a question I doubt you can answer.” What evidence would you like for me to provide that would satisfy you that I don’t believe in god? If it’s possible for me to provide, it’s all yours. Being an atheist doesn’t require asserting gods don’t exist btw. So how about Shiva?

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      • What evidence would you like for me to provide that would satisfy you that I don’t believe in god?

        That’s not the question I asked.

        What evidence do you have that atheism is true?

        That’s the difficult one eh? Too difficult for you?

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      • Dunno about every second post but if you go to the start page of the faithworks blog and try a ctrl+f search on “atheist” you get 46 hits. If you try “faith” you get 28. “Christian” gets 33.

        Every second post might not be about atheism but it sure does get one heck of a run.

        “…. faith in God is dependant on evidence established for His existence. ”

        Meh if you actually had evidence then you wouldn’t need faith.

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      • “What evidence do you have that atheism is true?” Atheism is the absence of belief in god, what evidence can be provided for a non claim? So, how about Shiva?

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      • “What evidence do you have that atheism is true?”

        Hey Bry,

        We’ve discussed similar before. I don’t believe in God. You can take if from me that statement is true but if my word isn’t enough then what evidence would you want ?

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      • It’s still a copout Stu. You say you don’t believe in God but you can’t say why. You’re obviously not prepared to give an answer. Perhaps you don’t really have one.
        As for comparing God/Christ with Shiva, the unicorns, Santa Claus and Krishna etc, they are red herrings designed to shift the burden of proof off yourself. I’m sure you are well aware of that.

        But, if you’re at all interested, perhaps this may help. It’s from http://www.allaboutreligion.org/comparison-christianity-and-hinduism-faq.htm

        Comparison Christianity and Hinduism – What are the differences?

        Hinduism is a religion with many beliefs and practices, so offering a comparison of Christianity and Hinduism is challenging. It would be doing Hinduism an injustice to reduce its theology and philosophies to a scope that would be required to truly offer a comparison with Christianity. However, there are some tenets to Hinduism that are universal to all Hindus.

        The first difference between Hinduism and Christianity is that Hinduism embraces Christianity as a valid religion whereas the Bible does not. Hinduism is a religion that advocates tolerance. It teaches that all religions are different paths leading to one goal; all religions are different means to one end. Hinduism is not exclusive and accepts all religions as valid. Christianity, however, teaches that Christ is the only way to God. John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'”

        Philosophically, it is impossible for religions with mutually-exclusive doctrines to be equally valid. Where we find contradiction, we must find error. Either Christ was wrong or He was right when He claimed to be the only path to God. It is simple arithmetic, not spiritual elitism.

        A comparison between Christianity and Hinduism reveals ancient practices which appear similar. In all ancient religions, Hinduism included, we find reparation for sins being done through sacrifices to an enraged God. In Hinduism and Judaism, this sacrifice is an animal sacrifice. Both theologies preach a divine commandment of righteousness, and failure to comply requires a penalty. This ancient instinct to make reparation for wrong doings suggests that Romans 2:14-15 is true: “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law. . .they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”

        The culmination of these sacrifices for sin is found in Christianity. We have all done things we know are wrong. Both Hinduism and Christianity preach a divine commandment of perfect righteousness and that we are held accountable for our actions. The difference is that Christianity preaches the penalty for our sin has already been paid by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. To become a Christian is to accept the ultimate sacrifice to avoid the ultimate penalty. – See more at: http://www.allaboutreligion.org/comparison-christianity-and-hinduism-faq.htm#sthash.peQOSGzI.dpuf

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      • “You say you don’t believe in God but you can’t say why.” You haven’t asked me why before. I can’t answer a question until you ask it Bryan. In short, I don’t believe in god because no one has be able to demonstrate why it is a necessary concept to understanding the nature of reality or the human condition. There is also no scientifically or verifiable evidence pointing to the existence of any deity in any religion present or past. Question answered.

        Shiva is not a red herring. You, Tracey or Joe could have provided that answer at any time over the last few days, but chose to ignore it and ironically accuse me of doing the same. As to your copy and paste – try switching the terms Hindu(ism) and Christ(ianity) and replacing the biblical reference with text from the Rig Veda – then answer my actual question (as opposed to proving a comparison of two religions) which is to provide the basis on why you choose to dismiss the evidence for Shiva.

        And before you choose to use the term “cop-out” again, you may want explain how one would logically provide evidence of absence of belief.

