Dawkin’s paper got me thinking about when people tell me that Atheism is basically a religion. Ever since I have identified as an Atheist I’ve been going back and forth about whether I think of it as religion-like or not. There’s obviously no deity involved or services I attend weekly, there’s no specific book I turn to when I have a problem I need to solve. But I do think I live my life according to my beliefs. I know that this is the only life I have so I better live it well. I want to leave the world a better place than when I entered it. However, I’m not sure if living life in compliance to one’s beliefs is adequate criteria to define a belief as a religion. I could see someone taking this idea as everyone with a shared belief is a part of the same religion, which is completely untrue, and that’s where I’m stuck.
As of right now I’m leaning towards Atheism not being like a religion in part because of Dawkin’s paper. I agree that we use science to explain similar things, like when the world began and how. And a lot of religion is explaining how the world was created. But just because a lot of religions have stories explaining the beginning of the world doesn’t mean that every religion needs to have an explanation, or that everything that explains creation is a religion. But you don’t even have to agree with evolution or science to be an Atheist so you can’t really claim that Atheism has an explanation for the beginning of the world.
I also think that a large part of religion is the emotional factor of it. Dawkins briefly talks about how religion consoles people and gives them hope. Atheism doesn’t do anything remotely like this. It kind of does the exact opposite; when you die you go in the ground or burn to ashes, that’s not very comforting. Religions tend to make you less scared of death or a little less sad about a loved one passing knowing that they are in a better place. But maybe there are exceptions to every rule, and that every religion doesn’t have to be comforting in which case Atheism could fall in that category. Or maybe Atheism is actually comforting if you look into it more. I find knowing that my beliefs are based on fact and logic is comforting. There’s not much that can disappoint me, I won’t be expecting big pearly white gates and all my deceased loved ones waiting for me when I die, so if that doesn’t happen I won’t be disappointed when I die and I really do just go in the ground (but then again I’ll be dead so I won’t be feeling anything).
In general I’ve come to the conclusion that religion is something so personal and at times so unexplainable that I think defining it doesn’t really matter. If you think what you believe is a religion then it is one, my opinion of whether your beliefs are valid doesn’t matter. Religion is what you want it to be.