Atheism is not an idea Bob. It's not meant to compete with anything. Your obsession with trying to put the rejection of a stupid idea on the same level as a stupid idea will never succeed no matter how desparately hard to try to shove that circle into a square...though I have to say your insistence is remarkable.

@Davis Goodman has chased me around any number of threads here with this insistence, and I'm curious what the rest of folks here think.

For me, religion is just an area where people have competing ideas.  Some religions believe in One God, some in many gods.  Atheism is just part of that range of competing ideas, the one that maintains there are no gods.  There are communities of individuals who self-identify - I am a Catholic, I am an atheist, etc. - and they argue for their positions or against the opposing ideas.  Those can be animated arguments, to be sure, but they are principled.

By contrast, there are people who choose just to oppose another group.  They spend their days railing about how bad or awful or stupid some other group of people are.  For me, these are hate groups.  They aren't making a principled argument for their own idea(s), they are instead simply trumpeting how awful other folks or ideas are.

It's the difference between making a principled argument in favor of traditional sexual morality and being a homophobe.  The former is arguing in favor of a position; the latter is vilifying a group that holds a different practice or idea. 

So which one is atheism?

Is the notion that there are no god(s) a principled idea, which competes with various religious notions that there are god(s) of different sorts?   I think that it is, myself. 

Or is atheism not an idea, and people who self-identify as atheists really aren't advocating for a position, they're just united by their opposition to the ideas and practices of others?  Sometimes here we see this, too, complete with hate-speech like associating religious instruction with "child abuse."

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All it is is the king saying obey me or my all-powerful imaginary friend will pound you.

No, what it is saying is that my being king is contingent on my obeying the laws of God and being a good king.  

Let's see... that would be "obey me because I'm trying to care for and protect everybody, and if I don't then our all-powerful imaginary friend will take your side and pound me."

How likely do you think it is that the bulk of humanity would on their own come up with something as good as the ideas that have been winnowed by 5000 years of human experience?

I don't know...while there are clear merits to religious morality, there has long been simultaneously an advancing secular morality that religion has fought against tooth-and-nail. Anti-slavery, anti-rape, civil rights, environmentalism, et al are more Enlightenment than Old Testament. You can make the argument that believers advanced these causes just as much as other believers railed against them, but my take is that these types of values evolved over time despite religious teaching, for the most part. Those sympathetic to these causes successfully cherry-picked support for them out of generous readings of scripture.

This gives me faith that humanity can take the good things we have internalized from our religious past, discard the awful parts, add new and important values, and organically discern a superior modern morality. And we have examples: the list of the most irreligious nations on earth (China being a caveat-laden exception).

I presume you're thinking about the British Commonwealth and northern Europe/Scandanavia?   And leaving out places like China, Russia, etc.?  That's quite a cherry-pick.

You do realize that the Commonwealth and many of the others (Denmark, Sweden, etc.) still have a State Religion, and none of them adhere to separation of church and state?   In fact, they are some of the few places left that still do have an official state religion.

Monocultural environments where 75% or more of the population are members of the official state church paid for with tax dollars don't have to strongly identify with religion in polls, it's so deeply taken for granted and so culturally pervasive.

If you're pointing these nations out as moral success stories, couldn't/shouldn't that arguably be attributed as a success of religion?

I merely gave some examples of irreligious societies being morally successful. China and Russia are former Communist states. You think that might have something to do with their troubles?

What a stretch to bring up the state religions in northern Europe. Yes, Bob, this is a great reason to think that religion is a huge influence in these countries despite all the polls showing the lowest rate of belief in deities in the world. I guess you win.

LOL Religion has been extremely sucessful in Scandinavia...that is...very sucessful in turning them into atheists. They only have the highest rates of atheism in the Western world. And oh...look at that...a delightful correlation between atheism in the developed world and amongst the highest levels of just about everything else that is good.

They don't need to get rid of their archaic state religion because they are notably lacking in religious wackjobs, pedophilic priests or christians trying to undermine humanist principles (like income equality, gender equality, sexual identity equality and so on). They leave their state religion as it is...just as they leave their Kings and Queens on their meaningless thrones. To anyone who links religion and Scandanavian success...I recommend they pick up a few more books and get reading...as they are betraying a total lack of connect with reality...which in any case...is a fundamental quality amongst all religions. LOL

You are watching television. Every channel is dedicated to a specific religion. You, the theist, decide or are persuaded that one of these channels is worth watching, over and above the others. I, the atheist, turn the television off. Is my act of not watching television memorable, noteworthy or educational in some way? No.

But what I then do, may well be.

+1

Nice analogy. I just haven't found the right channel to glom onto, perhaps due to such a channel being unlikely or rare. A few BBC channels come the closest I've seen, and a few independent podcasts. But there's no single source or divine authority.

The particular kind of media you should probably be engaging in is the media of theories of social relationships...and it is far more complex than a television...it's more like the internet with multiple related pages and pages that change very quickly. A humanist website with a post-modern condition widget next to a social justice warrior comment section and links to wikipedia articles on countless "isms" you never knew existed.

Mmm hmm, you may be right. I've never seen a condition widget I didn't instinctively want to deconstruct.

I can easily understand why religious people like Dr. Bob want Atheism to be classified as an idea, and if my life experience means anything Atheism would be a far better idea than any religion than any other idea I've encountered, but (and this is difficult for the religious to understand) Atheism is simply the logical, neutral starting position.  I feel sorry for those who don't have the objectivity to understand this.

Well, in medicine, the logical, neutral starting position is the current best treatment.  That's what a new treatment gets compared to.  New treatments aren't compared to doing nothing.  The same is true of other fields.  In physics, we don't start from scratch every time; we consider new theories relative to whether they do a better job than current theories.

The reason I raised the question, though, is that many here have written that atheism rejects the idea of believing in god(s).  That's not neutral; that's a statement of opposition to a current view.

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