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Is Being Atheist A Religious Belief?

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Is being an atheist the same as someone having a religious belief in God, except it is a belief in no-god? I strongly assert that it is not. Do atheists believe there is no God? Sure. In the same sense as believing the entertainer Madonna is not the President of the United States, we believe that there is no persuasive evidence to support claims of a supernatural, omniscient deity that watches over mankind as defined by Christian doctrine. This however is not the same meaning of the word “believe” as someone believing in the sense of religious faith.

 

Christian defenders will many times quote from a dictionary that atheism is “disbelief in God” to make a suggestion that atheism is a Faith there is no-god, in the same sense as having Faith there is a God. This is a false attempt to frame the argument to make atheism sound like a religious faith, that they can then attack the same as any other competing religious belief system. It is trying to make it something it is not in order to attack and discredit it.

 

Regarding dictionaries: Dictionaries are reflective of the use of words in a culture which are ever evolving, and a largely Christian culture has shaped the idea of what an atheist is. Dictionaries are not Holy Bibles with absolute, inflexible meanings of words coming down from on high that mankind is bound to follow. Words don't work like that. They, like nature are ever evolving. However, I do believe writers of most dictionaries try to be careful to not call it a Belief, with a big B, so to speak, as in a belief system, but try to remain neutral and use belief in the common use of "any cognitive content held as true".

 

Switching the meanings of the words faith and belief this way is a logic fallacy known as Equivocation http://www.iep.utm.edu/f/fallacies.htm#Equivocation Just as practicing discrimination in picking out tomatoes is not the same thing as practicing racial discrimination, not believing in a god is not the same as a religious faith in believing in God. It takes no "faith" to reject claims that Madonna in President, but it does take "faith" to believe she is. However I fully believe and have faith she is not the President. Two different meanings of the same words. Not believing in a god, does not operate on the same level as believing in one. There is nothing in the exercise of the disbelief of an atheist that supports using belief in the religious sense.

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I think another thing that should be noted is that believing something about god and religion are not exclusive. For one, many belief systems defined as religions have no god concept built into them. Buddhism and Confucianism are two good examples

 

Also, generally a religion has traditions, doctorines, a set of common beliefs that all its followers subscribe too. There is no set structures of beliefs for the athiest...even the reason they doubt gods existance will often differ greatly from person to person. The only commonality they share is a doubt that any god's exist.

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I find it so funny that Christians can say that Atheism is a religion because it's a belief, while in the next sentence they can say Christianity is not a religion but a "relationship". Black is white, white is black...

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I find it so funny that Christians can say that Atheism is a religion because it's a belief, while in the next sentence they can say Christianity is not a religion but a "relationship". Black is white, white is black...

 

 

 

 

I honestly think it has to do with the aditude of the Atheist in question.... I have seen and met Atheists who treat is as a religion (Brian Flemming comes to mind) and then there are thoes who take a stricktly intellectual approach to Atheism and really don't spend their time debating it or preaching it, they just are.

 

 

so like I said it depends on how you go about being an Atheist.

 

 

Am I totally off base here or am I comming across clear?

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I would say that Atheism in those cases are more an ideology than a faith system. It's a complex set of ideas that leads a persons decisions in his daily life, and what guides him to what is being moral/ethical or not. Religion is a form of ideology too, but much more dependent on an idea of supernatural forces that guides the persons life and decisions. Could it be said that the atheist is a naturalist in that sense?

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I feel like I'm hearing different stories from different people. Some people want to prop up Atheism as a 'complex set of ideas' (and i'm not singling you out here, this isn't the first time i've heard this), and others want to say it's ONLY the lack of beliefs in gods and goddesses.

 

Which is it?

Zoe, here's a link that talks about the many different approaches to being atheist that should help you in understanding how different people approach being atheist: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism Strong atheism is the closet as would come to an ideology in itself. I don't disrespect those who are anymore than I don't disrespect Christians who do not condemn others who have a different point of view. Atheism, per se could be an ideology if one makes it a mission against religious faith. Weak atheism is where probably most people you know are at.

