Christian reading

Issue N50

atheism as religion, valeriy sterkh

Atheism as Religion

Chapter 1: Origins and types of Atheism

Atheism emerged at the very dawn of civilization. Philosophical schools of Atheism date back to the ancient world – cosmogony myths of the ancient East, Buddhism and Charvaka of ancient India, Yang Zhu of ancient China, the Ionians, Eleatics, and Diagoras of Melos in ancient Greece.

The early atheistic philosophies seem to have arisen as a reaction to Paganism. Indeed, for someone with an analytical mind, it was obvious that pagan myths were replete with fables and fictions, so it’s hardly surprising that intellectuals rejected them and pursued atheistic ideas instead.

It is not in the scope of this book to do a detailed analysis of how Atheism came about. A rather comprehensive (although incomplete) overview of this topic is given in Ivan Voronitsyn's book The History of Atheism.

Of all the ancient atheistic philosophies, only Buddhism, commonly referred to as a religion, has survived to this day. But Buddhism, strictly speaking, is also a type of Atheism because it denies the existence of God. The logical question is: why do modern atheists recognize Buddhism as a religion but do not consider their own views as religious? After all, if one type of Atheism is considered religious, then its other types (Pantheism and Naturalism) must be stemming from the same root.

Pantheism denies the existence of a personal God and says that God and the universe are one and the same thing. As we see, this atheistic philosophy readily calls itself religion.

Naturalism is a doctrine that denies the existence of God and postulates that everything that happens in the world is of material nature. It is easy to see that the only difference between Naturalism and Pantheism is that the former does not poetically deify the universe.

Often, the term "Atheism" or, more precisely, "modern Atheism" refers specifically to Naturalism. In what follows, we will not distinguish between Atheism and Naturalism unless otherwise stated.

(to be continued)