How Religious of You

In my previous two posts I posited that atheism should conclude that life is purposeless and amoral.  However, many *atheists do not conclude this.  By not concluding this, many atheists are in a state of constant denial whether they know it or not.  There is one more thought I would like to share about some atheists: I have found them to be extremely religious, even if they are ignorant of the fact that they are religious.

*(I want to briefly note that I am not attacking all atheists, and I am not even trying to be mean-spirited to any atheist.  When I refer to atheists, I usually am referring to a certain group of atheists with a certain mindset.  If you are not of the same mindset, then please do not think that I am charging you with the same mindset.  I try to say “some atheists” or “many atheists” often enough in my post to hopefully make this clear.  There are times when I refer to atheism instead of atheists.  When I do this, I am making a statement about the worldview of atheism and what the logical conclusions of atheism should be.  I completely understand that there are some people who do not follow the logical conclusions of their worldview and I acknowledge that there are different branches of atheism.  Please do not read any anger into my text.  If I were speaking this text to atheists, I would be speaking sincerely, yet calmly and kindly.)

Religion Defined

Before going into how I find many atheists to be religious, I first have to make a few points about religion.

  1. Religion is a set of beliefs and practices that are set down for the sake of explaining the purpose of existence and to prescribe human behavior.  The practice of a religion is often times just a belief in a manifested form.  For example, most of Christianity celebrates its day of communion on Sunday.  Why?  Because Christianity teaches that Christ rose on a Sunday.  So while there is a difference between a religious belief and a religious practice, they are frequently intimately linked.

2. Every religion tries to explain what we see in the universe, and every religion tries to control or prescribe human behavior by giving guidelines.  Controlling human behavior is not necessarily a bad thing.  Most every thoughtful person would admit that human behavior should not be allowed to run rampant without any checks.

3. A deity or deities does not need to exist for a religion to exist.  Case in point: Buddhism.  Also, if you look at the definition of religion in any dictionary, you will find one or a few definitions that do not include the belief in a deity.

4. I want to detail even more specifically what I mean in this post by religious.  Being religious is creating man-made moral laws and insisting other people follow them.  In Christianity, the practice of creating man-made moral laws is called “legalism” by some.  (Legalism has a couple definitions, but requiring people to live by laws not outlined in Scripture is one form of legalism.)

(Unfortunately, many people who consider themselves Christians have chased people away from Christ because they have required adherence to moral laws that Scripture does not delineate.  If Christians would have just kept with Scripture and the spirit of each command in Scripture, then Christianity would not be looked upon in such a negative way now.  Understanding the difference between, and the requirements of, the Old and New Testaments would help too.)

Religious Atheism

Ironically, I have found that some of the most religious people are atheists.  That does not sound right, does it?  But look again at the definition of religion above.  Many atheists try to explain human existence and then prescribe expected actions.  Do not believe me?  Try discussing purpose and then morality with the next self-described atheist you meet.  What you will most likely find is the atheist insisting purpose to life and prescribing certain moral actions that must be followed.  If these moral actions are not followed, then there will be actions taken to both stop people from their wrongful acts and to correct them so that they will conform to the prescribed moral guidelines.  Read that last sentence again.  …  Go ahead re-read it. …  Do you know what goes through my mind when I read that sentence?  How religious of them.

What is one complaint atheists have about religion?  It tells people what they can or cannot do.  Many atheists are perfectly fine with telling people what they can or cannot do.  Just ask atheists Sam Harris or Stephen Fry what humans should or should not do and they will give you a decent list, albeit incomplete and inconsistent list because the atheistic morality is not nearly well thought out yet.  Does anyone else see the hypocrisy here?  I keep reading atheists who insist people follow their prescribed moral guidelines and I cannot help but think about how religious they sound.  I just look up to the sky and say, “Doesn’t anybody else notice this?  I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

Many atheists with whom I have had conversations insist that they are not being religious even though they give prescribed moral guidelines based on their understanding of the world.  To help them see the religious quality of their thoughts, I ask them about how they will control human behavior.  They usually say something along the lines of, “You can do whatever you want, but eventually society will step in and stop you from acting out in an incorrect way.”  Well, that is what many theistic religions say as well except they substitute “society” for “God” and/or “God ordained authorities”.  So once again the atheist sounds very religious.