 

In the strictest sense atheism is the absence of theistic belief. Therefore all children are atheists, until they are taught about a god. This is not agnosticism as someone tried to say elsewhere, because there is an absence of belief, not indecision.

 

For myself I avoid approaching being atheist as an ideology of sorts, as in reality what are its doctrines?? My world views are shaped by any number of philosophical outlooks that do not incorporate a god figure in trying to figure out meaning to life. Saying atheism is a belief system, or even a philosphy doesn't make any sense on really any level. What's the system? What are the doctrines? What is the philosophy?

 

I hope this helps some?

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I just can't seem to express myself without excessive verbosity...I should learn, or else people will poke their eyes out with a spork not to have to read my ramblings. (or I guess they could ignore me lol...it would be less painful. hehe) :twitch:

Same here.

 

However, If that's true, how is Atheism also a "complex set of ideas?"

 

"I don't believe in any gods."

 

"Ok."

 

How is this complex?

When you try to explain why and how you can see it that way, since you'll always end up in a debate about the "first mover" and stuff. Just having a non-faith comes in a package of trying to make a rational argument for it. That's where the complexity comes into play. Not just the lack of faith. Well, I don't know. It was just a thing I threw out there, and I'm probably wrong. :)

 

I feel like I'm hearing different stories from different people. Some people want to prop up Atheism as a 'complex set of ideas' (and i'm not singling you out here, this isn't the first time i've heard this), and others want to say it's ONLY the lack of beliefs in gods and goddesses.

 

Which is it?

No, you're right. Just not having a faith isn't really complex.

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Sorry about that, my eyes sort of just glazed over it, I just now came back and reread it. I'm not trying to be purposefully obstinate. I'm just sleepy, was up late last night.

Happens to me all the time, mostly because I rarely get any good sleep and this time of the year is extra bad... allergies...

 

But yeah. When someone makes it a point of being hardcore fundamentalist atheist, then they have more ammunition to why they are that way. Almost like a religious system of arguments. It's hard for me to really be sure here, since I really haven't met any hard-core atheist yet.

 

In a way, my views now, they started with a simple de-conversion, no-more-faith, but over time I'ver learned (primarily on this site) so many arguments and how to defend my position. So in a way, I have built up a wall of knowledge and reasons to why I now are an atheist. But what came first? The system of ideas or the lack of faith? Lack of faith of course, the whole system of thoughts and ideas just came naturally from the de-conversion.

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I'm gonna quote myself in a recent discussion, because I think the answer to your question has everything to do with how one defines "religion."

 

Religion is not defined by worship of gods, or worship at all. There are lots of different definitions of religion, but the best definition in my opinion is one based around what is termed as "ultimate concern."

 

In the academic field of religious studies, we have entire COURSES devoted to trying to define religion...and I am of the opinion that the term has to be defined each time it is used so whatever reader/listener is on the receiving end knows exactly what the originator means. I like the ultimate concern definition the best because it is the broadest and most akin to real life. While some people espouse that a god or afterlife is their ultimate concern, it usually changes throughout their lifetimes and depending upon their current life situation. Furthermore, the ultimate concern definition leaves room for conscience rather than organized religion. Just because someone doesn't follow the precepts of what has been accepted to be a certain tradition doesn't mean that they aren't religious or that they don't have an ultimate concern either.

 

Like I said...entire courses are devoted to this stuff...so the quick answer may be more confusing than not. Buddhism in all its aberrations would be a religion in my book...and most other scholars out there too.

 

So...yea, atheism could be defined as a religion, if one's entire existence were centered around that particular assertion. However, I would say that most atheists don't approach it that way.

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So...yea, atheism could be defined as a religion, if one's entire existence were centered around that particular assertion. However, I would say that most atheists don't approach it that way.

