Heard, once again, from someone that atheism “is a religion!” and when I hear this, it always makes me chuckle. (I’m not quite an atheist myself, I am antitheist.)
I have to say: a group of people who share the same knowledge does not a religion make.
A religion is a belief that usually revolves around the cause, nature, and/or purpose of the universe, and (this is the important part) requires devotional and ritual observances and rites.
Atheists, ladies and gentlemen, have no rituals and observances, no holy days, no calendar of holidays attached to their view that there is no god. They’re just there, living their lives, hoping to be left alone (unconverted and without having to hear about your great and powerful Oz and the superiority of life with him).
Here is an example of religion:
George walks along one fine day, enjoying life as he knows it, when he is struck by a perfectly spherical ball of frozen toilet contents from a plane flying far overhead. Luckily for him it is not a direct blow, so he does not die; in fact by a miracle it only glances the side of his head causing a mild concussion before landing before him in a blue, melting heap. George is quite literally shaken to his core. He is also quite astigmatic and now concussed, and so instead of seeing a round ball of frozen blue toilet water, he sees an egg-shaped ice ball with…something, something ever so elusive, just beneath the surface. He tries to pick up the “egg” but it is too large, too slippery, to be held in his grasp. He runs off to find help.
While George is away, the ball melts more. That “something” just below the surface is now visible: a partially thawed piece of frozen toilet paper.
A bird swoops down to get it, to make a nest. The ball continues to melt until it is finally nothing but a puddle that smells vaguely of deodorizer and excrement.
As George walks, his slight concussion causes a bit of a headache. He can’t help but think of that blue glow of that frozen egg, with…something inside of it. He must rest, it seems like he’s walked forever. He lies down for a moment, and closes his eyes, dreaming of the blue egg. That magical, mystical blue egg, which has something inside, struggling to be free; something ethereal. George’s concussion begins to make him see flashes of light and shadow as he sleeps.
George dreams of eggs and mystery.
Hours later George’s son, who went looking for him, stumbles upon his concussed father lying in a field with a knot on his head and a tale of glowing translucent blue eggs, holy intervention and flashing lights. He helps his father to his feet and accompanies him to the site of the landing, where there is nothing but a puddle, a crater in the ground, and a vague odor that he can’t quite place.
Eventually word gets out about the mystery, and a small contingent who have known and respected George, who believe what he’s seen as fact (not realizing his perception was colored by astigmatism and concussion) come to his defense. The incident is written about at length online, as no one could find the egg or its contents; but the holy crater remained. Some people believe the crater is the shape of the elusive, wisp-like creature that was just below the surface of the egg’s shell. The area around it becomes a viewing area, and the first anniversary of the incident is marked by his friends on-site…
…where by coincidence, they see a meteor shower overhead.
This is seen as a divine intervention, a sign that their belief in George’s story is true. Word continues to grow and the viewing area becomes a shrine. People from far and wide make the trek to the Holy Crater to see the outline of The Wisp.
As word continues, faith in George’s perception grows; the anniversary is marked annually and when George passes away from old age, his faithful friends mark the date with remembrance.
“Good old George,” they say. “He saw things we could only dream of. The mystical Blue Egg, that left life-giving water when the being sent to us left the egg, the Wisp, the Spirit of the Egg: unseen by all but good old George, revealed to him because of his generous, and Wispy nature.”
The above is how a fact, changed by perception, can cause a religion.
Not believing that a frozen ball of toilet water was a Divine Happening and not believing that a chunk of frozen toilet paper was a Holy Wisp does not make another religion. It simply means there is a lack of belief in the Egg and the Wisp.
Somewhere in a nest, an egg perched upon that piece of toilet paper is hatching.