I recently watched a CNN documentary entitled, “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers” and it was fascinating to me. Mostly because it went far deeper than just the absence of a belief in God or a higher power, which seems to be the basic definition of atheism.
There are passive atheists and what I would call active atheists.
I would define passive atheists as those who don’t believe in God and don’t care if others do. They live their life as they see fit and are unconcerned with what others do in public or private. They do not campaign against Christmas or the Ten Commandments outside the courthouse or a cross on a hill.
I can relate to this because I see this in some aspects of my life.
I am not a football or basketball fan. I don’t follow it, I seldom watch any of it and I don’t complain that most of the airwaves and sports stories are consumed by these two sports rather than my own beloved sport of hockey. I find hockey where I know it is and don’t expect ESPN to devote hours to it just because.
But, then there are the active atheists. Those that not only not believe in God, but active campaign against the public accommodation of religion and actively proselyte against religion and try to convert people to atheism.
According to a Pew study, atheists and agnostics (not sure of the existence of God) make up less than 5% of the population, but slightly rising. The religiously unaffiliated population (those with no affiliation to a particular religion, but a belief in God) has been rising since 2007. I suppose these are potential converts to atheism as much as potential converts to a particular religious affiliation.
There are a number of organizations, like the American Atheists, who actively campaign against religion. As they state on their website,
“Since 1963, American Atheists has been taking the principled and uncompromising position that our government should give no special treatment or preference to religious belief. Through lawsuits, innovative public relations campaigns, and education, we are working to normalize atheism and allow more and more people to set aside religious belief and superstition.”
There is another group that I’ve seen advertise called the Freedom From Religion Foundation who uses Ron Reagan (son of Ronald Reagan) as a spokesperson.
On their website they say,”
“The history of Western civilization shows us that most social and moral progress has been brought about by persons free from religion. In modern times the first to speak out for prison reform, for humane treatment of the mentally ill, for abolition of capital punishment, for women’s right to vote, for death with dignity for the terminally ill, and for the right to choose contraception, sterilization and abortion have been freethinkers, just as they were the first to call for an end to slavery. The Foundation works as an umbrella for those who are free from religion and are committed to the cherished principle of separation of state and church.”
That first sentence I find quite ironic since I don’t think it’s true nor would you be able to prove it. I believe that most moral and social constructs in our society have come from religion and religious people. No one would ever say that people are perfect and have perfectly implemented their religious principles, but I see no other way that moral and social principles have come about, except through religion.
That is not to say that parents could not raise up moral children with the absence of a belief in a God or higher power. But just where were those standards derived from?
Which brings me to another group of non-believers, the Humanists. According to Wikipedia, “Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance that emphasizes the value and agency of human beings, individually and collectively, and generally prefers critical thinking and evidence (rationalism, empiricism) over established doctrine or faith (fideism). Generally, however, humanism refers to a perspective that affirms some notion of human freedom and progress. In modern times, humanist movements are typically aligned with secularism, and today. Humanism” typically refers to a non-theistic life stance centered on human agency, and looking to science instead of religious dogma in order to understand the world.”
Humanism is not a new idea and has existed for thousands of years. Ironically, it mostly coincided with religious belief, not opposed it.
However, the term “secular humanism,” void of religious connotation, has somewhat morphed into just plain “humanism” recently.
The American Humanist Association declares,
“We strive to bring about a progressive society where being good without a god is an accepted and respected way to live life. We are accomplishing this through our defense of civil liberties and secular governance, by our outreach to the growing number of people without traditional religious faith, and through a continued refinement and advancement of the humanist worldview.”
What is interesting about all three organizations is they feel the need to “protect and defend their civil liberties” as if a non-belief is considered a crime or that some witch-hunt may be launched to weed out the non-believers in our society.
What some would say that this quest for civil liberties on their behalf is really a movement to remove any religion from the public square. To push it underground and to eliminate the influence of religion and religious people on everyday life and our society.
Frankly, I find this ironic for two reasons.
1) As I mentioned, I think that most of our moral and societal framework was developed by religious thinking and principles. It has given structure to the world and for the most part, developed good and decent people and societies. Not just Judeo-Christian belief, but most organized world religions. That is not to say that much violence, evil and despicable deeds have been perpetrated in the name of religion, because it has. But, overall, it is mostly positive. Some who do not believe in God or a higher power might say that this was human-derived, not God-given thus proving the point of humanist understanding.
2) I think that what these groups are promoting is to raise their thinking and philosophy above all others, thus establishing their way of thinking as the “new religion” and pushing the other religions to the back of the bus. Not freedom FROM religion but the establishment of OUR religion. Otherwise, why not just ignore what you don’t accept?
So, what do you think?
1) Is Atheism becoming a religion of its own?
2) Do you think that freedom from religion is merely substituting one way of thinking for another?
3) Whatever happened to ignoring something that doesn’t apply to you?
4) Do these folks “protest too much?” In other words, are there really no atheists in foxholes?