I like this use of the word religion too, that it has been evolved in this sense to describe a high level of importance of something to someone in their lives. For me I would say music listening is like a religion in my life, complete with rituals, doctrines, relics, altars, rules, schools of thought. language, places of worship, and not the least of which, the focal point of the sacred itself: music. As a religion, that is fulfilling the role of religion in the human experience, it brings the mind and emotions together into a place that transcends the mundane, taking you out of the concerns of the world into a place of idyllic thought and emotion (spirituality), and revitalizing the entire person (the soul). :grin:

 

Now, like all religions someone could become overly obsessed with their "religious" world to the point that are unable to tolerate others who don't treat their sense of the sacred the same as them, becoming intolerant of those who listen to MP3's, CD, or any digital medium; mock and deride them as not True MusicLovers. Yes, I could certainly articulate a case why digital is inferior compared to the sound from vinyl (like just listening to it! :grin: ), but I certainly will appreciate those that love music no matter the format. It's all about respecting and valuing others beyond your own "religion".

 

I can see where some might make being an atheist a focus in their lives, but the point I originally made about Christians trying to make it an act of faith like believing in a god, to me it seems clear they are trying to make it a competing, faith based system like Christianity in order to deal with it on that level. In the worst case scenario, where someone surrounds being an atheist with a religious-like importance in their lives, the argument that it is a big B, religious belief still falls flat. If it was a valid comparison, then they would have to say that those who are stock car fanatics, or stamp collectors, or bird watchers, etc are competing religious systems like Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism, etc. That's a pretty far stretch to support a case built soley around an inflexible use of words.

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I find it so funny that Christians can say that Atheism is a religion because it's a belief, while in the next sentence they can say Christianity is not a religion but a "relationship". Black is white, white is black...

 

 

 

 

I honestly think it has to do with the aditude of the Atheist in question.... I have seen and met Atheists who treat is as a religion (Brian Flemming comes to mind) and then there are thoes who take a stricktly intellectual approach to Atheism and really don't spend their time debating it or preaching it, they just are.

 

 

so like I said it depends on how you go about being an Atheist.

 

 

Am I totally off base here or am I comming across clear?

 

 

This is exactly my perception of it. I just can't seem to express myself without excessive verbosity...I should learn, or else people will poke their eyes out with a spork not to have to read my ramblings. (or I guess they could ignore me lol...it would be less painful. hehe) :twitch:

 

I would say that Atheism in those cases are more an ideology than a faith system. It's a complex set of ideas that leads a persons decisions in his daily life, and what guides him to what is being moral/ethical or not. Religion is a form of ideology too, but much more dependent on an idea of supernatural forces that guides the persons life and decisions. Could it be said that the atheist is a naturalist in that sense?

 

I've been told over and over atheism is only the lack of belief in gods, and any extra things attached to it, aren't a part of "atheism" per se, just the individual's views on other matters. (so, although atheism at times SEEMS to come as a package deal of sorts, it's really not.)

 

I agree with this idea.

 

However, If that's true, how is Atheism also a "complex set of ideas?"

 

"I don't believe in any gods."

 

"Ok."

 

How is this complex?

 

 

I feel like I'm hearing different stories from different people. Some people want to prop up Atheism as a 'complex set of ideas' (and i'm not singling you out here, this isn't the first time i've heard this), and others want to say it's ONLY the lack of beliefs in gods and goddesses.

 

Which is it?

 

 

 

I really think it has to do with the mind set of the person I mean hell if you remeber Dogmatically_Challenged he claimed to be a Evangelical Atheist so.... with that being said I think he treated his Atheism like a religion getting out there and preaching his lack of belief. then there are the Atheists who have science as a religion.

 

I try to tip-toe through the tulips when it comes to discussing religion because I don't want to give the person room to say that Atheism is a religion. so I tend to be very careful on how I word things because all in all people are stupid. Atheism I see it as more of a philisophical (sp?) stand point rather than a belief system

 

of course this is all IMHO

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"not believing in a god is not the same as a religious faith in believing in God"

 

I think the possibilities are only three:

(1) Belief in deity.

