I was once amused by religious propaganda I read explaining what a Catholic was and what they believed. What I found interesting was that none of these articles sanctioned by the Catholic Church or written by a practicing Catholic. They were derogatory and always wrong.
When I discussed this with a catholic priest he gave me an explanation, which I have not forgotten, always liked, and apply to outsiders telling me things about what groups believe.
You’re outside. ‘Tis (he’s Irish) a lovely, sunny day. You’ve been told the stained-glass windows in the local church are beautiful works of art. You walk to the church and gaze upon the windows. You wonder how something so dark and dreary can be considered beautiful art. The wee folk inside the church open the doors and invite you in. You go inside the church. You now see the windows from the inside (from a different point of view or in a different light?). The sun is passing through from the outside. Now, you see the beauty of the art and craftsmanship. Being on the inside makes a difference. (Paraphrased)
While researching atheism and the question of it being a religion I discovered something that reminded me of that priest. I can find many non-atheists who claim that it is a religion. I have not discovered anyone claiming to be atheist who agrees with that. Some folks even claim to breakdown certain atheist opinions further into denominations. One even went so far as to list 15 basic beliefs of all atheists (dogma? 14 were wrong). Of course, none of the people who wrote these things are either complimentary of (critical of, yes) atheism, or self-identified atheists. But, they do claim to know all about it. Interesting, right?
Saying that atheism is a religion is not only wrong, atheists find it silly. Consider the following from The American Atheist web page.
“Atheism is not a belief system nor is it a religion. While there are some religions that are atheistic (certain sects of Buddhism, for example), that does not mean that atheism is a religion. Two commonly used retorts to the nonsense that atheism is a religion are: 1) If atheism is a religion, then bald is a hair color, and 2) If atheism is a religion, then health is a disease. A new one introduced in 2012 by Bill Maher is, “If atheism is a religion, then abstinence is a sexual position.” (American Atheist web page)
A friend of mine asked, “What do atheists believe? I want to know exactly what they believe.” As stated in the quote below from the web page, I said, “You can ask one, then you can ask another. If you are specific, you are likely to get two different answers. If you are not specific, you may be asked, ‘About what?’
“The only common thread that ties all atheists together is a lack of belief in gods and supernatural beings. Some of the best debates we have ever had have been with fellow atheists. This is because atheists do not have a common belief system, sacred scripture or atheist Pope. This means atheists often disagree on many issues and ideas. Atheists come in a variety of shapes, colors, beliefs, convictions, and backgrounds. We are as unique as our fingerprints.” (American Atheist web page)
Indeed, atheism can be called (or associated with) a movement. Some of their organizations may be identified. Some church ministers who are now atheists may even have something like a Sunday service. Some people say it is a philosophy or a world view. But the audacity and ignorance of people who are religious to write long essays (in which they usually admit that it’s hard to define religion) making the claim that atheism is a religion puts them in the same category as those wonders who never set foot in a Catholic Church, but knew all about it. They don’t know shit!