I’ve had the same discussion with a number of friends over the years, and after yet another discussion a few weeks back I thought I’d vent. The discussion goes something like this:
Friend: What religion are you?
Me: I have no religion. I’m an atheist.
Friend: Right. So ‘atheism’ is your religion.
Me: Er….no. Atheism isn’t a religion.
Friend: Oh yes it is!
At this point I grab the dictionary.
Me: I’m looking at my dictionary. It says “Religion – the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods“. That isn’t atheism.
Friend: Oh yes it is. You have a belief. A belief that there is no God.
At this point I’ve sometimes made a little joke.
Me: I believe there isn’t a Santa Clause. Does that make my belief a religion?
Friend: Santa isn’t a superhuman controlling power!
Me: He can deliver toys to all the kids in the world in a single night! That’s superhuman!
Ok, enough with the jokes:
Me: Anyway, I don’t have a belief that there isn’t a God. I lack a belief that there is a God. That is very different.
Friend: The “superhuman controlling power” for atheism is nature. It created life from no life. It controls evolution.
Me: Because someone is an atheist doesn’t mean they believe in evolution.
Friend: I’d say the majority of athiests would believe in evolution.
Me: This argument is flawed. According to the dictionary, I would need a belief in a superhuman power and I would need to worship that power. I do none of that. ‘Atheism‘, by definition, is a lack of ‘theism‘. Theism is the belief in the existence of a god or gods.
Friend: Well that isn’t how I would define atheism.
So that’s just great. How can I win if the person I’m arguing with is now making up their own definition of atheism?
Another friend after this discussion asked me this question in all seriousness:
Friend: If you are an atheist, what stops you from going out and raping and murdering people?
Now that is scary.
So anyway, I’m not saying other people can’t have a religion – you are welcome to believe in whatever you want. I’m just saying I have no religion. Why do people who are religious insist that I must have a religion? I accept that you have one – why can’t you accept I don’t? People with a religion insist that they have a right to religious freedom. Where is my right to irreligious freedom?!