First Church of Atheism: Atheism will turn into just another religion if its adherents are not careful

Atheism is becoming a religion and its prophet is Richard Dawkins. The fledgling Church of Dawkins is on track to follow the same evolutionary path trod by other organised religions. Originally, it is intellectuals that embrace the teachings (because they understand their true essence) of the prophet and went about to propagate said teachings. It is when the teachings are made accessible to non-intellectuals that things become interesting.

Part of the effort to propagate the teachings of Dawkins involves dumbing down the message to some extent. Actually to a significant extent. Dawkins wrote big thick books that collectively aimed to explain three essential things:

(1) Life is not engineered. It is a subset of natural self-organisation phenomena and its advanced forms are the outcome of accumulated random mutations shaped by selection pressures applied by nature.

(2) Real knowledge is a continuously-evolving body of information — not something subject to acceptance by edict.

(3) The concept of a “god” is a conversation-ender and has no place in on-going debates that aim to continuously improve the quality, coherence, and soundness of humanity’s collective body of knowledge.

atheism_vs_humanismThe details and nuances of the above concepts are generally inaccessible to the minds of most people. This is because the human mind is programmed by millions of years of evolution to take cognitive shortcuts in its efforts to make sense of its complex surroundings. The orchestra of emotional response that dominates the human brain is a cognitive ability we share with almost all animal species and is backed by hundreds of millions of years of survival success. Human intelligence, by contrast, is only tens of thousands of years old. Indeed, animals that are stronger, faster, and even far more numerous than humans survive and propagate without human intelligence. For that matter, there are many humans that are able to do the same. Such people are driven mostly by emotion and minimally by the higher brain functions that are unique to our species.

When push comes to shove, emotional response trumps intelligent thought. It takes half a second to thoughtfully consider something. But it takes a tenth of that time to respond emotionally or reflexively. That’s just the way things are. Human minds are wired that way.

No surprise then that society’s most potent institutions have taken advantage of the way the human brain is wired to respond to its surroundings. By transmitting an emotionally-engaging message (in whatever form; an image such as a meme, a 140-character quip, or a poetic string of sounds, say), a savvy messenger can make a roomful of people dance. It is the science behind that ability that business enterprises, politicians and monarchs, and organised religions have invested billions to develop, hone, and apply.

So on spying embriotic institutions starting to form around, say, Richard Dawkins’s work led by people aiming to build a memetic propagation machinery to systematically disseminate his message to a mass audience (an audience consisting of a majority set that are cognitively ill-equipped to intellectually digest Dawkins’s work), we are actually seeing history repeat itself.

The First Church of Atheism, for example, was reportedly founded by comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans. Like many Christian churches, members of the First Church of Atheism gather in a Sunday Assembly to participate in “inspirational talks, readings and sing-alongs”. Jones says that “The Sunday Assembly has been called the atheist church, but we prefer to think of it as all the best bits of church but with no religion and awesome songs.” The congregation is growing and its organisers are now touring the world to spread the word…

“The rate at which it’s growing I think shows that it’s meeting a need,” Melbourne convenor, Kathryn Murray] said.

“Especially within atheism, I think there’s a bit of a stigma that’s gotten attached to it that you have to be angry and outraged and anti-religion to be an atheist and it’s just not true.

“There are heaps of people who don’t believe and just want to be good people and part of a community.”

To be fair, the First Church of Atheism does not prescribe Dawkins as its prophet. But we can defer to the words of Sadhbh Walshe who in his The Guardian column wrote

I would have thought the message of atheism (if there needs to be one) is that churches and ritualized worship (whatever the focus of that worship might be) are best left to the people who feel the need to have a God figure in their lives. I say this as someone who has done plenty of Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”) style dabbling in various philosophies to find life’s bigger meaning, albeit on a lower budget and so far with less satisfying results – no mega movie deals or hot Brazilian husbands have materialized to date, but the journey continues.

