Sunday, July 26, 2009

Atheism is not a religion

Hey everybody!

Post #4 from Mark!

Beer tends to make me more introspective (Being that it is Blue Moon, I'm also incredibly happy.), so I'm going to dust off an old topic that SHOULD have been laid to rest years ago; but, unfortunately, still pops up around occasionally.

Comparing Atheism to Religion:

Let's begin with a very cliché opening statement:

re*li*gion

–noun

1.
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the
universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman
agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual
observances, and often containing a moral code governing the
conduct of human affairs.

2.
a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally
agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian
religion; the Buddhist religion.

3.
the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and
practices: a world council of religions.

4.
the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.

5.
the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.

6.
something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter
of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.

Neglecting 3, 4, and 5 because they are incidental to the argument, I want to go through and explain the rest of these. Surely you, dear reader, will agree with me that, assuming these are the only definitions of religion, if I can show Atheism does not fall into any of these categories (each statement, therefore, is conjoined by an “or”), I will have proved Atheism not a religion. Hooray Analysis classes! I wonder if I can re-write some of these definitions as actual mathematical statements.

Also, this is taken from Random House Dictionary. Credible source if I say so myself.

1. Let's start with “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe.”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a belief concerning the cause nature or purpose of the universe} and Y = {y| y = a common beliefs of Atheists regarding the nature of the universe} Then if Atheism is a religion, X ^ Y =/= emptyset

I think we can all agree that Atheism has only one actual concept associated with it: The disbelief that there exists such a thing as God. There is no universal belief as to how the universe was created, what it looks like beyond what we can see, and, especially, the purpose of said universe.

The rebuttal usually comes in the form of the following: “What about the Big Bang? It is generally assumed that if a person does not agree that a god created the universe, it began with 'The Big Bang.'”

Certainly. This is a commonly held theorem by many people. The concept of The Big Bang Theory (which is also a REALLY awesome show, by the way) is, indeed the best we have so far. Years and years of testing, measuring, and pondering have been done and this is the only theory that has stood the test of time. Also, this theory was first hypothesized by a priest. So, the church SHOULD be with us on this one. More importantly, Atheism has nothing to do with guessing at the origins of the universe. I'm sure there is at least one Atheist somewhere who is convinced that Aliens are responsible for some reason. Atheism and scientific thought are not necessarily synonymous.

i.e. Assume that X^Y=/= empty set.

But the infinite intersection of Ya, where a is a subset of A where a is contained in A= {All the atheists in the world} (A is the spanning set of Y where A is all the atheists in the world and Ya is the set of commonly held beliefs of all atheists regarding the nature of the universe)

Ya = {empty set} Therefore, X^Y = empty set.

CONTRADICTION.

“esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of

human affairs.”

I'm sure we can leave this as an exercise.

2. “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a belief} and Y = {y| y = a common beliefs of Atheists} Then if Atheism is a religion X ^ Y =/= emptyset

Again, because Atheism has no particular collection of beliefs, there is no set of beliefs to agree on.

Don't pull the kind of crap with me that says, “It takes FAITH not to believe in God.”

Pointing out that religions have no real case to prove that God exists is NOT a belief. It's merely an observation of a logic flaw.

The proof for #2 is nearly identical to #1.

6. “Something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience.”

Let me break this up into two sections starting with the latter first.

“A point or matter of ethics or conscience”

Let X and Y be sets such that X = {x| x = a statement regarding ethics} and Y = {God does not exist} Then if Atheism is a religion X ^ Y =/= emptyset

Atheism says the following: GOD DOES NOT EXIST.

This is not, and I repeat, NOT a statement regarding ethics in any sense.

i.e. God does not exist is not contained in X. Therefore X^Y = empty set.

Part 2:

Something one believes in and follows devotedly

I have never met an Atheist who has spent their life devoted to the thought that God Does Not Exist.

Our thoughts on the existence of a god does not rule our lives. It does not even, normally, play anything more than a tangential part in who we are. I am Mark and, yes, I am indeed an Atheist. HOWEVER, more importantly, I am a teacher, a musician, I have brown hair, I was born in September and I like long walks on the beach. I am devoted only to living my life as I feel it needs to be lived. The only difference in the way my life will be lived compared to if I weren't an atheist, is I'd be spending more time in Synagogue. Given the amount of free time I now have on Saturdays, I can live my life 3 hours more every single week.

Q.E.D.

This is post 38 of 49 of Blogathon. Pledge a donation to the Secular Student Alliance here.

17 comments:

  1. Hmm. Well, it's a good post, Mike. I think we all know that here, but it's always good to have it very concisely placed.

    What kind of beer was it again?

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  2. Yes, what kind of beer spawned this?

    Also, how much of it was scribbled on a greasy napkin beforehand?

    Good stuff, but now I have to wonder if it's every math type that does this once they've been drinking.

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  3. Blue Moon? I've never heard of that.

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  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Moon_%28beer%29

    Huh. Doesn't look...bad....

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  5. Blue Moon. I'm not generally a fan of ales, but the pale ale does it for me like no other.

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  6. Is it an IPA? Because Keiths, brewed locally, is a delicious IPA.

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  7. Hm. I might be interested, but yeah. Normally not one for ales.

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  8. It's a Belgian white wheat ale. If you've ever had Hoegaarden, it's very similar.

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  9. Ah, I have had Hoegaarden. I getcha. Keith's is a hoppier taste than that. I dunno, I drink a lot of beer.

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  10. I think all atheists value truth above everything else.