(2) Disbelief in deity.

(3) Neither belief nor disbelief in deity.

 

The first is theism. The second is atheism.

 

If religious beliefs are those concerning deities, then atheism is a religious belief. Children are born neither believing nor disbelieving in deities, so they are neither atheists nor theists.

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"not believing in a god is not the same as a religious faith in believing in God"

 

I think the possibilities are only three:

(1) Belief in deity.

(2) Disbelief in deity.

(3) Neither belief nor disbelief in deity.

 

The first is theism. The second is atheism.

 

If religious beliefs are those concerning deities, then atheism is a religious belief. Children are born neither believing nor disbelieving in deities, so they are neither atheists nor theists.

 

 

Athiests don't "Disbelieve in a deity" they just don't believe in any. There is a difference. Most athiests don't deny the posiblity that there might be a god, they just don't feel any of the options presented in various religions could posibly be correct. Just because some denies the existance of your god doesn't mean they deny all gods.

 

The main problem is that the 3 options you give is an apeal to bad logic. You over simplify by only giving 3 options, when there are many more options...namely, people worship a lot of different gods. Athiests simply haven't found any of those options satsifactory.

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"not believing in a god is not the same as a religious faith in believing in God"

 

I think the possibilities are only three:

(1) Belief in deity.

(2) Disbelief in deity.

(3) Neither belief nor disbelief in deity.

 

The first is theism. The second is atheism.

 

If religious beliefs are those concerning deities, then atheism is a religious belief. Children are born neither believing nor disbelieving in deities, so they are neither atheists nor theists.

 

Just because someone has a belief doesn't mean it's a religious one.

 

Religious beliefs follow these guidelines as far as I'm concerned:

 

1) A belief or reverence in a spiritual entity or spirituality.

2) Rituals or dogma associated with that entity or spirituality.

3) A gathering of individuals who share these beliefs.

 

 

Plus there are plenty of ways to conceive of a higher realtiy that don't include traditional theism.

 

pantheism

deism

panentheism

monism

etc.

 

I really don't think the issue has to do with God belief at all, though. Since there are atheistic religions such as Buddhism...

 

Once again, this has to do with using too vague of a definition (atheist). Once this happens, one commits a sweeping generalization.

 

Atheism is no more a religion than theism is.

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Kuroikaze:

"Athiests don't "Disbelieve in a deity" they just don't believe in any."

I linked to a definition from the Oxford dictionary in my first post. I'll paste it for you:

"atheism /aythi-iz’m/ • noun the belief that God does not exist. "

Got that? It's a belief that there is no deity. You can use the word differently, but then you're not speaking english.

 

Zoe Grace:

Whether one believes in many deities, one deity, or earth elemental deities one would still believe in deity. All those are theism whether it's pantheism, monotheism, etc. To deny them all is atheism.

 

 

Asimov:

"Religious beliefs follow these guidelines as far as I'm concerned:

1) A belief or reverence in a spiritual entity or spirituality.

2) Rituals or dogma associated with that entity or spirituality.

3) A gathering of individuals who share these beliefs."

 

Suppose someone believes in the Christian deity but never goes to church. They don't have items 2 and 3 on your list, but they do hold a religious belief. Therefore religious beliefs do not require items 2 and 3. Furthermore religious means "concerning religion" when used with respect to beliefs. If someone believes there are no deities then they hold a belief concerning religion. Therefore atheism is a religious belief.

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"not believing in a god is not the same as a religious faith in believing in God"

 

I think the possibilities are only three:

(1) Belief in deity.

(2) Disbelief in deity.

(3) Neither belief nor disbelief in deity.

 

The first is theism. The second is atheism.

 

If religious beliefs are those concerning deities, then atheism is a religious belief. Children are born neither believing nor disbelieving in deities, so they are neither atheists nor theists.

