I ran into a cartoon today that I thought would make for a good teaching moment. See for yourself, my comments follow.
You will often hear Christians talk about how atheism is a religion, just like any other system of beliefs. This is true, atheism is a faith. It takes a lot of faith just to believe that all this something came from nothing, for instance. It takes a lot of faith to put stock in random naturalistic processes bringing about all the complexity and diversity we see in this world. It takes a lot of faith to ascribe the wonders of human ingenuity (which of itself cannot even begin to compare to the ingenuity present in the simplest of cells) to chance collisions of atoms and energy.
Not to mention that these days many atheists are turning to theories of aliens seeding life on this planet and even more extravagant, though ultimately lacking in evidence, hypotheses. Indeed, any avenue for replacing a creator god with something less… threatening… can be and is being used to explain our origins. All of these are without solid proof and are therefore dependent, in the final sense, on faith.
This cartoon appears to attempt to militate against that, but fails. Let me explain.
What we have here is a straw-man argument. That is: an argument when both sides are put forth by one person for comparison and contrast, but the defensive side (the position being attacked) is inaccurately represented, thus rendering any conclusion null and void on the grounds that the offensive position is in fact attacking a position that the defense does not actually hold. That is: a straw-man.
Here’s the deal: in reality we do not say that atheism is a religion because they believe that “our God doesn’t exist” (and there’s the straw-man). Rather, atheism is a religion because it believes that no god exists. And to that effect, it tries to explain the question of origins in purely naturalistic terms. In other words, it is not a religion of denial [of gods], but of assertion [of no gods].
Think about it. The position that “no god exists”, it is an assertion. It states matter-of-factly that it is universally true that there is no such thing as a god.
As a consequent of this, if presented with the question of whether the Christian God exists, atheism would assert “no”. Why? Because the existence of the Christian God is antithetical to atheism’s core doctrine, i.e. that “no god exists”. Same with the Muslim Allah, or the Hindu deities – atheism is forced to reject them out-of-hand because to do otherwise would contradict their fundamental belief in no gods.
We would not say that there is a new faith born every time an atheist rejects another god. Rather, we would recognize that to reject yet another god would be for an atheist to live out his doctrine in practice.
In the same way, then, for a Christian, our fundamental belief is that a god does exist, and that He sent His Son to die on a cross outside of Jerusalem for our sins one day 2000 years ago. If presented with the question of “does the Muslim Allah exist” a Christian would assert “no”. Why? Because the existence of the Muslim Allah (who has no son and did not die on a cross) is antithetical to Christianity’s core doctrine, as outlined above. Same with all other deities or attempts to otherwise explain the origin of the universe – Christianity is forced to reject them out-of-hand because to do otherwise would contradict our fundamental belief in a dead-and-risen God.
Christianity by definition excludes the idea of Allah and other gods, therefore we don’t need “another religion” for disbelief in Allah. Atheism functions in the same way.
To put all that another way: rejection of something does not make a religion. WHY you reject something… well, that very well can.
When you boil it down, atheism and Christianity have the exact same reasons for rejecting Allah: when you ask “why”, the answer is because he does not comport with our doctrine and to accept him would be to no longer be either Christian or atheist. It is out of our dedication to upholding our central religious foundations (“no gods” on the one hand and “crucified and risen” God on the other) that we both reject Allah – but to do so does not then equal another religion still.
If none of that made sense because I wrote it all in one draft and barely took the time to check it for errors before posting it, put a comment down below and I’ll do my best to clarify.