Friday, June 29, 2007

Thoughts on Atheism, Theism and Agnosticism, Part III

Here is a question, is it possible for there to be an atheistic religion?

I think first off there needs to be a definition of religion established here. Many people will say they are spiritual, but do not consider themselves religious, and if we look at their behavior and beliefs, what does this amount to?

Basically a religion is a set of established, communal behaviors and worldview that flow from the beliefs of the practitioners. In theory, one could be a Christian and read the Bible all by themselves, and I don;t think this makes them religious. They can believe in the "Good News" but if they do not attend a church or celebrate holidays with other people, or partake in events like communion or collective prayer, they are not religiously Christian. Certainly there are many people who are probably religiously Christian, but not spiritually so. This is what many Evangelicals believe is the case for most Christians.

So then, is it possible to have an atheistic religion, that is a series of communally held rituals that arise from set of likewise communally held beliefs? I think it is, but I do not think such an institutionalized Atheism will have too many followers, nor will it be able to prevent itself from constantly dividing. (I base this assumption off any meeting of an Atheists, Agnostics, and Freethinkers club, where the only unity present is often in a shared dislike of religion and theism).

Marxism offers a good example. I think one could argue that it functioned as an Atheistic religion (technically Marx himself was an igtheist. It had a holy writ, it had mass rituals, sacred words and language, and a priesthood in the form of Communist Party officials. Now personally, I think Marxism, though it has many flaws, still makes more sense than most of the theistic religions, but there is no escaping the fact that it had as much pomp and pageantry (and dogma) as the Catholic Church.

But looking at Marxism one sees what happens with an attempt to create an atheistic religion. Number one, it caused its followers to become like sheep and commit horrific crimes they otherwise never would have considered doing. Number two, since it celebrates reason and science, Marxists constantly fought amongst themselves and split up into smaller and smaller groups, worse than the Christians ever were.

So it is possible to create an institution that effectively functions like a religion, but has no God. It can replace that God with some other great concept like Revolution or the march of science, or establishing contact with aliens, but it will have the practical problems of both theism in its dogmatism, and atheism, in its tendency towards individual strife.