A Google search reveals a not-so-wide variety of meanings for the word. The several varying definitions I found were pretty consistent, most all of which were pretty much synonymous to some extent. It all boils down to, simply: An organized set of beliefs or values shared by the many people who subscribe to the same system, and whose beliefs pertain to divinity, spirituality, morality, after life, mysticism, ritualism, and other matters transcending physical reality.
These definitions gave no specifics on what is believed or what is not believed, how its believed or how its followed. It makes no mention of organized structures, building or hierarchies of authority.
Considering all the worlds religions and the large diversity that exists among them, its no wonder that the definition of the very ambiguous word “religion” would carry no specifics.
I ask the question, “what makes atheism not a religion?” Because those who are atheists “say so”? Because they take offense to the implication, the accusation? An absurd basis for rejecting a label whose meaning fits in every other aspect, don’t you think?
There are many different religions in existence. Of those, say Christianity for example, there are many denominations with slightly alternate interpretations. But no one denies that all religions are religions still, nor that all denominations of Christianity are still forms of Christianity. So, its not such a stretch to suggest that one does not have to share an exact carbon copy of beliefs to fall under a more general header. A Christian is still a Christian regardless of their denomination. A Buddhist is still a religious person, despite the fact he is not Christian or Muslim.
Granted, not every atheist has the same precise ideology. But does that mean he is not religious? No, diversity in belief is not proof of a false label.
So what makes atheism a religion?
Atheism is a label. Its an ideology. For all intent and purpose, it is the name of a religion unto itself. Atheists share a common belief: that God doesn’t exist. Atheists draw their morality from alternative sources. Atheists draw their beliefs on reality from alternative sources (some will say science and I will grant that just to avoid irrelevant conflict, though I fundamentally believe that atheism and science are not synonymous, and that many atheists will lay claim to science solely to give themselves more credence). Through it all, however, even an atheist claims to believe in morality drawn from sources of “evolution” or “social construct” or “logical reasoning” instead of “divine inspiration” – the distinction is source and to some extent quality.
Or course, just because atheists share a common set of ideologies that define the “-ism”, that in itself doesn’t make it a religion. Liberalism isn’t a religion. Conservatism isn’t a religion. Existentialism isn’t a religion. No, of course common beliefs don’t make a religion.
What does make atheism a religion, however, is the fact that the common thread of beliefs amongst all atheists is strictly of a divine, spiritual matter. God: the belief in him or the disbelief in him is nonetheless a belief regarding the divine. Its an ideology regarding spiritual matters. That is what makes atheism a religion.
Atheism is a set of beliefs regarding spiritual and divine matters shared by a group of people, all of whom subscribe to the ideology of “atheism”. Atheism, thus, fits the precise definition of a religion.
The only aspects it lacks are aspects not necessary and completely irrelevant to religion. Depending on interpretation, these aspects are likely met anyway. For example. Some atheists may argue that they have no church. Well, not all religions have a church. I haven’t seen a temple erected to Aphrodite in a long time. I haven’t seen a church of Wicca in all my life, yet it is an active religion. Many Wicca followers are not unlike a social club, sometimes assembling together at one another’s home, or discussing the subject at coffee houses, internet forums and whatnot.
Need I remind anyone that one does not have to go to a church to be a Christian – the religion asserts a belief and a lifestyle practice, not the ritualization or habitualization of visiting a particular address once a week. Again, even coming from a religion which does have an infrastructure, such criteria is not essential but merely desirable as a means of self-support.
Of course, one could argue that an atheists equivalent of a “school of divinity” or a “clergy school” is hardly unlike any academic public school. I don’t intent to up-play atheism by associating it with an “education”, rather I only wish to make it apparent that which courses you take and which school you attend and how you interpret the subject matter is ultimately irrelevant.
Likewise, a Bible and Darwin’s Origins of Species are hardly distinct.
I say this because the Bible never rejects evolution, and Darwin never blatantly rejected religion nor in any way disproved it. Darwin never even proved evolution – he demonstrated adaptation of a single species, which remained the same species, within an environment and over the course of several years. And he theorized on evolution, but that is all we can say for sure. Darwin is often times deified by the atheist, it seems.
Atheist will cite science – which hasn’t proven atheism – as the basis for reinforcing their own faith in their own preexisting ideologies. One cannot make the leap from “oh, look, a cell, a life” to “god does not exist”. Its absurd, it requires faith, it requires a very broad interpretation of the facts.
“Books and Publications” are no different than “Bibles and Scriptures”. “Medical school and university and professors” is not different from “the church or the clergy”. “Jesus” is not unlike “Darwin or Einstein”. A great deal of faith placed in an unproven ideology, either way you look at it. The only difference is that one side pretends that science has been conclusive, and that it has been proven, which in my mind appears to be rather delusional. That side closes themselves off to the other, under the arrogant belief of being “right by default”, and thereby being the same bigots and fanatics they criticize (spiritual) religions for.
Atheism is a religion. Its an a-spiritual religion. One is not a-religious for being an atheist. The only component distinguishing atheism from other religions is the disbelief in a God, which is precisely and solely what “atheism” means, by definition.
Indeed, there are plenty of active religions on Earth which believe in the after life, morality, spirituality, mysticism and the like, but which also disbelieve in a God. Odd, perhaps, but not unheard of. There are polytheists, too. A religion is still a religion regardless of the quantity of gods you believe in. Quantity or quality is in no way a factor, as exemplified by all the worlds many religions.
Many atheists may retort with, “but I don’t disbelieve, I simply lack belief all around”. This may indeed be true of some of them – but only if they were open minded enough to accept that religion could very well be right, or that one or many gods could very well exist regardless of religious particulars. The active disbelief, the preaching of gods non-existence, the rejection of theistic possibilities or plausibilities, the deliberate misinterpretation or biased interpretation of science to suit an agenda, the mockery of dogma, of scripture, of faith, of the legitimacy of religion as a theory unto itself – that is not “devoid” of faith at all, it is its own religion. Prowling the forums, attacking theists, attacking those who undermine blind atheism, taking bigoted offense to posts like mine, are all examples of devout fanaticism and irrationality.
So atheism is a belief system, a set of ideals held by a group of people who share in the ideology. Atheism requires faith, as it has not been proven, and those who assert its validity (aggressively or not) are acting out of an appeal to their own biases and without conclusive reason. Atheism is a belief regarding divine and spiritual matters. Atheism is, in ever respect that matters, a religion. One is not a-religious for being an atheist.
How is atheism not a religion?