I have argued for years that atheism is a religion. Generally speaking, religion is:
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
~ religion. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved January 27, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion
Notice how it does not require a superhuman agency, but it “esp.” does. An atheist would argue that a religion is a set of beliefs about a deity, an atheist does not believe in a deity, and therefore rather than a religion, atheism is “without” religion. However, I would argue that a belief that no such deity or deities exist is a belief about said deities, and therefore it qualifies as a religion. Plus, when you consider that “science” has tried to explain away the origins of the universe and even life in absence of a deity, you not only have a set of beliefs, but you have a systematic set of beliefs.
As is often the case, though, whenever someone doesn’t like such logic, just redefine the words. Atheism then becomes a state without religion rather than a religion (sort of like matter and antimatter?). The problem with trying to redefine words, though, is that the old definitions have a nagging tendency to stick around for a while.
Like the word “blasphemy”, for instance. It basically means “cursing or reviling God”, or in the mildest form, “irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred, priceless, etc.” So, what is irreverent? What is sacred? That is, what are they to an atheist? Can you really blaspheme unless something of a divine nature is being insulted?
“Devout atheists are forced to choose between not using what is often the only available legal tender and committing what they consider blasphemy,” Newdow argued in his petition placed on the court’s docket Tuesday.
~ ReligionNewsBlog, “Supreme Court again is asked to drop ‘In God We Trust’”, retrieved 27 January 2011, emphasis mine.
So, I guess in order to commit blasphemy, atheism must be a religion after all.