General Question

nebule's avatar

Is there a religion that doesn't believe in any form of afterlife?

Asked by nebule (16439points) August 23rd, 2009

..or do all religions believe in some form of that bodily resurrection or survival of the soul?

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46 Answers

mistered's avatar

I would think any religion that believes in reincarnation doesn’t believe in an after life when you really think about it. You don’t die and have your soul travel to a different plain of existence. You’re perpetually reborn into the same world. So while your new life is still “after” your old life its not like you ever travel to a heaven or a hell per se.

nebule's avatar

When I say “afterlife” I mean that any form of continued existence after this one..whether or not that be in this world or another…

So…would you agree that any religion that believes in reincarnation doesn’t really believe in an afterlife because the “self” is not continuous?

filmfann's avatar

Atheism is not a religion. It is the disbelief in any God or religion.

Fyrius's avatar

What @filmfann said. Baldness is not a hairdo.

Zuma's avatar

Moneytheism (You can’t take it with you.)

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

@filmfann @Fyrius If you wanna get technical, then you are right, it’s not a religion. But it is where many people base their ideas about afterlife.

dpworkin's avatar

There is no clear afterlife dogma in Judaism, although there are many traditions that seem to encourage the belief. Technically Judaism does not have the idea of an afterlife as central to its core beliefs.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Fyrious, it might be, when I had my FOID card renewed, under ‘hair color’ the description is BALD.

MrGV's avatar


nebule's avatar

@AstroChuck sorry mate :-/

didn’t think anyone would have asked this question before…how naive of me :-)

PerryDolia's avatar

I think Zen Buddhism is primarily aimed at gaining enlightenment through za zen meditation. I am not aware of any emphasis on afterlife or reincarnation.

DrBill's avatar

@jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities @filmfann

Atheism is a religion. It is NOT the disbelief in God. It is the belief that God does not exist, therefore it is a belief system and meets the description of a religion.

filmfann's avatar

According to, Christians seem to believe that atheism is a religion, but no one with a fair understanding of both concepts would make such a mistake.
I am a Christian, and I don’t think Atheism a religion.

drdoombot's avatar

Adding to what @pdworkin said, Judaism has a tradition concerning the World to Come, though it’s not always clear if it’s referring to an afterlife or a future time when the Messiah is around.

Either way, the emphasis of Judaism is: Don’t worry so much about what comes next, just do the best you can with the place you’re in right now.

Harp's avatar

One of the fundamental tenets of Buddhism is that nothing is carried over from one moment to the next, much less from one life to another. In other words, there is no enduring personal essence that moves forward through time, and so nothing to carry the identity of a person on to another life.

This is very confusing to most people, because the idea of cyclical rebirth is one of the better-known features of Buddhist thought. But the actual teaching is that this cycle of rebirths is an illusion caused by believing in the reality of the self, and that the key to release from the cycle is to dispel the belief that there is something that survives the passage of time intact. The “end of rebirth” is the understanding that nothing is truly ever born or dies.

Ivan's avatar


Nope. Atheism is the lack of belief in a god. Included within atheism is the belief that no gods exist, but that is only a subset of atheism, not its entirety. Regardless, even if it was “the belief that God does not exist”, that would only make it one belief, not a belief system, and certainly not a religion.

To answer the question, Humanism might come fairly close.

AstroChuck's avatar

@DrBill- Atheism is definitely not a religion. Just because something involves a belief, or lack thereof, doesn’t mean it qualifies as a religion. As most people, I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny. Does that mean that all of us that don’t believe in the Easter Bunny are part of the same religion?

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@DrBill I believe that my Toyota truck is the finest automobile ever made, so I guess I am a follower of Toyotaism.

That’s how your logic about atheism works. Besides the only way Atheism could be a religion is if we believed in a deity named Athe.

filmfann's avatar

I actually work with someone named Athey. When we agree with him, we are Atheyists. He is not worthy of diety status, though.

cbloom8's avatar

I’ve heard that you are technically atheist if you are Buddhist; however, I’m not sure about that. Other than that, nothing (Atheism isn’t a religion, but a lack thereof.)

Ivan's avatar


So long as a Buddhist doesn’t believe in anything that could be considered a god, they would technically be an atheist.

Garebo's avatar

@Harp: so energy is never created nor destroyed, its all just an illusion? A dream, dreaming us?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

why would there be such a thing? religion is made up to prevent one’s worries about things we can’t control and death is a biggy

Harp's avatar

@Garebo What is illusory is the world of things. We imagine a world divisible into discrete things, each having a persistent identity that endures through time and sets it apart from other things. Our selves are created as part of this illusion.

But Buddhism emphasizes that change is all there is. The world is only flow, a constant “becoming”. Drawing borders around various parts of this flow to delineate “things” or “selves” is like drawing pictures on the surface of water. Our “things” and “selves” can have meaning only in the most limited and short-term sense.

mattbrowne's avatar

@DrBill – Religions are a subset of belief systems. Atheism is a belief system, but it’s not a religion.

nebule's avatar

For arguments sake… let’s say Atheism IS NOT a religion….whether it is or not…

AstroChuck's avatar

Well, it isn’t.

bumwithablackberry's avatar

Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in an afterlife per se. They think that when you die, your asleep, less than asleep really. But they believe that you will either be brought back to life to live on earth, in a paradise, or if you dont die during armageddon then same thing, you live in paradise. Personally, I dont think it would be paradise with a bunch of those people, people that were at one time going to collage, or playing sports, the dumb and weak wouldnt make much of a paradise. Feeding lions grass, I’ll feed you some grass…

the100thmonkey's avatar

There are actually two kinds of atheism.

