The Raving Theist

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Logic Behind Bars

October 19, 2005 | 21 Comments

A court ruling that that atheist inmates at a Wisconsin prison have the right to meet as a study group spurred Newsday to question its godless readers whether, as the court ruled, atheism is a religion. (For some unexplained reason all of the respondents are retirees between the ages of 65 and 77, but that

Comments

21 Responses to “Logic Behind Bars”

  1. Zed
    October 19th, 2005 @ 12:37 am

    “… believers can demand special meals but atheists are out of luck since there

  2. Bill from INDC
    October 19th, 2005 @ 6:08 am

  3. Sportin' Life
    October 19th, 2005 @ 6:53 am

    From an evolutionary perspective, man has a natural proclivity to embrace worship of a higher power or a guiding spiritual concept.

    I call bullshit.

  4. Sportin' Life
    October 19th, 2005 @ 6:53 am

    From an evolutionary perspective, man has a natural proclivity to embrace worship of a higher power or a guiding spiritual concept.

    I call bullshit.

  5. Sportin' Life
    October 19th, 2005 @ 6:53 am

    From an evolutionary perspective, man has a natural proclivity to embrace worship of a higher power or a guiding spiritual concept.

    I call bullshit.

  6. Sportin' Life
    October 19th, 2005 @ 6:53 am

    From an evolutionary perspective, man has a natural proclivity to embrace worship of a higher power or a guiding spiritual concept.

    I call bullshit.

  7. ocmpoma
    October 19th, 2005 @ 8:13 am

    Atheism is not a religion – but not for the reasons mentioned by Ramchandran or Berger. Atheism is not a religion for other reasons; firstly for the same reason that theism is not a religion; secondly because atheism does not have any philosophical teachings other than the non-existence of deities.
    There are atheistic religions. And there are atheistic, but non-religious, philosophies. But atheism is too broad a concept (which obviously doesn’t exclude magic, reincarnation, or other forms of the supernatural) to classify as a religion. It is also far to simple.
    Osgood, of course, is incorrect for exactly the reasons brought up by the RA.

  8. sternwallow
    October 19th, 2005 @ 8:22 am

    In the beginning was the bully. He was bigger and stronger and faster than everyone in the tribe. He became leader because he could beat the crap out of any challengers. The tribe supported him because he could beat the crap out of any of them and because he could protect them from the bully next door. Over years, as the tribes grew, they consolidated and merged by having their bully beat the crap out of the neighboring bully and incorporating the loser’s group. Meanwhile the peasants, especially those who didn’t like the current administration, kept alive the memory of their previous bully leaders with stories of great deeds, battles and heroism. The more distant their memories and the more they felt downtrodden, the larger grew the stature of their heroes and the less they were tied to reality. The bully

  9. franky
    October 19th, 2005 @ 8:44 am

    Atheism is not a religion. But what the Wisconsin decision is basically saying is that atheism is a religion for “legal” purposes. Now that presents a catch-22 that I spoke about on my blog involving the pledge ruling. I’m not a lawyer (I know TRA is) but what I basically said is that if atheism is a religion for “legal” purposes then possibly the court could reject Newdow’s case on the grounds that it forwards the atheist religion, therefore violating the Establishment Clause. It sounds kooky, but then again, this is our legal system after all.

  10. franky
    October 19th, 2005 @ 8:45 am
  11. tracy
    October 19th, 2005 @ 9:03 am

    In the UK there was recently an article about Pagan prisoners being given special rights.

    My favourite bit of the article is “They will also be allowed to have Tarot cards but are forbidden from using them to tell the fortunes of other prisoners.”

    Personally I don’t think prison regulations should be written up in religious terms at all. If some prisoners are to be given religious privileges then all prisoners should be given privileges and allowed to select from a range of privileges including religious ones.