Atheism’s God

I have had many conversations with atheists and inevitably I ask them, “If purpose is created by the individual, then what is to stop a person from deciding that their purpose is to destroy other people and acting out on that purpose?”  Their answer?  Society.

Their answer reveals to us atheism’s god: Society.  Society is what determines right from wrong, it is judge, and the ultimate authority.

Many people would like to claim that if atheism had a “god” it would be the natural sciences.  However, I do not think that would be accurate.  Among most atheists, science is not as revered as the people that make up a society.  Science helps and supports the society, not the other way around, so society is more of a “god” than science.  However, science certainly plays an important role and there are rare occasions where science seems more important than society.

What is the problem with having society as your god?  Well, at least two things:

  1. How does one define society?  Is it the human race, a nation, a state, a city, a neighborhood, a family, or even an individual?  Depending on what you claim society to be, you back yourself into a lot of corners (that I do not have time to go into now).
  2. If society sets what right and wrong are, then there is no ultimate right and wrong.  Right and wrong can change on the whims of society.  By claiming that society decides what right and wrong are, then it is impossible to tell someone that they are actually acting wrongly.  You have to tell them, “We have decided you are wrong.”  Hmm.  That sounds very religious.  How religious of them.

I have had many conversations with atheists who have said that certain moral laws must be followed.  Notice the “must”.  The problem is that from an atheistic perspective, there is no “must”, there is only, “we prefer you to live this way.”  But telling people that you prefer them to live a certain way, a way they do not want to live, is extremely religious sounding.  Who are atheists to tell another person they must live a certain way?  How religious of them.

(I discussed in my previous post that atheism should conclude that the universe is amoral.  Morality is an imagined concept of the human brain, but it does not exist in actuality.  Even though morality does not actually exist, many atheists still expect people to abide by their moral code, or they consider their completely imagined moral code superior to another’s moral code.  Again, how religious of them.)

A Proposal

If atheists would like to create a moral code and say that such a code can be enforced by the society, then I propose that we break up our current society and create new Societies based on determined moral codes.  If someone does not want to abide by one Society’s moral code, then instead of being forced to live by a code he/she does not agree with, the individual should be free to search the other Societies that offer a moral code more appealing to the individual.

There should be absolutely no judgment of what a certain Society decides is moral or immoral.  If there are people inside the society that do not like the moral code, then they should be free to leave that Society without any judgment in search of another that they prefer.

Since there is always inconsistencies within an atheistic proposal, we are going to have to have one in this proposal as well.  Since atheism says purpose is created by the individual, there may be some individuals that have a more destructive nature and would like to live out their purpose.  Obviously for the sake of Society (atheism’s god), we cannot allow these people to destroy what we would build.  These people would either have to be forcefully assimilated or they would have to be destroyed (how religious sounding).  If we allowed them to actually live out the purpose they feel they have, then that would destroy our Society, so we cannot allow that.  We could not allow them to have their own “Destroyers Society” because they would most likely eventually decide to destroy most or all the other Societies.

So while we would admit that purpose is what you create it to be, we would have to place restrictions on how you live out that purpose even in this proposal.

Concluding Thoughts

I know that there are some atheists out there who claim that atheism is not a religion.  Well, that is only true if you do not think a single deep thought after you conclude there is no god.  If you believe that there is no god, then there will be subsequent conclusions influenced by the belief that there is no god.  The belief that there is no god leads to further conclusions, so atheism is not nearly as innocent as some would like us to believe.  Sure there can be many varying conclusions, but that does not mean that atheism is simply the belief that there is no god.  Theism leads one to act certain ways.  So does atheism.  While atheism may not be a religion in the common understanding of religion, it certainly is a worldview, and worldviews are just as demanding as religions, and many worldviews are simply religions.  Worldview and religion are often times synonymous.

Many atheists consider themselves very moral and expect other people to live according to what they consider to be moral.  They will compare their morality to others’ and declare their moral standards better.  They will also state that people who act outside of what a society decides is moral should be corrected and assimilated to what society’s standards.  How religious sounding.



  1. You make a great point — the atheist god is society.

    I think to some extent your proposed idea of on-demand switching of moral codes already exists on various scales. Each family has their own moral code and individuals can choose to leave and join/create different moral codes. People do the same with companies, states, and nations. But as you rightly point out the difficulty for the individual arises when these come into conflict.

    Your writing is always an inspiration!


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