    Well, maybe not above everything else, though it would make an interesting debate to take that stand, but I certainly think that it's a common belief shared by atheists.

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  11. I have a shirt that says "Don't drink and derive" on the back, it's good advice. As much as I'm sure you enjoyed your fancy mathematical notation here, it was clearly unnecessary, and therefor served only to demonstrate your vastly superior mathematical knowledge, and not the validity of your argument. In your proofs of definitions 1 and 2, Y is clearly a subset of X, thus X ^ Y = Y. Then you went on to claim, without evidence or argument, that Y was the empty set (which is what you were trying to prove in the first place). This is what philosophers would call begging the question. Your conclusion is contained within a single premise, which, while technically a valid argument, is not going to convince anyone who does not already agree with you, which kind of defeats the point of making an argument. You run into a similar problem with definition 6. You simply assert, again without evidence or argument, that a claim as to the existence of god has nothing to do with ethics. And while Plato and I may agree with you on that, it isn't going to convince anyone who doesn't already agree with you. Most Christians do believe that god has everything to do with ethics. What are you going to say to them?

    I also feel like you're sort of cheating in the way your portraying atheism, your just trying to define the problem away, and that isn't really fair. The fact is there are things associated with atheism beyond the simple belief that god does not exist. Most of us are politically liberal, at least on social issues. Most of us are pro-science. Most of us are pro-rationality. And we have organizations, magazines, lobbyists, buildings, websites, literature, networks, in short, a movement. If you want to deal seriously with the claim that atheism is a religion, I think you have to explain why these things do not constitute a religion, and you haven't even attempted to do that. A person who doesn't believe in god, but does believe in ghosts and witches and little green men who come down in flying saucers and kidnap people is not an atheist in any but the most trivial sense of the word.

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  12. @ Frank

    I wasn't actually trying to make a real point of this. For anyone whose opinion matters on a regular basis, this proof is completely unnecessary. You know it's not true, I know it's not true, and every Atheist in the world knows that it's not true. So who (among the people that matter in this situation) cares what Ken Hamm or Ray Comfort think? The argument that Atheism is actually a religion is a non-argument.

    Honestly, I was simply trying to be nerdy and have fun with math.

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  13. You have a nice blog here. Your post is very nice topic.

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  14. Mark, laughing at Ken Ham and Ray Comfort is fine, but what about atheists who do claim to be religious, and do act a lot more like religions than we do? ethical societies, humanistic jewish congregations, a lot of unitarian universalists, the humanist chaplaincy at harvad? What do we make of them? How do we convince them that what they do is not religion? Are we even sure of it ourselves? This is, at the very least, not a non-issue.

    Jen, perhaps you could write something about this sometime?

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  15. Gravitation Force is the Ultimate Creator, this paper I presented at the 1st Int. Conf. on Revival of Traditional Yoga, held at The Lonavla Yoga Institute (India), Lonavla, Pune in 2006. The Abstract of this paper is given below:

    The Universe includes everything that exists. In the Universe there are billions and billions of stars. These stars are distributed in the space in huge clusters. They are held together by gravitation and are known as galaxies. Sun is also a star. Various members of the solar system are bound to it by gravitation force. Gravitation force is the ultimate cause of birth and death of galaxy, star and planets etc. Gravitation can be considered as the cause of various forms of animate and inanimate existence. Human form is superior to all other forms. Withdrawal of gravitational wave from some plane of action is called the death of that form. It can be assumed that gravitation force is ultimate creator. Source of it is ‘God’. Gravitational Field is the supreme soul (consciousness) and its innumerable points of action may be called as individual soul (consciousness). It acts through body and mind. Body is physical entity. Mind can be defined as the function of autonomic nervous system. Electromagnetic waves are its agents through which it works. This can be realized through the practice of meditation and yoga under qualified meditation instruction. This can remove misunderstanding between science and religion and amongst various religions. This is the gist of all religious teachings – past, present and future.

    AND

    ‘In Scientific Terminology Source of Gravitational Wave is God’ I have presented this paper at the 2nd World Congress on Vedic Sciences held at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi on February 9-11, 2007. The Abstract of this paper is given below:

    For Centuries, antagonism remained between science and religion. Science and spirituality require to be fused. An integrated philisophy is to be developed. It is written in the scriptures that entire creation is being maintained only through love or force of attraction. In Persian it is known as quvat-i-jaziba. It is on account of this force that the entire creation, which come into existence through the combination of small particles and atoms, is being maintained and sustained. The creation or universe includes everything that exists. In the universe there are billions and billions of stars. They are held together by gravitation and are known as galaxies. Sun is also a star. Various members of the solar system are bound to it by gravitation force. Gravitation force is the ultimate cause of birth and death of a galaxy, star and planet etc. and various forms of animate and inanimate existence. Gravitation force is the ultimate creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe. These are the three attributes of God. Providence has located within the human body a spiritual faculty. When this faculty is developed like physical and mental faculties we find that Truth-the goal of science and God-the goal of religion are one and the same thing.

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  16. Anirudh Kumar Satsangi:

    No, gravitational force cannot be the ultimate creator. It is an attribute of all existents that have mass. It is an attribute not a being and it cannot exist independently.

    There is no such thing as the ultimate creator. It does not exist. In science terminology, source of gravitational wave is whatever with mass. Please study physics properly and understand it before making yourself look like a uneducated religious morons, who steal concepts from the field of physics, drop the context, reframe it in a religious/spiritual context, and expect someone to understand it.

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