Re-read my op. Real world. Big B, little b. Religious belief versus congnitive belief. You're playing games with language. Is belief that Geroge Bush is president the same as belief in Santa Clause?

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Atheism is a religion, just like bald is a hair color.

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Mythra:

I didn't say atheism was a religion. I said it's a religious belief.

 

Antlerman:

Using the words as they're defined is "playing games with language"? If you say so dude.

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I agree that atheism is not a religion, but given the weight given to religion in modern American society, it's best to let the masses think it is. That should then allow us to ask for respect for our "beliefs" and protection of our rights to them.

 

It's funny how many xtians regard atheism as a religion, yet bash it in ways that they would never dream of for Islam or Hinduism.

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Suppose someone believes in the Christian deity but never goes to church. They don't have items 2 and 3 on your list, but they do hold a religious belief. Therefore religious beliefs do not require items 2 and 3. Furthermore religious means "concerning religion" when used with respect to beliefs. If someone believes there are no deities then they hold a belief concerning religion. Therefore atheism is a religious belief.

 

Uh no.

 

If someone believes in the Christian deity, then they have rituals/dogma associated with that belief, therefore they do fit numbers 1 and 2.

 

If they don't fit 2 and 3, all they have is a theistic belief, not a religious one.

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Kuroikaze:

"Athiests don't "Disbelieve in a deity" they just don't believe in any."

I linked to a definition from the Oxford dictionary in my first post. I'll paste it for you:

"atheism /aythi-iz’m/ • noun the belief that God does not exist. "

Got that? It's a belief that there is no deity. You can use the word differently, but then you're not speaking english.

 

 

 

Do you not think that this is a bit absurd...as well as arrogant.

 

An athiest says "I think this"

 

and you say "no you don't you think this other thing"

 

It makes you sound like an arrogant jerk, I think an athiest is more qualified to say what he/she believes than you.

 

Mythra:

I didn't say atheism was a religion. I said it's a religious belief.

 

 

 

Now whos playing with language?

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Mythra:

I didn't say atheism was a religion. I said it's a religious belief.

 

Antlerman:

Using the words as they're defined is "playing games with language"? If you say so dude.

Re-read my OP. I addressed the dictionary usage question in my OP. Please address the points I raised. I raised several points in it and you have not responded to them, but are falling back on approaching dictionaries (correction - your interpretation of dictionaries) like they were the word of a god, and not reflective of cultural usage. My views do not square at all with how you interpret atheism. I should know how I view things. I am inside my head, and I was a religious believing person before and clearly see a major distinction, which you say doesn’t exist for me.

 

I was looking forward to you addressing all the points I raised, one by one. So far you are failing to do so, but are simply falling back on the only argument you have – semantics. If you fall back on this once again without addressing my points, I will conclude you have no desire to understand anything outside the dogma of religious beliefs, and see no further reason to waste my time with this. I made this effort because I was expecting better than this.

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Antlerman,

 

I think we have a more fundamental disagreement than whether atheism is a religious belief: namely, we disagree on the meaning of the word atheism. Let me address this first.

 

On the meaning of "atheism":

You say this concerning what atheists believe:

"Do atheists believe there is no God? Sure. ...we believe that there is no persuasive evidence to support claims of a supernatural, omniscient deity that watches over mankind as defined by Christian doctrine. "

 

Now, obviously you know what you believe, but I disagree with two points in your statement concerning what "atheists" believe: (1) you imply that atheists are those who merely see no evidence for the deity, and (2) you imply that the deity in question is the Christian deity.

 

From your definition, the ancient Romans were atheists because they didn't believe in the Christian deity. Does that make sense? They believed in numerous deities who weren't omniscient, but did this make them atheists?

Also from your definition, someone is an atheist merely if they are unconvinced of the existence of deity. By this definition someone who thinks there's a god, but isn't sure, is an atheist.

