Science is not a religion, but atheism is. Well maybe not a religion, but it is a belief system. Well maybe not a belief system, but it is an abelief system. Atheists don’t like to be lumped in to the religion category, and profess that if one were a theist they may or may not have the same religion as another theist, as there exist many religions that have instances of God, so to say that theism is a religion in itself is quite ludicrous. There is no common church or temple of the theist, and that is equally true of the atheist. You cannot determine an atheist’s beliefs anymore then you could a theist, unless of course you actually asked them and listened to what they had to say, but baring that interaction, there is no way to determine a person’s set of core values simply by assessing whether or not they are a theist or an atheist. It is important to note at this point that polytheism is only a label used to define an individual that believes in many gods, and while there are many different sets of beliefs that fall under the category of polytheistic, many of them don’t necessarily intersect with each other at all, and so those who are polytheistic share a common trait with both theistic and atheistic individuals. That trait being that the only way to find out what such a person believes in is to ask them specific questions, and listen to the answers they give you. One could also say that one could observe such an individual in order to assess what they believe, and maybe you might determine that one is Christian because they wear a cross, but could not that person also be atheist? Someone else may have a pentagram or the numbers 666 tattooed or somehow otherwise displayed on their person, but what can you determine from that? Is that person a theist or a polytheist? Do they believe in God or the Devil? Is the Devil a god? What about the Holy Trinity? Is that polytheistic? Why wouldn’t an atheist display such symbols? Why would they?
As you can see, the attempt to categorize a person by such labels alone is not enough, but neither is observation on it’s own. You may watch someone cross the street a hundred times, but the reason why they cross still remains a mystery. It is an unknown. Now consider that you could go up and ask them why they crossed the road, what is to stop them from lying to you? How would you know if they were telling the truth? The impulse to believe them on their word is a human reaction, but so is the impulse to not. We don’t want to have to believe them. We want to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, why they crossed, and in order to explicitly determine that motivation we must first tell ourselves a kind of story. We don’t really know if the story is real, but in it is contained the framework we need to construct a simple set of conditions. After all the conditions are set, and our version of the story is ready to tell, either the person will cross the street, or they won’t, and our story will either end up true or false. But we should not get too excited about a true story, because there could be many different variables that we may have missed. And a false story may indeed rule out one possibility, but if there existed anything that fell out of the range of our control, the false negative could have resulted from contamination.
In the end, a lot of what we believe is because of the stories we tell ourselves. The internal motivations of a person crossing a road, may not be within our power to discern. Even the person themselves may not know why, and when asked they might come up with a story that they think true, but is actually a fabrication designed by their own brain in order to explain an action that they were not completely aware of. The human brain is capable of quite a considerable amount of deception to the self, and one of the theories as to why, is because it keeps you sane.
It is in this way that I will explain atheism. The story that an atheist tells themselves does not desire or require a God or gods. The beliefs that they have do not include a God or gods. Whether or not that is a deception, is not the issue. The point is that being atheistic does not mean that you believe there is no God or gods, it means that you don’t believe that said God or gods exist. It is much different to say that you believe that God or gods don’t exist. I hope you can see the difference. It is similar to say, “I don’t believe the tooth fairy exists,” as opposed to, “I believe the tooth fairy doesn’t exist.” One of these statements is a belief, the other is the absence of belief. Atheism is a term that describes the absence of a belief, hence an abelief system.
Science attempts to circumvent the idea of belief altogether by depending on a system that isn’t based on belief at all, but instead a consistent and predictable set of progressive rules, that when used correctly, create the basis for everything we know about the observable universe, and in some instances, the unobservable universe. It is called the Scientific Method.
Here are the six steps of the Scientific Method:
1. Ask a Question
2. Do Background Research
3. Construct a Hypothesis
4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
6. Communicate Your Results
You might have noticed that we tried to use the scientific method above in order to figure out why our person might have crossed the street. It didn’t quite give us satisfactory results, but that is mostly because it was a fictional person set in a theoretical model. Without a particular subject(s), and actual data, the scientific method fails us, because we need those aspects in order to anchor ourselves to reality. Reality is a term I use to describe the observable world, or in other words, our shared existence. If I see an apple and you see an apple, then perhaps we can agree it is an apple, but if there is a discrepancy between what both you and I see, then we will have to determine some sort of system to describe such an object that we both agree on, or else we must abandon the hopes of co-existing within our shared reality. This is rather easy with objects such as apples and oranges, but become more difficult when you’re trying to describe something like radio waves or light. Visible light exists as a wave on the electromagnetic spectrum as well as radio and microwaves. These waves effect our physical world consisting of apples and oranges in many different ways. Light bounces off and is absorbed by objects such as these. Radio would pass through them without much resistance. Microwaves could explode an orange if focused correctly. Yet all of these are still considered electro-magnetic waveforms. There is only a differentiation between them based on their frequency and wavelength, but they all travel at the same speed, the speed of light, and they can all be observed and act in a reasonably (visible light sometimes acts like a particle instead of a wave) predictable manner.
Science is good with stuff like this, because it can be measured and quantified, but science can’t say anything about God. Yay or nay is quite impossible to determine, because much like our person who crossed the street above, we have no evidence to experiment with. All we have is a bunch of stories about apples and oranges, stories that are sometimes confusing, portraying the apples as oranges and vice-versa. There is no way for science to work with such evidence, because there is no way to test the hypothesis, so science ignores it altogether. You could say that science doesn’t care whether there is a God or gods, because while you could ask the question, “Does God exist?” There is no way to test the hypothesis without inherently contaminating the results. An omnipotent, omniscient being would have the ability to control any experiment you could design. Even if you thought that the data was infallibly pointing to one answer or the other, the potential for contamination is always approaching infinity. So science ignores the question, and atheism shyly answers it ~ “not in my experience.”