    Tracy
    http://be-reasonable.typepad.com

  12. Bill from INDC
    October 19th, 2005 @ 9:09 am

    Sportin’ Life –

    I call bullshit on you calling bullshit. Just one examination of this claim (that actually doubts faith as a specific evolutionary adaptation, yet still illustrates my point):

    http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/media/2004_10_29_religion.htm

    Do we have a

  13. franky
    October 19th, 2005 @ 9:40 am

    Bill,
    I don’t know if we have a “God gene” or a “God module” and I think that it’s a little simplistic to say that we do. However, I do think that religion fulfills deeply seated psychological urges in human beings, i.e. fear of dying, hope of seeing loved ones in the after-life, etc.
    As such, as science advances, we learn more and more about how nature and the universe works less of that is explained by religion and is supplanted by scientific views.
    So maybe evolution does support religious/spiritual belief. I don’t think it’s unlikely, I just think that religious/spiritual beliefs are irrational.

  14. benjamin
    October 19th, 2005 @ 9:45 am

    There shouldn’t be a legal distinction between a religion and a philosophy. The government also shouldn’t pander to certain philosophies; religious or otherwise. Should we need a draft, we should not allow conscientious objectors. We should not allow prisoners to dictate their meals. Don’t eat meat, pork, beef, etc, then don’t eat it; go hungry. There should be no legal distinction between a church and a club, or non-profit organization where applicable. Atheism is not a religion, but many atheists are quite philosophical, which should legally be the same thing.

  15. mike
    October 19th, 2005 @ 11:35 am

    I have a question for TRA (brought to mind by franky’s comment).

    Are you (tRA) saying that the Pledge with “one nation under God” is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but the Pledge with “one nation and, by the way there is no God,” might be a bad idea, but would not be a violation of the Establishment Clause?

  16. Toxicr
    October 19th, 2005 @ 12:08 pm

    For the purposes of consideration under the 1st amendment, atheism is a religion.

  17. mike
    October 19th, 2005 @ 1:22 pm

    I have often argued that atheism is not a religion. Then turned around and argued just as strenuously that it is a religion, as toxir says, for the purposes of the first amendment.

    Even if you say, no, it is still not a religion under the 1st Am, but we are stretching the 1st Am to apply to beliefs about religion, not just religion, it still sounds like legalistic double-speak.

    Doesn’t it?

  18. Oz
    October 19th, 2005 @ 6:33 pm

    Atheism is not a religion, but it is a religious view. The difference between the two is that, in my judgement, a religion implies a codified set of rules and procedures to follow, whereas a religious view is more broad; it tends to be more like a source for the former. For example, astrologers and astronomers both study the stars, but for different reasons and with different worldviews.

    Atheism answers questions about the existence/nature of god(s) and is therefore religious in category, if not in nature. This is what I mean when I call atheism a ‘religion’ – it’s just laziness on my part not to go further in depth. I do kind of get irked at the special priveliges the religious get as a matter of courtesy (ie, time for worship). I’m not even really atheist, more deist, actually. RA, or anyone, do you think you could come up with some atheist holidays to demand recognition for? (half kidding)

  19. Zed
    October 19th, 2005 @ 7:24 pm

    “Atheism answers questions about the existence/nature of god(s) and is therefore religious in category, if not in nature.”

    So why the need for addressing gods? Only because others believe in them, but this doesn’t make Atheism religious. It’s no different from anyone not believing in Necromancers. If someone doesn’t believe in the necromancer does that still make them magical in nature? Of course not. The very notion of making Atheism religious is presposterous, because on the part of the Deist, the Deist still assumes one follows Deist beliefs, when in reality, it’ just not believing they merit any value. The Deist simply smacks of arrogance, only because there is a way to distinguish between him/her, and others, but arrogance makes Deism no less foolish.

  20. Oz
    October 20th, 2005 @ 4:16 pm

    Zed, I don’t know where you got the idea that I assume anything about anybody’s beliefs.
    You ask about the need for addressing gods. While I agree that that need is artificial, it still exists in our present circumstances. I don’t think anyone can deny that athesim is a theological school of thought. The very name itself shows that the ideas of athesim exist solely to answer the question “Do gods exist?”
    You don’t have to explicitly deny belief in every school of thought different from your own. Your denial of most is implicit in your own chosen view (ie, it goes without saying that an atheist is not a Christian, or that a capitalist is not a communist.). Even if you were to say that the question of gods’ existence is ridiculous, that response would be a form of answer to the question.

  21. Tat
    October 22nd, 2005 @ 7:00 am

    These poor atheists, they should convert to pastafarianism. A good meal of some sort of pasta every Friday. And a beer volcano and stripper factory after you die.

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