Here is the definition of religion as given by Dictionary.com:
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one’s vow.
So how does atheism fit in to this definition?
I am going to focus this post on point 2 “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: “. Many atheists will say “I do not believe in the existence of any god, so I am not religious”, but that statement in it self is a religious statement. You still have to have a belief that there is no god, that is a belief that is “generally agreed upon by a number of persons”. But too often atheists rage against religion to the point that they refuse to say anything that will associate themselves with what they hate.
The interesting part is I do not see myself as a religious person. Sure I read the Bible daily, listen to sermons on my mp3 player and attend church worship service on Sunday but there has come to be a very negative climate around someone who is religious that I am guilty of the same crime of denial as atheists. I view my own practices as following Christ and his teachings and not as following the Christian religion. So I can sympathise with the atheist that does this.
There is also the avoidance on behalf of the atheist to be lumped on the side of religion in the debate of “religion vs science”. Of course this is a strawman argument. Religion has nothing against science, in fact Christ encourages His followers to understand His creation and how the things of the world work which is the pure definition of science. Atheists again deny their beliefs are part of a religion so they can continue this method of denying creation.
Atheists have shown they have a set of beliefs and practices that set themselves apart as a social group. They have organizes meetings to discuss what it means to be an atheist and how to further their cause through educating the public of what they stand for. Lately they have stepped up efforts to convert others to their cause, bus signs and billboards. There are books about what it means to be an atheist and how to relate to others. There is every sign that atheism is an organized religion and should get all the freedoms that any other religion gets, and the restrictions.