I confess that I get irritated just reading that: "Is atheism a religion?" Well, if you twist the definition of religion to a sufficient degree, my love of dogs and your fondness for chocolate could well be a religion too. But the New York Times blog "Room for debate" is running a series on atheism, with that title. In it, there are contributors from the atheism and the religion side as well. In reality what they are asking is not whether atheism is a religion but rather whether atheism can replace religion, as a community. Many are well known, such as Penn Jillette, Jason Thorpy from the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, as well as Christian thinkers (one of whom is so unoriginal as to claim that atheism "kills mystery"). Read the blog, it's though-provoking, and it is a good sign that in the US, atheism is no longer an irrelevant force or philosophical position. Read the reader's comments, too, some of them are very good.
Here are some excerpts to whet your appetite:
Atheism is the absence of religion. We don’t really need atheism. We just need to get rid of religion.
It doesn’t matter whether atheism is a religion, and atheism doesn’t have to replace religion. What matters is that we as a society of many beliefs can welcome and embrace atheists as a newly visible part of the diversity in America.
Cord Jefferson (Editor at Gawker)
Unfortunately, a great number of atheists do seem to cling to heterodoxy the way the most toxic of believers cling to orthodoxy, turning their irreverence into a stubborn religion unto itself. These are the people you see in online forums calling churchgoers “morons” or “brainless,” displaying the same hubristic arrogance they claim to despise when it comes from the other side. Still, I think the lion’s share of the new era of atheists understand that atheism should be less about the degradation of religion and more about a celebration of the power and potential of the human being sans any omnipotent higher authority.