The Human Truth Foundation

Atheist Religions

By Vexen Crabtree 2023

#atheism #buddhism #confucianism #hinduism #humanism #jainism #religion #scientology #taoism

The ethical religions of the East [...] have no gods. Rather, they emphasize ethical ideals that relate the believer to the natural cohesion and unity of the universe

"Sociology" by Anthony Giddens (1997)1

In contrast [to Western theism], the Eastern religions, Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism of the Advaita school, have no concept of God as a person; rather their concept is of Ultimate Reality as a process, a truth, or a state of being [which is] both transcendent and imminent.

"The Phenomenon Of Religion: A Thematic Approach" by Moojan Momen (1999)2

There are some religions that are atheist - they specifically hold that there are no gods. They may believe in various supernatural and spiritual beings, but none of them approximate to the status of being divinities (i.e., the enlightened Arhat of Jainism are worshipped as role-models, but not as gods). In the secular world, most atheists are not members of any religions and don't share the beliefs of those religions.

Atheist religions include Buddhism3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15, Confucianism, Jainism16, Taoism17,18,19,14, some African folk religion20 and smaller movements such as Humanism14. UFO-based religions tend to be atheistic, including Scientology and Raelism.

1. An Introduction to Atheism and Secularism

#atheism #buddhism #china #monotheism #polytheism #religion #taoism #theism

Atheism is the non-belief in god(s). Atheists are those who have no belief in god(s). After China, where fewer than 10% believe in god(s), the most atheist countries are Vietnam (81%), Japan (65%), Sweden (64%), Czechia (61%) and Estonia (49%)21. All humans (and animals, and everything else) are atheist until they first learn about the idea of gods, and come to believe in at least one of them. We're all born atheist22 just as we're also born non-religious and apolitical. Atheism isn't, therefore, "a religion" and nor should it be capitalized, any more than "monotheist" or "polytheist" should be. It is unfortunate that despite the minimalist meaning of the word atheist, many theists "eagerly pack that term with as many negative connotations as they can"22. Also in the English-speaking world, many people's definition of religion is biased towards monotheism8,23 and so many people mistakenly think that "not believing in god" makes a person non-religious, and therefore, that anyone who is an atheist is non-religious. That's not true - there are some atheist religions, like Buddhism and Taoism, and "atheist" means only no belief in god(s) and does not mean "not religious in general". Atheism is not the opposite to religion, it is only the opposite to theism.

For more, see:

2. Introductions to Some Atheist Religions

2.1. Buddhism is an Atheist Religion

#atheism #buddhism #religion

Buddhism is an atheist religion because in the creation narrative of Buddhism, the samsaric cycle that is responsible for the cosmos was not created by god(s), nor is it ran by gods. Everything is subservient to this without-gods (a-theos - atheist) system. Nearly all classical Buddhist scholars assert that Buddhism is atheistic3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14. Nonetheless, Buddhist texts often talk of gods (just as the Old Testament does) although they are not the same kind of eternal being that Westerners would expect - the cause of this is that there are no easy words to describe the nature of some of the powerful beings that inhabit Buddhist stories without using the word "gods". Despite the appearance of such beings, however, it is certainly untrue to say that Buddhism is formally theistic, therefore, it is best described as atheistic.

For more, see:

2.2. Confucianism

#china #confucianism #japan #vietnam

A Chinese religion that demands the strict observant of social rituals, the pursuit of humanness, virtuous behaviour and veneration of elders, and obedience24,25 as a means to achieve peace. Those in power are commanded to rule justly, in order to create as harmonious system as possible. The key virtues are filial piety (respect for parents and ancestors), honor, integrity, study, self-reflection, and most important of all, ren - benevolence26. There is much emphasis on the correct observance of formal social rituals26.

Confucianism is counted as one of the world's great religions27,28,29. Confucian ideas are essential parts of the cultures of China, Korea, Japan and Vietnam26. In addition to South-East Asia, there are also some followers in Europe.