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      • It is a copout because your position is, in a real sense, a positive disbelief. You’ve made a choice based on a judgement that God doesn’t exist. It’s convenient that you dilute the definition of your atheism to absolve you from any defence of your position. It’s burying your head in the sand.

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      • Hey Bry,
        Challenge what you like and it’s fairly obvious to anybody who reads your stuff that you gets all worked up about them naughty atheist. I just dunno why you have problems acknowledging that.

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      • Hey Bry,

        I took up your challenge on another thread, willing to answer any question about me being an atheist I was asked.

        You didn’t ask any.

        So you can complain and bleat as much as you like but at then end of the day when you had the opportunity you chickened out.

        But I’m still willing to answer any question you want to ask about me being an atheist.

        So what’s it gonna be chicken little? Going to actually ask me something or are you just going to hide again ?

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      • “ your position is, in a real sense, a positive disbelief.” An assertion, made over and over, but false. In your theology I thinks it called bearing false witness. If you want attack a position that isn’t mine and then accuse me of burying my head in the sand, it says more about your motives than mine.

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      • “And there’s the strawman again. OK Stu, you’re not prepared to answer the question so we’ll leave it at that.” A strawman is modifying someone’s position and then attacking that modified position which is what you’ve done. And again, you didn’t ask a question, you made assertions.

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      • “If you’re not able or willing to stand up for what you believe” Feel free to leave it wherever you like Bryan, I’m not forcing you to respond. I just want to make sure misrepresentations of my position don’t go unchallenged.

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      • “Being an atheist is a philosophical stance. It is not enough simply to declare yourself one: That is mere dogmatism-like announcing, without further argument, that you don’t believe in free will or objective values. If you wish to be an intellectually interesting atheist, you are obliged to give some evidence for your position.”

        I agree with this and more

        http://www.jmm.org.au/articles/1506.htm

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      • @ Bryan “Matter of opinion really!” No it really isn’t – you’ve clearly asserted my absence of a positive view is really a positive claim, which is a misrepresentation of my position. “we know why we believe what we believe.” I’ve explained why I don’t believe in god in this thread earlier. You’ve chosen not to respond.

        @ Tracey: Of course you agree. It’s called confirmation bias. We all do it unconsciously from time to time, but when it becomes a matter if deliberately misrepresenting someone’s position after they’ve clearly explained it, it is dishonest (or bearing false witness in your theology).

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      • Hey Tracy,

        Here’s my position – I’m an atheist I don’t believe in God.

        What evidence would you like for that? Would an affidavit do ? Or maybe I get a friend to vouch for me that I don’t believe in God.

        Whatever you like, you just let me know.

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      • Boy oh boy! First its flipping unicorns then Shiva, then “I don’t believe in anything so I don’t have to debate”. Superficial Stu should be in politics!!!

        Its the laziest thinkers who try to define themselves by what they are not, instead of understanding who they are. They’re not exactly philosophical whizkids either

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      • @Andy G: “I don’t believe in anything so I don’t have to debate”. An example of something I never said, backed up by an ad hominen. Always useful in any debate.

        @Tracy: Claims of ignorance should be backed up and directed specifically. I never claimed to be an expert in philosophy or theology btw, but, you know, Courtier’s Reply and all that.

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      • I never claimed to be an expert in philosophy or theology

        Obviously. And logic doesn’t seem to be a strong suit either. Your position once again is clear Stu 🙂

        BTW Philosopher Edward Feser, writing in The American, has called the Courtier’s Reply a rhetorical “pseudo-defense”, employed more as a “clever marketing tag” in order for members of the New Atheism movement to avoid criticism of their arguments

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      • “Obviously.” Right back at you Bry! As a theologian and philosopher you make an excellent blogger. “And logic doesn’t seem to be a strong suit either. ” Gold, coming from someone who can’t recognise strawmen in his own arguments. And excellent work on your google search on the Courtiers Reply, followed by your cut and paste! Andy G would be proud of your philosophical whizkiddery 🙂

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      • Hey Tracy,

        RE the ignorance, maybe we’re just not very good atheists. And so what ? Will they kick us out of the club.

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      • I affirm no shaking of fists occurred during any time during any exchange on this thread. At no stage did I feel anger towards any contributor to the Faithworks site. I can’t say the same about the experience booking a flight on Virgin Australia last night. Fists shook. Anger towards non(probably)-existent deities ensued (Shiva, I think). This smilieface 🙂 is for Andy G from Superficial Stu, so proud of that one homie!

        Like

      • Hey Stu,

        As Zeus is god of the sky I’ll say a quick prayer to him that you have a safe and comfortable trip.

        Like

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