We need to be reminded that the need to congregate and commune, to respond in dance and song to music in groups, and share and socialise experience is a core part of what it means to be human, so much so that this need is shared across cultures and across intellectual ability. This is not to say that communing with fellow atheists, even within a manner organised at a scale that approaches the character of religious institution is bad. As asserted at the start of this piece, we just need to be vigilant that the rigour of atheism’s intellectual origins be kept at the forefront and not be allowed to take a back seat to the human face that the institutions that seek to propagate it seem to be evolving.

The key is balance. Atheism, if perverted enough, can breed its own army of fundamentalists who can apply a cold scientific rationalism to the development of thinking that is not too different from Islamic jihad and Christianic crusade in practice and execution. Given enough non-thinking adherents, atheism can be easily used to justify genocides just as cruel and audacious as that induced in the name of the world’s older more traditional organised religions.

Being a “non-believer” does not necessarily make one an “atheist” much the same way as being an “atheist” does not necessarily make one a “non-believer”.

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38 Comments on “First Church of Atheism: Atheism will turn into just another religion if its adherents are not careful”

  1. An atheist church would never exist, because atheists have different and conflicting worldviews. Unlike the religious, atheists think for themselves. Besides, for a something to be called a religion it must invoke the supernatural and must have a philosophy. Atheism is not a philosophy it is simply the disbelief in the supernatural.

    What I’m saying is that there would never be an atheist church and it’s all because of atheists themselves. Atheists wouldn’t allow that because they think differently and independently of one another, unlike the religious. Atheism is not a religion because it does not invoke the supernatural.

    1. true. even if the improbable occurs and some large organization does spring up, it will be more akin to a club or a NGO.

      most likely it will be like one of the more benign religions like buddhism or modern catholicism, i.e. non extremist and without extremism its very unlikely for atrocities to be comitted

    2. At the moment, yeah, most ‘atheists’ tend to be critical thinkers and thus are able to “think for themselves”. The trouble with developing atheism into a notion with mass appeal is that it will start attracting people who will latch on to a ritualised version of it rather than embrace the intellectual essence inherent to it.

      It’s kind of like computers. When digital computers were an infant industry in the 60’s and 70’s and even in the 80s, users of computers were for the most part real geeks — folks who actually knew how to cut computer code. To be fair, at the time, you couldn’t really get much use or fun out of computers unless you knew how to program them.

      But once the technology became available to package these machines into something that could be marketed as consumer devices to a mass market, ordinary bozos became computer users too. They can use and play with computers even if they didn’t understand how they worked. Even more interesting, some computer brands have been elevated to the level of religions too. Think Apple, for example.

      1. Not all Technical people or people who works in the Scientific/Technical fields, are Atheist or Agnostics. Some are just advanced in their “thinking”; that the concept of God, is ambiguous to them; and people outside their intellectual realm do not understand them…

  2. Some Atheists, the way they represent Atheism is like how Christians sell their religion.

    They push it onto others regardless of their beliefs and ridicule them if they refuse to believe/convert.

    In fact, even fandoms for certain shows and media turn into bona-fide religions “unofficially”. The biggest examples are the Sonic Fandom and the My Little Pony Fandom.

    It has all the hallmarks of a religion: The believers, the opposers (People who are against the religion.) and the people likes to piss off either side by pretending to be the opposing side.

    They even have rabid fans who get furious with anyone who refuses to believe.

    Bottom line, when things become religions, it turns ugly.

    1. Weeaboos who worship everything Japanese and ignore everything Japan did wrong, as well as curse their own culture, have it worse.

      Especially weeaboos who hate dubs with a passion. I fear the anti-dub crowd may turn into a cult.

      1. Then we have the Westaboos who eat up everything what America (especially Hollywood) craps out from its movies and music to its values. Mainstream Pinoys are unapologetic Westaboos.

      2. But really now, all those groups are for the most part harmless and at worst just annoying. They don’t pose as much of a threat as militant atheists.

