Others still like scary movies. I read years ago that your body does not distinguish between fear and excitement. The biochemical responses are the same for both.
Are the biochemical processes significantly different for those raising their hands in a revival meeting from those doing the "wave" at a baseball game? Aren't they both just rooting for their team? Surely, just because one relates to the concept of "god" they couldn't claim their physical existence is different in any meaningful way. Do you think just because somebody handles snakes because he thinks "god" told him to his experience is special compared to some guy that likes to jump motorcycles? Why does the concept of "god" have to make any particular human activity any more special than any other?
Religion as a human activity is on the wane and has been for hundreds of years. With that waning, does it appear to you that people in general have become increasingly rational? One would think that with the great leaps forward in science and technology in the last four hundred years stuff like this wouldn't happen. How many of those riots were religiously motivated?
The most commonly understood meaning of the word religion does indeed refer to some supernatural component. But words mean what we want them to mean, unless you think that they are handed down to us by some supernatural being. The meanings of words change over time, and while the first definition of religion refers to a supernatural component, the second definition is much more secular in nature:
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.
The times, they are a changin'. For the last few thousand years religions that referred to some supernatural agency were the only game in town. If one wanted to engage in a communal ritual it involved a deity or you got to be guest of honor at a barbeque. But that was before the enlightenment, nationalism, the industrial revolution and memetics. I would like to see some evidence that human biology has changed in any meaningful way in response to the scientific and technological developments that have made it possible to think in terms of not believing in a deity. I think it unlikely a twenty first century human is fundamentally different from a fourteenth century human. Surely we didn't evolve into Spock in the last four hundred years. It is much more likely that we are redirecting the theistic impulse in directions that do not necessarily involve a deity. Like football.
Religion isn't special. It gets away with most of its shit because it has managed to convince us that it is more than simple brand loyalty. It ain't. We can learn about as much about honor, integrity, perseverance, and reciprocity from following a major league pennant race as from any religion.
Is atheism a religion? Well, it's an "ism". As I said, it could be a religion, but it wouldn't make a very good one. Atheists are cultural anarchists. If we could agree on some sort of practice of atheism as a religion it wouldn't last long. Religions have to affirm something. Atheism does exactly the opposite (depending on which degree of atheism we're talking about). Of course who said religion had to last thousands of years? For that matter, who said a religion had to have practitioners at all? Couldn't one be a non practicing atheist? There are non practicing Catholics. All you have to do is not show up at the meeting.
To my mind it's better to force religion to compete fairly in the marketplace of emotional activities rather than conferring upon it some sort of special status that separates it from what it has become - just another fucking product. Watching some religious muckety-muck weighing in on the moral issues of the day makes about much sense to me as George Steinbrenner leading devout Yankees fans in a march for the display of baseball monuments on government property. If making progress in forcing religion onto a level playing field involves calling atheism a religion, well, it might be worth it. If we can agree on what form the religion of atheism will take I can only hope it will have cheerleaders and lots of beer.
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