I was going to write a post about why it’s important for Atheism to get branded a religion and for atheists to be OK with that, but I’m going to save it until after I read “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason.”
I’ll summarize the idea briefly here. Perhaps my stance will shift upon reading the book.
Cliff’s Notes Version of Why It’s Important to Categorize Atheism as a Religion
In a nutshell it’s about seeing that religion is more than just groups of people worshiping gods and instead seeing religion as a necessary part of the human experience (for optimal levels of happiness). It’s also the glue that holds large groups of individuals together.
Creating religions is a natural tendency for humans, NOT creating institutions for belief in God(s), but institutions that make sure everyone is on the same cultural and moral page.
Here are some excerpts from the book “The Happiness Hypotheses by Jonathan Haidt” (atheists will be happy to know he identifies himself as an Jewish-Atheist 😉 ). These excerpts set the stage for why I’m seeing religion as being about more than just God(s), superstition and ceremony.
All human beings today are the products of the co-evolution of a set of genes (which is almost identical across cultures) and a set of cultural elements (which is diverse across cultures, but still constrained by the capacities and predispositions of the human mind). – p. 233
Wilson shows that religions always serve to coordinate and orient people’s behavior toward each other and toward the group as a whole, sometimes for the purpose of competing with other groups. – p. 233
Wilson says his own private hell would be to be locked forever in a room full of people discussing the hypocrisies of religion, for example, that many religions preach love, compassion, and virtue yet sometimes cause war, hatred, and terrorism. Group selection creates interlocking genetic and cultural adaptations that enhance peace, harmony, and cooperation within the group for the express purpose of increasing the group’s ability to compete with other groups. – p. 235
We were shaped by individual selection to be selfish creatures who struggle for resources, pleasure, and prestige, and we were shaped by group selection to be hive creatures who long to lose ourselves in something larger. […] Some of those conditions [for happiness] are within you, such as coherence among parts and levels of your personality. Other conditions require relationships to things beyond you: Just as plants need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger. – p. 238
Religion handles that “connection to something larger” longing that we naturally have (being human). When an atheist uses Atheism to replace the “connection to something larger” they previously had in a theistic religion, religion just happened to them again. A religion without belief in God(s). I go into more detail as to why I think Atheism is a religion in [my last post].