Stephen Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University and the author of numerous books, most recently God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter (HarperOne, 2010) and the New York Times bestseller Religious Literacy: What Americans Need to Know (HarperOne, 2007). He has commented on religion on dozens of National Public Radio programs, and on television on CNN, NBC, MSNBC, FOX, and PBS. He was also a guest on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, "The Colbert Report," and "The Oprah Winfrey Show." He was also the chief editorial consultant for the six-hour WGBH/PBS television series "God in America" (2010). A regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, he has also written for the New York Times, Slate, Salon, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. In 2010 he was invited to speak about religious literacy at the White House. Prothero received his BA from Yale in American Studies and his PhD in the Study of Religion from Harvard. He lives on Cape Cod, and he tweets @sprothero.
Let me know if you need any information on what exactly a religious scholar does. I have a feeling that many if you will simply ignore this but I hope at least a couple of you read it and think about it…
If you do not like what he has to say, there is his twitter account… tell him he is wrong. The following is not my opinion so do not tell me I am wrong, though I know you will…
I will try and keep this short so I will start with the section titled But Is It a Religion. I will simply be quoting from the book.
But Is It a Religion
Some atheists, including attorney Michael Newdow, who took his complaint against the inclusion of God in the Pledge of Allegiance all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, believed that atheism is, in the words of novelist David Foster Wallace, an anti-religious religion, which worships reason, skepticism, intellect, empirical proof, human autonomy, and self-determination. Most atheists, however, are offended by the suggestion that they, too, might be religious. For them, exhibit A is as simple and powerful as their denial God. But all sorts of religious people deny God, including many Buddhists, Confucians, and Jews. (p 323)
Whether atheism is a religion depends, of course, on what actual atheists believe and do. So the answer to this question will vary from person to person, and group to group. It will also depend on what we mean by religion. Religion is now widely defined by scholars and judges alike… (p 324)
According to one common formula, members of the family of religions typically exhibit Four Cs: creed, cultus, code, and community. In other words, they have statements of beliefs and values (creeds); ritual activities (cultus); standards for ethical conduct (codes); and institutions (community). How does atheism stack up on this score? (p 324)
Atheists obviously have a creed. Some atheists deny that they believe anything. Is bald a hair color, they ask? But this denial is disingenuous. In fact, atheism is more doctrinal than any of the great religions. By definition, atheists agree on the dogma that there is no god, just as monotheists agree on the dogma that there is one. Belief is their preoccupation, as anyone who has read even one book on the subject can attest. (p 324)
Cultus is trickier. Years ago I received a letter from a Boston-area chaplains group accompanying an interfaith calendar…Among the holy days was the birthday of British philosopher Bertrand Russell. More recently, the Albany, New York-based Institute for Humanist Studies published a Secular Seasons calendar with more through accounting of atheists High Holy Days, including Thomas Paine Day and Darwin Day. There is not much evidence, however, that atheists celebrate these days with any gusto or actually regard these exemplars as saints. (p 324)
Most atheists do have a code of ethical conduct. In fact, one of the most frequent claims of the New Atheists is that they are the moral superiors of the old theists. (p 325)
Although most atheists go it alone, some father into communities. There is a network of summer camps for atheist children called Camp Quest. Other prominent atheist organizations include Atheist Alliance International, American Atheists, British Humanists Association, Humanist Association of Canada, and the Germany-based National Council of Ex-Muslims…A U.S. group known as the United Coalition of Reason ran a billboard and bus campaign with ads that read, Dont believe in God? You are not alone. Thought intended to raise visibility of atheists in the America public square, this campaign also trumpeted the availability of atheist communities… (p 325)
Using this functional approach, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded in 1961 that secular humanism functions like a religion, so secular humanists merit the same sorts of First Amendment protections that religious practitioners enjoy. In 2005, in a decision that irked atheists and Christians alike, a lower U.S. court held that, because atheism walked and talked like a religion, judges should treat it as such. (p 325)
Onfray, the most radical and, after Hitchens, the most gifted New Atheist writer, detects the stench of religion in much atheism today… The tactics of some secular figures seem contaminated by their enemys ideology: man militants in the secular cause look astonishingly like clergy. Worse: like caricatures of clergy, he writes… Onfray seems to be channeling at least some of the spirit of German philosopher Arnold Ruge, a friend of Marx who refused to jump on the atheist bandwagon not because it was too radical but because it was too traditional: Atheism is just as religious as was Jacob wrestling with God: the atheist is no freer than a Jew who eats pork or a Mohammedan who drinks wine. (p 326)
Are human beings homo religiosus? Is it human nature to grasp after the sacred? Yes, say those biologists who find evolutionary advantages in religious beliefs and practices. If they are right, if religion is an inescapable part of being human, then atheism would seem fated to take on the form of religion. But not all atheists are religious. Some take their atheist creed with a shrug, steering clear of the cultus, codes, and communities of their atheist kin. For others, however, atheism is, in the words of German theologian Paul Tillich, an ultimate concern. It stands at the center of their lives, defining who they are, how they think, and with whom they associate. The question of God is never far from their minds, and they would never even consider marrying someone outside of their fold. They are, in short, no more free from the clutches of religion than adherents of the Cult of Reason in eighteenth-century France. For these people at least, atheism may be the solution to the problem of religion. But the solution is religious nonetheless. (p 326)
Edited by HuttonEtAl, 03 April 2012 - 11:39 PM.