there is no such thing as atheism

The unofficially religious

I’ve recently attended a Catholic funeral. At one stage the priest said that the deceased wasn’t really dead. That was the point at which my suspension of disbelief painfully broke down.

I have respect for both religious people and atheists. The likes of Ricky Gervais with their cutting comments aimed at the religious folk are really cutting at people’s refusal to think critically, not their faith.

If it were any other way, there would be no such thing as fanatical atheists.  Or reasonable religious people. Most of all I think that people who claim that they are atheist do have a religion, they just don’t call it a religion.

Some have turned to science. Science has the answers, they say. Not really. Science is all about questions. “But science has proven…” Science has never proven anything. It has only ever said that within this narrow range of values and under these ten unrealistic assumptions, a relationship between two variables doesn’t break down. That’s science.

And don’t get me started on social science. Anyone who has handled data and statistical packages will know how to ask the right questions to get the right answers. That too is called science these days.

Then there is yoga, fitness, self-help, vitamins and mindfulness and all that other stuff that is basically a pagan pantheon in the context of weakened organised religion. Its importance ebbs and flows and whenever it’s not doing well, people find new unofficial deities. These things answer the same need that religion does: what to do when you don’t know what to do.

I’ve yet to meet a person who has the tolerance of uncertainty strong enough to not have a religion, whether it is officially called one or not.

David Foster Wallace comes to mind yet again:

“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

P.S. I am aware that many of my readers aren’t Irish, so for anyone who has even a remote interest in Ireland/ rural life/ religion/ comedy, you need to watch a few Father Ted episodes. Daily Motion seems to have all of them.

Published by

Dr Martina Feyzrakhmanova

I am a hospital doctor and founder of an education platform. Avid reader and writer of introspective blogs.

28 thoughts on “The unofficially religious”

  1. “I’ve yet to meet a person who has the tolerance of uncertainty strong enough to not have a religion, whether it is officially called one or not.”

    See, I don’t get this kind of assertion. What is it based on? I have yet to meet an atheist who isn’t the first person to speak up and say, “I don;t know” when they don;t know something. What a group of intolerant folk, right?

    Good grief.

    I don’t know anyone who claims science has all the answers or worships at its feet. Those in the know know perfectly well science is a method and not a product. And they know it’s a useful and reliable method for figuring out how reality works and what it contains. Reasonable people know that this method produces stuff that just so happens by the greatest of coincidences to form the basis on which we as humans create applications, therapies, and technologies that seem to work reliably and consistently well enough for everyone everywhere all the time. Oh, for shame! How radical to respect this method.

    Hell, all of use it almost all of the time to navigate reality. That confidence and trust in the method to produce a sliding scale of reasons for likelihood is unquestionably common. So why does this have to get presented as if it is sort of, kind of, somewhat similar to worshiping superstitious nonsense?

    The scientists I know are the last people to try to tell anyone what is certain… but are the first ones to call bullshit on really bad ideas poorly supported. That in itself isn’t even on the distant horizon of any religion as practiced today, so why pretend the two are somehow similar kinds of religion?

    Well, the only reason I can think of is to make wiggle room for woo-peddlers and pretend their woo isn’t quite as batshit crazy as it is in the naked glare of it truth claims. Pointing this out then comes with the the ever so handy label of ‘atheist fundamentalist’ so there’s no way any atheist except an accommodationist, a faitheist, is acceptable… and those are the people making this wiggle room for woo, for batshit crazy, seem reasonable, rational, and oh-so-tolerant in the first place! And you think these are the people who should be quoted to present the reasonable claim of what officially or unofficially it means to be religious?

    I don’t think so. They are the last people qualified to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What is truth? Truth is what you believe it is. (ha!) In the end we all must “believe” something. Remember, your eyes and ears are only analog interpreters feeding signals to an organic pattern matching machine which then interprets those signals creating an abstract world, one for each of us. At least, I believe that is so.

      I ‘believe’ I’ll have another beer… Beer should be a religion!

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    2. “I don’t know anyone who claims science has all the answers or worships at its feet”. Unfortunately that’s the prevalent vibe in my circles. Scientists don’t do it (apart from those who are otherwise incentivised), but those who read about science and work in a corporate job read it like the new gospel. A Ph.D. is the new way to get appointed to be a priest.

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  2. If a god needs to be worshipped they are not god. If a god judges you they are not god. If a god makes demands of you they are not god. Only God can love unconditionally, this is what God is, unconditional love. Anything else is a mechanism to control you.🌷

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  3. Enjoy your posts, but I fail to see the point of this one or get your message. What are you trying to say? My only take away would be: don’t believe in science or religion: walk around all day in a cloud of uncertainty.