 

You discount dictionaries, but how else are we to agree on the meaning of the term "atheism"? Language is a system of words whose meanings are agreed on by a culture. One person might decide to use the words differently, but then they are not speaking the same language, since they are straying beyond the agreed conventions for what each word means. In our culture the agreed-on meanings of words are recorded in dictionaries, one of the more respected of which is the Oxford dictionary (I refer to it since you suggested in the "Truth is Regional" thread that it is the one you respect). You are correct that the meanings of words evolves with a culture, but this is why the dictionary is updated each year. I didn't quote from the Oxford of 1862, I quoted from this year's, as listed online. From this listing your definition of "atheist" is not the english definition of "atheist". They define it with respect to any deity, not just the Christian one, and they also suggest that the word is stronger than merely "lacking persuasive evidence" for a deity, but rather the belief that there is no deity.

 

 

On the religious belief formerly known as "agnosticism":

Now, what you list as your belief (no persuasive evidence for a deity, together with the notion you've listed in the Flood thread that we can't know it absolutely) is what I would call "agnosticism". And most other English-speaking people would also call it "agnosticm", according to the Oxford dictionary definition.

 

As to whether your stated lack of conviction concerning the Christian deity's existence is a religious belief, I agree with you, it's not. It's merely a lack of belief. But atheism, as defined to english-speaking ears...(english-speaking ears?? did I just say that? lol)....is indeed a belief concerning religion.

 

 

On the thread as a whole:

"I made this effort because I was expecting better than this."

Yes, so did I. An argument on the meaning of words clearly defined in dictionaries is not very worthwhile. What I was actually hoping this thread would be about, when you so pleasantly agreed to start it, was the question of why so many here seem to have turned from fundamentalist Christianity to atheism. It seems to me an extreme reaction. One might decide that fundamentalist Christianity is erroneous, but how does that equate to denying all deity? What about other forms of Christianity? What about Islam, Judeism, pantheism, or even just generic theism? Is this atheism held by faith, or have these people actually disproved all deities? That's what I thought the thread would be about.

 

Oddly enough although I enjoy our discussions you're probably the wrong person to discuss this question with, since by your own account you haven't taken the extreme reaction of going to (Oxford defined) atheism, instead you've restrained yoursef to the reasonable reaction and only denied fundamentalist Christianity.

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There are two distinct kinds of Atheism. George H. Smith, 1979, cointed implicit atheism and explicit atheism. Which one do you making your argument about Gaunilon?

 

the Explicit Atheism, is also called strong Atheism, or Antitheism. I think that's the one you're making your argument about. Strong belief against the existence of a God.

 

While Implicit Atheism, weak atheism, or very similar to agnosticism, is not a belief, knowledge or certainty that God does not exists. Only a lack of belief.

 

Although Nagel claim that only explicit (strong) atheism is the real or true atheism.

 

So where would you place the Nontheist? Would you call it a religion too?

 

-edit-

 

Gaunilon, don't you think you're mixing up the meaning of religion and "life philosophy" or ideology? Atheism can be viewed as a guide or starting point for a person for how to conduct their life, but it isn't a fixed or established orthodoxy with guidelines and prearranged and systematic explanations to "how to live life". It is just a basic starting point, nothing else. From there, people can absorb ideas from positivism, humanism and naturalism etc. And that's when ideology or your argument of "religion" can start to make sense. But not at the point of "I have no belief". IMO.

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Solo,

 

"So where would you place the Nontheist? Would you call it a religion too?"

I wouldn't call either one (atheism and "nontheism") a religion, since a religion implies worship. However I would call atheism a religious belief (namely, that there is no deity), while the position that "I don't know whether there is a deity" (I think this is what you mean by non-theism) is not a religious belief.

 

As to your second point, we agree. Religion is an idelogy coupled with worship, and therefore more than merely an idelogy. Atheism is an ideology only, which is why I make the distinction between religion (which atheism is not) and a religious belief (which atheism is).

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