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Court Rules Atheism a Religion

  1. Aug 23, 2005 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2005 #2


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    One can be an atheist and still be a member of a religious body (e.g. perhaps some Buddhists would fall into this category), but I can't see how atheism itself could be considered a religion.

    edit: As for the significance of this, it seems more legal than philosophical. The import of the ruling is to grant atheist groups some rights that are granted by law to religious groups. What philosophical importance or implications do you think this ruling has?
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2005
  4. Aug 23, 2005 #3
    The word "atheist" doesn't contain enough information to qualify as a religion.

    That doesn't mean the court isn't exactly wrong here - as hypnagogue noted an atheist can have a religion, just not one that contains a supreme being. This atheist was trying to form a study group, which is not something that the word atheism implies (compare to "Christian," which certainly implies the member of a church). He therefore might have been acting in a way that could be thought of as religious. Whether this deserves any recognition as such is the question the court sought to answer.

    It's too bad the terminology is so abused.
  5. Aug 23, 2005 #4
    A religion is a salvatory model. To call atheism a religion is to construe the meaning of both words.
  6. Aug 23, 2005 #5


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    So is Buddhism a religion?
  7. Aug 23, 2005 #6
    It is according to Einstein.

    And I would classify it as such according to Merriam-Webster's definition.

    Main Entry: re·li·gion
    Pronunciation: ri-'li-j&n
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle English religioun, from Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back -- more at RELY
    1 a : the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion> b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
    2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
    3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS
    4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith
    - re·li·gion·less adjective
  8. Aug 23, 2005 #7


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    hmm is that a good definition? I mean " a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith" could be many things outside of standard religions.
  9. Aug 23, 2005 #8


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    And if the prisoner wanted to start a math study group or a science study group would those also be declared religions? It would change the face of the so-called Intelligent Design debate! :)
  10. Aug 23, 2005 #9


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    if going under a strick dictionary meaning of atheism, it means without a god to rule. religion doesn't require a god, but more of a choice in how one chooses to live their life based on values, morals and beliefs that are established.

    perhaps it is necessary to establish it as a religion so that those who choose not to believe in the tradtional view of god don't have their rights infringed upon, which is what America's 1st amendment is all about.
  11. Aug 24, 2005 #10
    Buddhism aims to release the subject from samsara. So if my definition is correct then it is a religion. Do you have an issue with the definition?
  12. Aug 24, 2005 #11
    People have the right "not" to believe in God. Yet if they did not believe in "something," what would they do? Nothing? :rofl: Indeed, our whole lives are contingent upon what we believe.
  13. Aug 24, 2005 #12
    This is absurd. What if I'm an atheist and a nihilist? Can you have a religious nihilist? Is my workplace a religion, since we all adhere to behavioural codes and common purposes? I'm in a punk band. Is that a religion now?

    Take this to a logical conclusion (which, clearly, US courts cannot): if I started a religion that believed no man can be held against his will, would the courts honour it? And that WOULD be a religion, however dubiously motivated (hey, look at scientology)! So would the 1st amendment act as a get-out-of-jail-free card?
  14. Aug 24, 2005 #13
    "Do onto others, as you would have them do onto you." If that doesn't work, then we have to abide by the law of the land.
  15. Aug 24, 2005 #14


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    I believe art and music are religion so the hell if im doing those GE classes :rolleyes:
  16. Aug 28, 2005 #15
    It is about time!

    Remember separation of church and state? Well, if atheism is a religion, and I believe that it is, then the playing field HAS BEEN LEVELED for all!

    The next time an atheist complains about a christian symbol, we will all understand that the atheist WANTS the government to ENDORSE the atheist religion FAVOURABLY over the christian religion.

    If there is a lack of christian symbols, then christians can DEMAND the court address the deficiency because christians CANNOT feel comfortable in an environment devoid of christian symbols!

    This ruling should actually reduce the workload of the courts - for any ruling about religion would be an ENDORSEMENT of SOME religion!

    NOW, if we could just get the courts to acknowledge that all Citizens of the Union of States in America are EQUAL, we could get some much needed breathing room for the courts. There would be no need for special rights for special groups - everybody would be equal. (NOTE. Constitutional rights apply to Citizens of the uSA only - they do not apply to Citizens of France, Germany, Russia, and England; or to any other country in the world. We can and should treat non Citizens of the uSA with respect, BUT not as those that have Constitutional protections.) Actually Constitutional rights only apply to those who are Citizens of the Union and the State (which signed the Constitution) where they live - those who are federal citizens and live in federal territories should be aware that the federal territories never signed the Constitution and that what they think are rights are merely privileges!
  17. Aug 28, 2005 #16


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    although that idea is insane in my mind (even though im a Christian and have never been able to find the "Seperation of Church and State" in the US Constitution), the ironic part is that it IS a legally viable opinion. A reasonable court can definitely say that a lack of other religious symbols satisifies an endorsement for atheism. This ruling that atheism is a religion definitely needs to be overturned or your going to have that argument come up in a court soon enough and they are going to realize "oops, I guess we shouldn't have called atheism a religion".
  18. Sep 22, 2005 #17
    If atheism is NOT a religion, then the seperation of church and state does not apply to it-- in which case Atheism could become the official position of the US government, laws could be passed regarding atheism, etc etc....

    Obviously, this is not acceptable and not in line with what the Constitution intended. Therefore atheism MUST be considered a religion, or the Constitution must be amended-- otherwise, the above would be true.
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