I recently had a long argument with an atheist who not only openly disagreed with all religions, but insisted that all religious people were delusional, stupid, even insane, while totally denying that he was himself promoting an unproven belief of his own.
What is atheism? There appear to be two kinds:
2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity
b : the doctrine that there is no deity
By the first definition, I am indeed an atheist, but I reject that term for myself because I know that people assume that atheism is about outright denial of God’s existence (the second definition) and nothing else. By contrast, I question God’s existence and do not deny it at all. My position is a neutral one regarding that specific issue.
And that is why Thomas Huxley in the 19th Century coined the term agnostic to describe himself and his beliefs, or lack thereof.
1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
Thus by the first definition one can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist, though most people only know of the first kind (because that is consistent with the second definition) . What one cannot be is lumping all people who are religious into the same category of irrationality, delusion, and stupidity and then be nondogmatic at the same time. Not only are you being dogmatic, you are being a BIGOT.
: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
And any atheist who does that is no better than someone who is a religious bigot.
Atheists say that the burden of proof should be on the religious person to support the claim that God exists. But producing such proof is exactly what the religious person does when he produces the Bible, the Quran, or some other religious text that is the basis for a God-centered religion. You can say that the proof is insufficent to establish belief in God beyond a reasonable doubt, but it is still a proof. And religion by definition requires faith, not absolute proof. If belief in God could be established beyond a reasonable doubt, it wouldn’t be part of religion. Conversely, atheism also cannot be established beyond a reasonable doubt, because there is no way to disprove the existence of God. Atheism is a dogma, not an objective point of view.
When an atheist says that the Bible is no more credible than the Harry Potter books, he is not making an objective statement at all, but giving a subjective opinion. That’s exactly what a DOGMA is!
Does this mean atheism is also a religion? It depends on your definition of religion. I say no, because you don’t need faith to be an athiest or agnostic. Faith involves belief in something that cannot be directly detected. But you do have to make a choice to be an atheist, agnostic, or theist. Belief in the non-existence of God is as much a religion as not playing chess is a form of gaming. But one still makes a choice if one refuses to learn how to play chess.