1. Positive atheism – the belief that God/gods/deity/deities/etc… do not exist. This seems to be the position under discussion above. Whether or not positive atheism should be classified as a religion because of this is open to debate. Fundamentally, positive atheism makes an ontological claim that can not be verified using scientific methods. I would argue that it is not a belief system per se in that while it is dogmatic to insist there is no God, positive atheism makes no commandments and makes no claims about an afterlife. Atheists may, perhaps, give commandments and make claims about the afterlife, but there is no text which does so.

2. Negative atheism – this takes into account the (quite logical objection given above) that positive atheism is actually a faith-based position. Its central premise is that since the ontological claims of both religions and positive atheism cannot be verified, it really doesn’t make much sense to hold either as beliefs.

Negative atheism, then, is the rather less dogmatic position that there is probably no God, as there is no evidence to support the claim. “Probably” is key here, since it really speaks from the heart of the scientific method – should evidence be discovered that can verify or refute the claims made by both religionists and atheists, then a negative atheist would be required to modify their position.

If positive atheism is classed as a religion, then the answer to the OP is yes.

filmfann's avatar

@the100thmonkey Welcome to Fluther. Lurve.

badminton80's avatar

@Dr.Bill & @the100moneky Atheism “literally” means without or absent of God A means without (such as Asexual plant are without a sex) and Theos means God. A religion is a theistic organization by definition. Saying Atheism is a religion is like saying vegetarians eat meat because they are as passionate about not eating meat as omnivores are about eating meat (i.e. it makes no sense whatsoever). I think you are confusing religion with a belief system which can be theistic or Atheistic. There are belief systems that are Athiestic such as Buddhism, perhaps you should look to some of the Native American belief systems such as the Aztecs and Mayans of Mexico or the Incas of Peru. I think that most Native American (Not familiar with Native American beliefs in Canada) faiths teach that we are all interconnected with the earth and that everything goes back unto it. I’m not sure though.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@badminton80: You are confused about what claims I made in my post – I made no claims that atheism is a religion; I said it was open to debate (which is true) whether or not positive atheism is a religion.

It all depends on how you define religion.

Incidentally, I agree with your definition of atheism (provided you’re talking about positive atheism). However, you then say that a religion is theistic by definition, but you haven’t justified it by defining religion. Religions are characterised by an attendant moral code as much as they are by ontological and metaphysical claims.

If you believe that atheism is not a religion on the grounds outlined in your post, it is necessary to demonstrate that a negative a priori ontological claim is somehow fundamentally different from an affirmative a priori ontological claim.

I haven’t made a case either way in this thread. I would suggest that atheism is not a religion (although it is a religious claim) as it does not satisfy one of the conditions I outlined – ontological and metaphysical claims and an attendant moral code.

Marxism. Now there’s an atheistic religion.

zen_'s avatar


No wait, your answers still exist after you delete your account.

Nullo's avatar

@filmfann Atheism is one deity short of having the trappings of a religion. If it quacks like a duck…

AstroChuck's avatar

Quack quack.

Nullo's avatar

@AstroDuck Yes?

the100thmonkey's avatar

@Nullo – I disagree.

I would appreciate hearing your arguments for “atheism is one deity short of having the trappings of religion” – there’s an interesting hedge in your post…]

Nullo's avatar

@the100thmonkey You wouldn’t be the first; many an atheist is Hell-bent on being wholly irreligious. But so far as I’ve been able to determine, you can find atheist analogues to most or all religious mainstays. There’s a priesthood, for instance, made up of the currently-popular among atheists. Doctrines. Organizations. Moral beliefs. Rather helpfully, “religion” as a concept is fuzzy.
Different ones for different kinds of atheists, naturally. Polyatheism, maybe? Perhaps one day I shall group them into denominations.

Wiki might be interesting.

Fyrius's avatar

Not collecting stamps is exactly like collecting stamps except for the part where you collect stamps.

People who don’t collect stamps still do things for fun, still like to own things, still want to have more than one of some things… heck, they even buy stamps sometimes. If it quacks like a duck…

Nullo's avatar

@Fyrius I think that a better comparison would be stamps vs. bottle caps. Yes, people collect – or used to collect – bottle caps.
You can be religious without having a God, is what I’m saying. Even about stamps.

Fyrius's avatar

Yeah, you would think that. But you’d be wrong. Atheism means not being something else.
That’s not an important point, or even really relevant, but it’s true by definition, and insisting on the contrary is somewhat silly.
The people you’re trying to oppose aren’t characterised entirely by their being atheists, because there can be and are atheists who aren’t like them. I suggest you pick out a different shared feature to refer to them by, one that more directly represents what bothers you about them.

Okay, let’s disregard the semantic non-issue for a moment.
Does the world view of a lot of atheists, me included, have things in common with religions? Maybe. All right, probably, if you’re general enough about it. Any world view would, by virtue of being a world view.
But what’s wrong with religion – which is the relevant thing – is not that it has priests, doctrines, organisations and moral beliefs. What’s wrong with religion is a feature that notably isn’t shared by atheist philosophy: staggering overestimation of the reliability of beliefs with no objective foundation.
That difference renders the question whether atheism “is a religion” irrelevant and meaningless. If, by some semantic cleverness, you can define atheism as a religion, then it’s the one religion that doesn’t have the flaws that make being religion a bad thing.

Besides: are you sure you want to consider what atheists believe a religion? Do you want yours to have to compete with that? The most miraculous thing your priests can do is chant Latin at a wafer and then tell people it’s become sacred now. Our priests banished smallpox from the world and our miracles carry men to the god damned moon. Our doctrines are told by the world itself, writ into the very universe in the arcane language of causality.
It’s obvious that ours is the one true religion.

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