  3. It’s funny how many die-hard atheists look up to Dawkins. He may be an expert in biology, but his medium of atheist communication is beset with messages that hardly can be considered “humanist”:

    Dawkins believes that getting raped by someone you know is somehow better than getting raped by a stranger:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/richard-dawkins-says-date-rape-is-bad-stranger-rape-is-worse-on-twitter-9634572.html

    Dawkins believes that fetuses with the potential to harbor autism should be aborted to “end their suffering”:

    http://www.newstatesman.com/health/2014/08/why-richard-dawkins-abort-it-and-try-again-comments-about-down-s-syndrome-babies-are

    And most famously, although he already gave a non-apology for it, Dawkins thinks that the plight of middle-class women are nothing compared to the plight of Muslim women:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2014/08/07/richard-dawkins-apologizes-for-dear-muslima/

    It’s one thing to promote atheism as an alternative to religion, it’s another thing for priveleged male atheists to impose their “intellectual superiority” on the oppressed.

    Early in 2014, a Muslim woman directly confronted Dawkins and told him that he should check his male privilege; Muslim women DO NOT NEED HIS “HELP,” and will fight the excesses of Islam on their own terms:

    http://religionatthemargins.com/2014/01/richard-dawkins-shut-up-and-listen/

    1. At the grand scheme of things, Muslim women DO have it harder than Western women. You would not believe the garbage the latter complains about in comparison to what the former has to go through in life.

      1. Ultimately it will be Muslim women themselves who would stand up against the oppressive tenets of Islam; but it will be on their terms, not the dictates of atheists who want to “deconvert” them.

  4. It is just a matter of differences of belief, or opinions. If you believe in Atheism; go for it. There is even a Church of Satan, with Satan as their God. There is a Satanic High Priest, that conducts Satanic Masses.

    Variety in religious beliefs is what makes life interesting . Believe what you want. Only, do not : take hostages; go on crusades or jihads; cut people’s heads…because they disagree with your religious belief. Or you go on imposing your religious belief thruout the world, by terrorism…

    My religious belief is personal to me…it is private…

  5. It’s become a personality cult as well if people just trumpet “Dawkins/Hawking/put-your-favorite-atheist-here said it.” Just like Philippine politics.

    Also, if atheists want to promote tolerance of other people, that would mean also tolerating religion. So atheists who want religion “eliminated” are no better than Nazis (Godwin’s Law, yeah, I guess). And are intolerant.

      1. But there are likely to be people to who will want their religion untouched, so you have to choice but to leave them alone. Protect the kind of freedom that you want them to let you have.

      2. Historically, where religion was removed, complete devotion to the State replaced it. Consider the totalitarian regimes of the 20th Century AD. To them, religion was a counterrevolutionary, ergo subversive, force, vindicating G.K. Chesterton’s warning: “Once abolish the God and the Government becomes the God.”

  6. //Atheism is becoming a religion and its prophet is Richard Dawkins//

    First sentence pa lng, sablay na, lol.

    Richard Dawkins? Prophet? Sorry but atheists are not that stupid.

  7. It seems that you’re basing the entirety of your premise on merely the first sentence alone. Maybe if you read the entire essay then you’ll perhaps get a better understanding of what the author was writing about.

    Don’t be a neckbeard.

  8. Every philosophy that believes in something has the potential to end up as a religion. That goes tho Atheism as well, since they believe in no God.

  9. The irony of atheism becoming a religion on its own, not believing that a God exists is as man-made as believing that God exists..whether there’s one or multiple ones out there. If there’s one thing I do want, perhaps it is the abolishing of all religions, let’s see if this world would be a better place. Seriously, so many atrocities, so many sufferings have been brought into in the name of “whoever they worship on” like wow, why would this be the beacon of so-called good? I think people have forgotten that even Christianity that prevails in this country has been forced upon us when in the beginning none of our ancestors ever knew about the man that was crucified for our so-called “sins”. Our ancestors worshipped nature, well that’s what my history books told me. If that is inaccurate feel free to correct me.

