Monday, February 6, 2012

Is Atheism a Religion?

During the most recent weekly meeting of the UNCG Atheists, Agnostics & Skeptics, we discussed the value and meaning of labeling oneself as 'atheist' or 'agnostic.' Some members felt that these terms are unnecessarily esoteric, and that such unfamiliar terminology makes it more difficult to communicate with a broader audience. Others explored the inherent limitations of negatively defining oneself, noting that the label 'atheist' defines an individual only in opposition to other (theistic) ideas, without filling in exactly what alternate worldview the atheist may hold (such as naturalism or humanism). We also discussed contemporary social pressures that many of us experience to stay closeted as atheists (regardless of the term's utility), especially in terms of the consequences for job security and family cohesion.

Tom Rafferty, a friend of our organization, recently posted a video on his blog (Ratio Primoris) of Bill Maher discussing his own views on the meaning of the label 'atheist' in the context of the current trend to equate all evidence-based conclusions with religious dogma. As Tom noted, this is Bill Maher at his best. We're re-posting the video on this blog since it seemed an appropriate continuation of our conversation Friday night.

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