Carter, probably responding to the blogosphere buzz over John Allen Paulos' article on religiously-informed mathematics, writes,
A belief is a religious belief, says Clouser, provided that (1) It is a belief in something(s) or other as divine, or (2) It is a belief concerning how humans come to stand in relation to the divine. The divine, according to Clouser, is whatever is "just there." He contends that self-existence is the defining characteristic of divinity, so that the control of theories by a belief about what is self-existent is the same as control by a divinity belief and thus amounts to religious control of all theories.I find it fascinating that Clouser and Carter don't see the slick rhetorical move in the definition. If the "divine" is defined into "what is 'just there,'" why use such a loaded word? The answer: it's just a more sophisticated way to say, "Atheism (or naturalism) is a religion." And, as others have famously pointed out, not-stamp-collecting is a hobby.
Whether we refer to it as being self-existent, uncaused, radically independent, etc., it is the point beyond which nothing else can be reduced. Unless we posit an infinite regress of dependent existences, we must ultimately arrive at an entity that fits the criteria for the divine.
Different traditions, religions, and belief systems may disagree about what or who has divine status, or whether such an ontological concept should be considered a "religious belief." But what they all agree upon is that something has such a status. A theist, for instance, will say that the divine is God while a materialist will claim that matter is what fills the category of divine. Therefore, if we examine our concepts in enough detail, we discover that at a deeper level we're not agreeing on what the object is that we're talking about. Our explanations and theories about things will vary depending on what is presupposed as the ultimate explainer. And the ultimate explainer can only be the reality that has divine status.
Don't say you weren't warned.
*See comments below.