    Anyway, it’s even more ironic that atheists have a so-called “church”, here I thought that being a non-believer is a personal thing and not a group way of thinking. What’s next? Agnostics will have a congregation too?

    With all due respect to the believers, believe what you may and what you wish but don’t try to shove it in our throats. If we’re interested, If I’m interested then I will sign up for it myself. But since I’m not, please leave me alone. With all due respect to the non-believers, if you don’t believe what those believers think, you may do so. But there’s no need to attack them for their beliefs, leave them alone and let them be. It all comes down to respecting one another with regards to that. Religion as well as politics is a divisive topic..

    Last thing I want to say is, imagine this. If the Gods of different religions come together, they will most likely understand each other unlike their mortal followers who with their misguided sense of salvation preach the contradictions of what their true teaching is all about which is sad. Honestly, you don’t need to be religious or even a religion to do good things to one another. It doesn’t give you extra brownie points when you’re too old to live.

    1. Now here’s an addition to the war of religions in this world. It is indeed ironic that atheism is becoming a religion. Now i’m wondering, will atheists someday do the same things other religions are doing? like recruiting people to join their religion? Na uh.

    2. The message of the article is, if non-religious don’t like religion shoved down their throats, then neither do religious like non-religiosity shoved down their throat. For example, do not make prayer compulsory for all employees, don’t for them to join. But it also means if someone wants to pray, let them do it, don’t ban prayer. Yes, that’s basically the problem with some atheists, they will want to impose their thing over others.

      Another thing is, I don’t believe religion is the greatest cause of wars or violence today. If you analyze it closely, it’s really all about resources, like oil or food. Religion is just used as a “cover” reason.

      1. True, like I said, they do it in the name of “whoever-they-worship” because they think they can justify their so-called “reason” by trampling upon other lives. Humans showing their humanity at its finest.

        Religion is a problem by itself by how people view it and actually walk with it in their lives, I guess the idea of worshipping something or someone is just hard-coded to the human DNA.

        Resources exist to be consumed and consumed they will be, if not by this future then by some generation. The problem with it is people are competing for it even more fiercely than I’ve thought, in history and in present time. Man has killed man since the beginning of time, only thing has changed are the new ways and new places to die.

        If anyone wishes to pray or don’t pray, it should not be a mandatory thing at all. That’s the problem with most people, they love to impose their will on others. At the end of the day, we all can make choices and these choices will affect us either way. I’m glad I can make these choices in life and noone else has to do it for me.

  10. There is no Worse Evil than to use your Religion, or “Passages” of your so-called, Holy Book; like the :Christian Bible, Islamic Koran, Jewish Talmud,Hindu Vedas, etc…to justify your evil ways like: murders, rapes, thievery, enslavement of non believers, torture of innocent people, all sorts of killings, pillages,taking of hostages,bigotry, prejudices, discrimination, etc…

    If these are the kinds of Religions that are offered here on this Planet Earth…I am better to have none…

  11. This essay starts off by asserting that ‘most people’ can’t ‘access’….the concepts underlying the makeup of atheism.It then goes on to have a paragraph in it that begins “So on spying on embriotic…”(should be embryonic?)that is so complicated verbally(without saying much)that it begs the question:If the average person doesn’t understand atheism’s concepts(or could it be, just doesn’t care or have the time to ponder the subject),how the hell are they going to understand the rest of the article?
    “If I were a professor…..”…..

    1. If the average comment poster doesn’t even preview/edit his comments before posting them, how the hell are readers going to understand what he’s saying?

  12. Compared to Dingdong-Marianne wedding this article is way more interesting.

    I said that because I believe there is a small atheism inside in all of us. Religion is man made. It was not granted to us directly by God. Nothing of that sort. A lot of it involves brainwashing. At an early age.

    It is also very timely in relation to the scheduled visit of the pope in the country.

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