This morning’s newspaper contained a letter to the editor commenting that Stalin was a “practicing atheist.” Hmm. I don’t know what that means. How do you “practice” atheism? The writer is treating atheism as just another sort of religion, something one does. But that can’t be true. Atheism, by definition, is not for something, it’s against a belief in a god: a-theism. Here the “a” is the same “a” as in asymptomatic, arrhythmic, asexual. It denotes the absence of a belief in god, but doesn’t espouse anything in its place. Some wag once commented that calling atheism a “religion” is like saying “bald is a hair color.” I suppose what the writer to the editor meant was that Stalin headed a regime that forbade religious beliefs (hence “atheistic”)—and that, of course, is to be condemned by everyone. I’m a lawyer and I strongly believe in freedom of religion. I also believe that right includes freedom from religion. Our courts have agreed: civil rights laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of religious beliefs protect atheists as well as theists.
“A Guide to the Best of My Blog,” April 29, 2013;http://douglaswhaley.blogspot.com/2013/04/a-guide-to-best-of-my-blog.html