Not long ago, I joined in on a debate with an atheist on a social networking site. This is not something I do much anymore, mainly because most individuals participating in debates have already made a decision and not open to dialogue. On rare occasions, there is an openness to other views, but not always. On one such occasion, I spoke with an atheist about his naturalistic convictions being his religion. He said, “I don’t have any religion.” I responded, “Well, as an atheist, you hold to certain beliefs and convictions. This would seem to be a religion.” He would not concede this point; neither would he even concede that he held a worldview. Essentially, he was saying that didn’t believe in atheism although he was an atheist. Go figure that one out. That is on the same level as Lawrence Krauss’ “nothing is something” philosophy.
Nonetheless, this forces one to consider whether atheism could be considered a religion. Does it meet the criteria of the “religion” definition? In order to answer this, a definition of “religion” will be presented, marking some of the key characteristics of religion. Then, the atheist worldview will be plugged into the definition to see if it matches.
What is “Religion”?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term “religion” as
re•li•gion \ri-ˈli-jən\ noun
[Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back — more at rely] 13th century
1 a : the state of a religious 〈a nun in her 20th year of religion〉
b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural
(2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : conscientiousness
4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith — re•li•gion•less adjective
Definition 1b would definitely not apply to atheism. However, the remaining definition seems to indicate that “religion” is a set of beliefs that one holds concerning reality. One’s views about God (or the absence thereof); the universe, morality, life, and everything in between seem to be included in this definition. Therefore, can atheism be considered a religious system?
Atheism and the Qualifiers of a Religion
Atheism, like any other belief system, can be entered into the definitional testing grounds of religion. Taking some of the core qualifiers for religion, does atheism meet the criteria?
What about “personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices”? Is there a structure to the atheist paradigm? Yes. In some locations, atheist communities are developing. There are even rituals in which some atheists participate, such as “de-baptisms.” Although beliefs among atheists vary, as do with almost all religions and worldviews, atheists hold many core tenets to their faith, such as: the rejection of God, the rejection of theistic and polytheistic institutions of faith, any notion of faith, the elevation of science above all other disciplines, and the glorification of hedonism. If the reader does not think that these tenets are held by the majority of atheists, then check out visibly identified atheists on social networking and blogging sites. The unity is amazing. Even the debating styles are very similar. The unification of these tenets causes atheism to possess qualities of a religious system.
What about “scrupulous conformity”? As mentioned in the previous section, atheists hold many conformed ways of viewing the world. In their quest to embrace inconformity, atheists have become conformed in their inconformity. Many atheists use similar tactics in argumentation. Even some illustrations used by atheists have become icons, such as the infamous “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Despite the atheist’s objections, this conformity has the attribute of a religious system.
What about “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith”? Richard Dawkins is an atheist evangelist. On his foundation’s website, it is written, “The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK) is a registered charity which promotes rationalism, humanism and science in a quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.” On this site, the reader will not only find the cause, listed above, but will find principles and a system of belief that is held by the supporters and adherents of Dawkin’s worldview. These principles are held with great ardor and are supported by faith…faith that these principles are true. Everyone has faith in something! Therefore, atheism has another mark of religion.
Atheism clearly holds traits that correspond with the core definition of religion. It is a system held with great faith and is promoted by the New Atheists with the fervor of an American Christian evangelist. Atheists, and secularists in general, do not want you to believe that their worldview is religious in nature. They will claim “separation of church and state” when Christians, Jews, and Muslims express their faith with symbols and literature. Yet, they hold certain symbols and literature with great reverence. Many hold similar social beliefs and even dialogue in the same fashion. Therefore, it is in this writer’s opinion that atheism holds all the hallmarks of a religion. The trouble is that those from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other like-minded organizations are really not seeking “separation of church and state.” Secular supporters actually support “separation of any other belief system than ours and the state”. In the end, atheism is a religion just like any other belief system. Let us, who know the true power of God, pray that their eyes will see, their ears will hear, and their hearts will be softened to accept the truth found in Christ Jesus.
 Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003).
 De-baptisms are irreverent acts in which atheists employ the use of hair-dryers to “de-baptize” themselves, or revoke their previous baptisms.
 The “Flying Spaghetti Monster” is an atheist’s attempt to present make-believe things as real. The “Flying Spaghetti Monster” is a creation of Bobby Henderson. Henderson attempted to debunk creationism and intelligent design with the fictional character. A famous quote from the argument is “may you be blessed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s noodly appendage.” What the irreverent argument neglects is the argument from necessity. There is no necessity to a Flying Spaghetti Monster’s existence. Certain beings can be known to exist due to necessity. For instance, a person’s existence necessitates the existence of a mother and father regardless if they are known by the person’s friend. In like manner, God’s existence is logically necessary due to the existence of the universe, the laws of nature, and the information found in the universe (along with many other reasons).