For more, see:

2.3. Humanism

#agnosticism #atheism #humanism #religions #Secularism

Humanism is the approach to life based on rational thinking and includes ethics based on our shared human values and on human compassion. If you live life without religion and strive to do good within society just for the sake of doing good, then, you are a natural humanist. Humanism's core belief is that everything has a natural cause rather than a supernatural cause, therefore it falls under the banner of philosophical naturalism and the vast majority of humanists are atheists14 although there are some agnostics too30. Science and reason continue to be major positive influences on Humanism31. Humanist activists typically battle for human rights and for secular politics. Secularism, promoted by secularists, is the belief that religion should be a private, personal, voluntary affair that does not impose upon other people. Public spaces and officialdom should therefore be religion-neutral. Secularism ensures that religions are treated fairly and that no bias exists for a particular religion, and also that non-religious folk such as Humanists are treated with equal respect. It is the only democratic way to proceed in a globalized world where populations are free to choose their own, varied, religions.

For more, see:

2.4. Jainism

#buddhism #hinduism #india #jainism #religions #religious_violence #vedic_religions

Jainism is a 'Vedic' religion alongside Hinduism and Buddhism. Jainism is one of the great world religions32,28,29. It was founded in India in the 5th or 4th century BCE33 and was most popular between the 5th and 12th centuries CE34. Jainism, like other Vedic religions, embraces the concept of karma35, and although historically Jains took the idea to an extreme and sought to reduce and remove all desires and all effects of actions to become as passive as possible, modern Jains largely take into account the motives of actions, and so embrace a more moralistic form of karma36. Jainism is divided into two main factions (Digambara and Shvetambara) and the smaller Sthanakavasis; their main point of divergence is the extreme to which they take asceticism (plain living) and self-denial37.

Jainism is most famous for its fundamentalist stance of ahimsa (non-violence)34,38 and this key part of their doctrine even has staunch critics of religion such as Sam Harris speaking positively of Jain's peacefulness39 and its clear and inspiring stance managed to influence all of Indian culture34, and has adherents such as Mahatma Gandhi34. Critically speaking, the rest of Jainism is largely nonsensical and its stories are ahistorical; its doctrines of eternal cycles and 24-teachers-per-cycle (all of which happened to spend their lives in India) is daft, and even non-violence becomes counter-productive when faced with crop parasites and defending communities against violent attackers - Jainism only works as long as others maintain society for them.

For more, see:

2.5. Taoism / Daoism

#atheism #china #taoism

Taoism, or Daoism, is an atheist (non-theist)17,18,19,14 religion based on "The Way" - an all-pervading natural force and controlling principal of the Universe40,41, the source of all existence42. To live in accordance with The Dao one has to be at peace, to accept the events of life43, to be at one with nature, to 'go with the flow'.42,44. Although some Westerners accuse Taoism of being a "philosophy" instead of a religion, sociologists count it as a religion45 and Taoism is counted as one of the great world religions32,46,29 and is becoming increasingly popular outside of China41, where it first developed out of a mix of traditional Chinese beliefs.

For more, see:

2.6. UFO Religions

#aliens #atheism #bahamas #scientology #theism #UFOs

Many UFO cults are atheistic. The infamous Scientology is a sci-fi, self-help, anti-alien religion with beliefs that don't include any kind of theism (hence, it is also atheist). The Raelians in particular gained fame as the quintessential UFO-based religion. The actions of their "Clonaid" organisation, founded in 1997, was a veiled attempt at drawing people into their movement. It all started in The Bahamas and they knew the Bible very well, and informed us all that we'd mistranslated it quite badly. He had previously been a pop singer and racing-car journalist and it is somewhat a mystery as to how, inbetween 1973 and 1997, he managed to live a normal life with such a monumentous event behind him. Some people suspect he made the whole thing up.

See: "When Human Religions Meet Intelligent Alien Life" by Vexen Crabtree (2015).

3. Atheist Religions Tend to be Kinder and More Compassionate Than Theist Religions

#atheism #polytheism #religious_extremism #religious_intolerance

Atheist and poly-theist religions have the kinder record as far as wars and atrocities are concerned. The mono-theistic beliefs are particularly prone to bouts of genocide and war in their endless attempts to wipe out competing deities. Polytheism is better off as it naturally assumes a less violent attitude towards other Gods, and atheism because there is no 'god' to use to justify wars against other religions on religious grounds. Voltaire, the famous critical thinker of the 18th century, argued in favour of intelligent design and theism and could not understand atheism, but, even this formidable enemy conceded that religious fanaticism is worse than atheism, and, stated that atheists are not prone to belief-driven murder and violence.47

See: "Fundamentalism and Literalism in World Religions: 6.4. Charting the Historical Records of Types of Religion - Who's Been the Most Tolerant?" by Vexen Crabtree (2012).