Resolved: Atheism is not a religion, and therefore not a fundamentalist one.

I’ve been in several threads where references were made to atheists as fundamentalists, and to atheism as a religion. I have argued against these positions, but never to a successful resolution, perhaps because my arguments have been slight hijacks. So I am putting it out here, in hopes of coming closer to a meeting of the minds.

Why atheism is not fundamentalist.\

The definition of fundamentalism most in use around here involves a return to older, more fundamental values or principles, strict adherence to those principles, and intolerance of other views.
- Atheism has one princple, which is that God does not exist, and has never strayed from it; therefore it cannot be said to have returned to it.
-There is no requirement of strict adherence; one is either an atheist or one is not.
-The one principle says nothing about tolerance or intolerance for that matter. The fact that a particular person who happens to be an atheist also happens to be intolerant says nothing at all about atheism.

Atheism fails on all points to be fundamentalist.
Why atheism is not a religion.

 -There is no dogma.
 -There is no appeal to the supernatural, or an attempt to explain same.
 -There is no requirement of faith.
 -There is no hierarchy of believers.
 -There is no mystery, and therefore no need for anyone to interpret or intervene to on behalf of the adherent.

There are surely other aspects of religion I have missed, as well as some religions that do not contain the aspects listed. However, I see no need whatsoever to classify atheism as a religion. It would generalize the term beyound meaningful use.

My experience over the years with fundamentalism has been mostly with conservative religious groups of various “flavors.” It has only been recently that I have come to a deeper understanding of fundamentalist thought, and that understanding has shown me that sometimes atheists can be just as intolerant as those poiseesing religious beliefs.

For me, fundamentalism means that one holds a set of values and beliefs that are self-centered; that is, you are right, and everyone else is wrong by default, unless they share your exact beliefs and values. Fundamentalism is an anti-intellectual position that divides the world into right and wrong, good or bad, and ignores the gray area inbetween by rejecting any attempt to study the world. It provides a quick, effortless way of understanding and categorizing the world that is accessable to anyone, regardless of social or educational background.

Fundamentalism also requires a very strong dogma, and even among a few atheists you will find a dogmatic belief and knowledge of the world. Fundamentalists also feel a need to convert the world to the correct way of thinking, which just so happens to be the same way that they feel. This is a requirement felt from the combination of either/or thinking and dogma, and from a seige mentality that develops as a fundamentalist group or individual interacts with the unbelieving world.

Fundamentalism is a description of expressing belief and relating that belief and self to the world. Any belief or knowledge can be delivered in a fundamentalist manner because fundamentalism is part of a persons personality or perception of the world.


Fundamentalism is a personality trait, not a belief system. You can be a fundamentalist Trekker, or a fundamentalist Cubs fan. Atheism is no different.

I think the meaning of fundamentalist is such that it IS religion-specific. You can certainly be a jerk and very devoted to other things (Star Wars, the Cubbies), but I don’t think the term applies quite as well. The one I prefer is hardcore fan, but that doesn’t always denote jerky behavior. Anyway, being an asshole is certainly universal.


  1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism. 2. a. often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture. b. Adherence to the theology of this movement.
    Other forms
    fun’da·men’tal·ist’da·men’tal·ist’ic adj.

Seems that in all cases it involves religion (although it does say usually religious) but what fundamental principles would an atheist adhere to?


Granted in the OP that some atheists are intolerant. Show me why this says anything about atheism.

Show me how this applies to atheism.


Please give me one example of atheistic dogma.

You have merely rejected my premise. Would you care to argue against my points? And perhaps come up with a definition of fundamentalism that includes Cubs fan?

fun·da·men·tal·ism Pronunciation Key (fnd-mntl-zm)

  1. A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.
    (bolding mind)

I still fail to see how this refutes my premise, or allows for fundamentalist Cub fans. Can you expand on your response?

First of all, I can see the future, and the future is you crying for a definition of “dogma”

dog·ma Pronunciation Key (dôgm, dg-)
n. pl. dog·mas or dog·ma·ta (-m-t)

  1. An authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.
    An example of atheist dogma… hm… OK… “god doesn’t exist.”

I’m sorry you are having such a hard time of this.

"fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views "

A Cubs fan has a fundamental principle - the Cubs are great. A true Cubs fan adheres to this principle even in defeat, and is intolerant of anyone who says that the Cubs suck, especially after a few beers.

Fundamentalism and fundamentalist behavior is not restricted to religious activity, whatever you may (fundamentally) believe.

For example, your continued insistence that nothing outside of religion can be fundamental is, ironically, fundamentalist.

A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

But what fundamentalist principles would atheist return to, there is only one common belief that they share to be considered atheists

Assuming atheism were a religion, the fact that it has no fundamental principals to return to could just be a matter of the relative “youth” of the movement–so I don’t know that one can use this definition to draw a conclusion.

Personally I would state that “atheism” is not a religion because it has a little “a.” It is simply a word used to describe a person who has no belief in some greater force.

If however, you were to talk about an Atheist (with a big “A”) movement, then this could be a religion–presumably based on atheism. For instance, personally, even if God were to come down, snap his fingers and make me KNOW that he was truly the big guy–it would be my personal preference to just shrug my shoulders, say “Good for you”, and get back to worrying about the rest of my life.
So if a whole bunch of atheists got together, declared such a belief to be part of the Atheist doctrine, and then start preaching it to further atheists–well then you would the Atheist relgion: The religion of no God–or bust.
But since we haven’t gotten togther yet and done such–atheism is still little a only.

Right, that god doesn’t exist.

This is an exceptionally fundamentalist (and absolutist) view that many atheists swear to and preach constantly.

priniples equals plural so I would think it would have to be more than one belief or principle and atheists have never “left” the belief that there is no god so how would they return to this belief?

The difficulty with this definition is that it must apply to any strongly-held belief. If I truly believe something, it follows that I am convinced that everyone who does not share that belief is wrong. If I were not sure about this, then I don’t truly believe.

A more concrete example: let’s say that I genuinely believe that there is one god, Allah, and that Mohammed is his prophet. I’m absolutely convinced of the truth of this. Therefore, everyone who does not share that belief is, in my eyes, wrong. If I thought that those who disagreed might be right, that would demonstrate that my belief is only weakly held - in fact, it’s little more than a hunch. It’s simply not possibly for me to be a Muslim, yet think that maybe the Buddhists are onto something. So, does having a strong belief make me a fundamentalist?

You’ve got to be sh*tting me…

It’s not a young idea by any stretch.

That’s all the term means. Once you start adding principles, you can have an atheistic religion (since those already exist). But atheism can’t be a religion anymore than ‘theism’ can.

If it is just the case of adhering to principles that the followers swear and preach to constantly wouldn’t virtually all religions be fundamentalists?

I suppose if you want to tweak the definition a little the one principle of atheism could be considered dogma, but I submit that is is so different from religious dogma as to be another breed of cat entirely. Here is the crucial difference–religious dogma brooks no questioning. By definition, religious dogma must be accepted as true with no justification needed. By contrast, an atheist is simply someone who rejects the idea of God because insufficient evidence has been produced to believe otherwise. It is perfectly acceptable for an atheist to question the one principle of atheism, which you call dogma. If he does so and finds it wanting, he simply is not an atheist any more. But the questioning itself is allowed. In religion that is not the case.