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      1. Incidentally, this is the most highlighted piece in the Bible on Kindle: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” So yeah, anxiolytics

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Re “Most of all I think that people who claim that they are atheist do have a religion, they just don’t call it a religion.” To define religion to include the various stances taken by atheists who have exactly one thing in common, is to define it out of existence.

    For example, if you ask me if I believe in god, I could say “yes,” but my definition of “god” is “the most powerful fictitious character ever invented by humankind.”

    People who make such claims as the one above, IMHO, seem to be people who have experienced “faith” before and can’t seem to live without a source of it (a belief, which has to be ridiculous or belief wouldn’t be necessary). This is not unlike an addict of drugs or alcohol having to admit there is no going back to a life without addiction; they have to live their life constantly wary of getting sucked back into it.

    Religion was invented by people seeking to control others. Civilization (which basically starts when we start living in cities) began at the finagling of religious elites. The first cities were not “ruled” by kings. The existence of kings trailed the existence of cities by over a thousand years. Who created cities, then? Religious cliques who used their “power” to coerce the labor needed out of their subjects. We were subjected to religion.

    If you take all religions, in toto, they constitute a collection of fantasies, certainly fictional, based upon the gullibility of ordinary humans and designed to control their behavior for the betterment of the elites, not the subjects. (Civilization resulted in humans becoming shorter, less muscular, and more disease ridden than before. Lifespans became shorter, not longer. This was done to all of us by small numbers of “lites” to benefit themselves … and still is. And religion continues to play that role. It is no wonder that the countries that have taken control of civilization to make the lives of their citizens better have become noticeably less religious.

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    1. I think that there is certainly a lot of truth in what you said. I also think that a lot of people who preach religion believe in it themselves, so it’s not quite as much of a conspiracy as your comment suggests. I couldn’t possibly know, but that’s my guess.

      And yes, it is a game of definitions. But when you say that belief is only necessary to get over something unreasonable, I think that most people don’t experience it like that.

      From reading your stuff, if I may say so, I think that you see us as being in a sort of a matrix and that the way out of it is to be analytical and think independently. That’s pretty religion-proof (the term religion being used in the broadest possible sense). Most people aren’t like that.

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  5. Dr Martina Feyzrakhmanova,

    Thank you for this excellent post. I agree with you here. What you write is wise and true basically. Of course one can do nitpicking in what you wrote but the main ideas of this post are true.

    ” You wrote,” I’ve yet to meet a person who has the tolerance of uncertainty strong enough to not have a religion, whether it is officially called one or not.”

    Yes, few people have this tolerance of uncertainty strong enough to not to have a religion, whether it is officially called one or not. Also it may be that people who have this toleration of uncertainty perhaps do not talk about religion or its substitutes because public is not interested in such people’s thinking. Public is not excited by such people and their ideas. It takes a lot of honesty to your own self to reject enticing but baseless beliefs. Such people are few and far between. I have a high respect for people who are honest to themselves i.e. who do not lie to themselves and deceive themselves.

    Thank you again!
    -O.R.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks O.R.! I wonder what it’s like to be one of those people and not fall into some kind of psychiatric disease!

      There is a part of me that is just like the main characters from “Apocalypse now” or “Hamlet”. Looking at the world and seeing it’s faults without debasing it, without asking to leave and still trying to grow seems to be super hard. So that’s why I don’t engage too much with that part. I sometimes wonder if deluding yourself ever so slightly is the only way to get through sometimes, a “Don’t look down” kind of a job. Bertrand Russell wrote something along the lines of it’s a betrayal of intelligence to believe something useful but false.

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  6. “Bertrand Russell wrote something along the lines of it’s a betrayal of intelligence to believe something useful but false. ”

    My sentiments exactly! except I would say instead of “betrayal of intelligence” “betrayal of your own true self” One could also call it selling yourself short.

    “I wonder what it’s like to be one of those people and not fall into some kind of psychiatric disease! ”

    Interesting remark! Can you explain why you think so?

    I would also like to know what you think or feel about spirituality. By “spirituality” I mean some thing like having intention and desire and trying to grow in ability of separating the real from the Illusory. In this connection Kant comes to mind.

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  7. A quote from Kant:

    Critique of Pure Reason( A383): Cf. Kant ‘—– if I were to take away the thinking subject, the whole corporeal world would have to disappear, as this is nothing but the appearance in the sensibility of our subject and one mode of its representations.

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