Rehashing Old Atheist Topics: Is Atheism A Religion?
Is atheism a religion? It shouldn’t be, and I was hoping it wouldn’t be, but for some people it serves a fairly similar purpose. I miss my childhood days when I simply didn’t know or care about god and assumed that everyone else felt more or less the same, and that some just went to church for the social and community aspects. Those were the good parts of religion, and I almost envied the people who engaged in them (though the sermons always seemed rather silly and dull). At Christmas time, we always had a tree and the most beautiful, delicate decorations. Sometimes, our housekeeper would sneak me off to church and I would watch her light the candles and pray. For a while, as a child, I would also pray to some vague cosmic entity to protect my family, in case something out there existed and cared. After all, it couldn’t hurt, right? Call me Pascal, if you will. But I gave up when almost everyone in my family died, including both parakeets — who viciously murdered each other — and the family dog.
And then, later in life, long after moving from Russia to America, I learned about the atheist movement. In fact, I unintentionally became a part of it, mostly because the social dynamics surrounding religion fascinated me. Now I look around and wonder, is atheism just religion in disguise? Clearly, pockets of it are extremely ideological and religion-like. And, for the record, atheism is nothing like not collecting stamps. Because those of us who don’t collect stamps don’t obsess about them, don’t meet to talk about our lack of stamp collections, don’t argue with those who do collect stamps, don’t talk about the right way to not collect stamps, and don’t write about our non-hobby. We simply don’t care.
The thing with atheism is that right now, at least for me, the negatives outweigh the positives. While separation of church and state is immensely important and so is stopping social harm perpetrated in the name of religion, beyond those goals, I see little point. I do appreciate that some atheist groups take time out for community service, food drives, and similar; but otherwise I see a nasty online call-out culture focused on a core group of narcissistic and self-righteous personalities, who bully others and try to harm lives and livelihoods over insignificant disagreements. Ideological extremism exists with religion or without, and that is the enemy we have to fight, not the religious.
And I’m tired. While, absent evidence or brain damage, I’ll never believe in god (or even think that humans are capable of defining such a concept), I think that as of today, I’ve finally stopped believing in atheists.