Stories about religious cults appear pretty regularly in the news. Pastors of mainstream denominations square off with defenders of particular sects, whose adherents resent being tagged with the label “cult,” with all its negative connotations. All the while, atheists look on with bemused satisfaction, thinking themselves above the fray, shaking their heads in condescension at all the bigoted people with their small-minded views about “right thinking” who don’t realize just how irrational they really appear.
But is atheism itself a cult? A small misguided offshoot of the main group we could loosely characterize as “rational thinkers?”
A lot depends on what definition of “cult” is used? Its meaning varies: it can refer to a group bound together by the veneration of a person, ideal or thing; a group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols; a quasi-religious organization using devious psychological techniques to gain and control adherents.
Now, I suppose one could counter that atheists aren’t sufficiently united to be considered a cohesive group. And no self-respecting atheist would consider their views to be even “quasi” religious, as they generally have nothing but disdain for people who “need” to invoke deities to make sense of what science, they are convinced, can explain. But the growing voice and influence of atheists is having an impact, and certain “sacred ideals and doctrines” have coalesced. Darwinism and the “separation of church and state” are two of the most prominent emerging belief-systems of this group.
As their zealousness increases, their voice amplified through the influence they exert in academia, this new breed of atheists does what it can to marginalize and belittle traditional believers. Not quite a religious “inquisition,” but similar enough in its efforts to suppress contrary views that others should take notice. In most scientific fields, and certainly in the field of biology, a scientist allowing his religious views to cause him to question the “doctrine” of Darwinism will soon find himself out of work, or otherwise marginalized. Similarly, any effort to bring to the public square a framework for morality based on transcendent principles rooted in the Bible will result in a outcry that the “wall” of separation of church and state has been breached.
Indeed, many atheists are on a “crusade” of sorts, trying through the courts and elsewhere to wipe clean the public square of any reflection of organized religious views. Crosses and commandments can be privately worshiped, but what were the Founders thinking when they didn’t write into the Constitution a prohibition of public displays? No matter that the First Amendment actually protects religious expression, this new breed of atheists will not stop until their vision of cross-less and commandment-less public areas is a reality.
In these respects, the hard-core atheists are coming to resemble the cults they disdain. Their views are peculiar and have been rejected by the vast majority of all who have ever lived, who recognize some very basic notions: that created things need creators; that repositories of information such as is found in DNA require an intelligent source; that rules of morality that we all intuitively have access to require a rule-giver that is transcendent; that life cannot magically arise from non life without some transcendent source preceding that move.
Of course, name calling doesn’t really advance an argument, so I’ll refrain from actually calling atheism a cult. But as I reflect on how the members of this group have closed their minds to these common-sense notions as they have increased the pitch and volume of their demands, I certainly have to wonder.
Posted by Al Serrato