In their intensifying efforts to reduce the influence of Christianity in the public arena, atheist activists and other secular humanists have become oblivious to an irony: as they suck Christianity out of society, they fill the vacuum with their own faith-based (but nontheistic) religion.
Yes, you heard that right. Atheism is a religion. While atheistic humanists argue there must be a total separation of church and state, they refuse to admit that their own belief system is, by the actual dictionary definition, religious.1 Correctly defining terms helps expose to the general world the hypocrisy of atheists who chant the mantra of church-state separation.
Christians need to be careful not to let others set the terms of debate. The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion among all Americans. The Founding Fathers believed all citizens, whether Christians or atheists, should be free to share their beliefs without the government abusing its power and imposing one set of beliefs over others.
Yet this right is under increasing attack by atheists, who claim religious people are threatening their rights. They argue that religious views should be excluded from public places and that Christians’ freedom of expression should be restricted in schools and elsewhere. This argument doesn’t hold water if atheism is a religion.
As I have interacted with atheists, they are often startled when I point out that Webster’s dictionary includes a definition of religion with a nontheistic meaning: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.”2 Atheists hold a worldview that fits this definition well, for they have a cause to promote, embrace a naturalistic system of beliefs, and hold them with ardor and faith. Indeed, atheistic humanism, by definition, is a religion.
Courts on Atheistic Religion
As to the legal status of whether humanism is a religion, part of the 1961 US Supreme Court decision, Torcaso v. Watkins, categorized “Secular Humanism” as a religion. More recently, a US District Court ruled in the 2014 case American Humanist Association v. US, concerning the First Amendment’s provision against establishing a state church, that “secular Humanism is a religion for Establishment Clause purposes.” The courts certainly recognize that secular humanism functions as a religion.
Moreover, the first Humanist Manifesto referred to humanism as a religious movement (though without invoking the supernatural).3
A New State Religion?
Consider the implications. If atheistic humanism is a religion, then a religion is now being espoused in government schools and pervades the legal system. In essence, the United States has adopted a state religion. More than that, its ideas pervade the culture, including the media, museums, science books, the Internet, and science journals. The Bill of Rights was intended to protect followers of minority religions from having the dominant religion imposed on them.
Consider what happens in most science classes. The naturalistic idea of molecules-to-man evolution holds sway in the classroom. When teachers explain the universe and all of life naturalistically, their teaching sweeps aside God and provides a “scientific” rationale that supports atheistic humanism. Yet evolution is not a scientific fact but an interpretation driven by a naturalistic, religiously motivated worldview.
Children who attend government-run schools are influenced by the beliefs of atheistic humanism and often don’t even realize it.
Around 90% of children from church homes attend government-run schools. There they are influenced by these beliefs of atheistic humanism and often don’t even realize it. The indoctrination especially occurs in pro-evolution science classrooms, but it happens in other classes as well. If this is a religion, Christians don’t have to accept its presentation as “fact” unchallenged. Christians should be free to speak up in the classroom or provide alternatives.
Atheists realize the danger of acknowledging that their worldview is a faith system. If it were recognized as a religion, they would lose their moral justification for kicking Christian influences out of the classroom and the public arena. Also, they could no longer be free to push their humanistic teachings as “neutral” facts in the classroom, despite the contrary religious beliefs of students.
A simple test can prove whether a worldview is “nonreligious.” If atheism isn’t religious, why do atheists ardently oppose religious claims?
Furthermore, does the atheistic view of origins, such as the big bang and evolution over millions of years—each involving natural processes—oppose the religious view of God’s supernatural creation in six days? Yes. Therefore, secular views of origins are religious, too.
People who claim they are not religious but then make judgments about religious beliefs (such as Christ’s deity, God’s existence, and the Bible’s truthfulness) have, in essence, made religious proclamations. Atheistic humanists may claim to be irreligious, but their zeal in refuting other religions only reveals their own religiosity.
When Americans United for Separation of Church and State and other so-called civil liberties groups file lawsuits to remove Christian symbols like crosses from public places, they are trying to impose their own brand of religion—humanism—on society.
A Failed Religion
Although hoping that we live in a godless universe is a religious belief, atheistic humanists do not have a viable religion based on its own logical criteria.
For instance, atheists say they will believe only what they can prove, but they cling to a belief—that matter arose by natural processes—which is unprovable by empirical science.
- Adherents believe the universe, all life, the laws of nature, and laws of logic arose by natural processes, but that is not provable.
- Atheists believe they cease to exist after they die, but how can this belief be proven?
- Atheists believe no God exists, but can they prove this tenet, unless they possess all knowledge?
Since nobody could ever prove the nonexistence of God (unless that person had all knowledge, in which case he would be God), atheism must be a faith system.
One candid atheist has acknowledged: “My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith. . . . The absence of a Creator, the nonexistence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.”4
Let us pray that someday soon, the consciences of America’s federal judges will be awakened to their sworn, biblically rooted duty to “administer justice without respect to persons” and that nontheistic religious humanists will cease to exercise court-shielded dominance in the public marketplace of ideas.
If Christians keep in mind that atheism is a religion—and a poor one at that—we can keep the moral high ground when defending religious liberties and sharing our faith. We believe that life is not just about the here and now. In our worldview, eternity awaits. Life has meaning and purpose because Christ came, was crucified, and rose again so that all who believe will enjoy everlasting meaning and purpose. It’s a message worth sharing and should not be hindered.