Regarding the claim that fanatical atheism is a religion, that's just bad usage of english/abuse of english. Religion requires more than fanaticism; they're not synonyms.... Religion also requires a belief in a superior non-physical power (God/Karma/Tao), which is attributed with meting out cosmic justice, creating the cosmos, intervening in the cosmos, plus the having of rituals and sacraments, sacred texts, places of common worship, priests, a mythos, unquestioning faith. Using the word "Religion" to describe, for example, sports fanaticism, is really just a _metaphor_. Taking the meaning of religion seriously in attributing religiosity to sports fanaticism is as silly as taking it seriously when you say that "such and such politician is a snake". We know perfectly well that politicians are not literally _squamata_ even though they share many characteristics in common (deceptiveness, soulless eyes, etc). _All_ the required characterstics have to be present. So, atheism has in common with religion only fanaticism - and that is true only of Dawkins' New Atheism; it's not true of say, David Hume. Atheism, even the New Atheism, does not have a belief in a superior power, nor any sacraments, sacred texts, places of common worship, mythos, faith, etc. A priest is someone who promulgates the practices and mythos of a religion; so, since Atheism has none of those, Dawkins doesn't count as a priest. He's merely an advocate of the scientific method, or at best a fanatic about the scientific method. So let's not abuse English like the Baptists do, please.
Most importantly, there's nothing in atheism that requires faith; its precise point is that it requires you to take NOTHING on faith. This ridiculous claim - that atheism is a faith - is made by the devout in their ignorant discussions of atheism, and it completely misunderstands the point. They think that being excited about a point of view constitutes a religion, because in their dim minds, there's nothing required more than being excited and clapping ones hands.
I realise that simpletons that follow the world's religions do tend to take everything literally, and I am sure they also literally believe that Jesus existed, Santa exists, toothfairies exist, etc., but you know, not everyone takes everything literally. So please stop saying that atheism is a religion: it's not. It lacks sufficient properties to be a religion.
It seems to me that the argument that "atheism is also a religion" is a postmodernist or sociologist argument. It argues that the New Atheism is a religion because it functions like a religion because it:
a) has favoured texts, such as Origin of Species and The God Delusion (Bible)
b) has chief advocates, such as Dawkins, Harris et al (Pope)
c) brings people together with a common belief and purpose (Church)
d) attacks opposing beliefs (Persecutes)
That's all very well, but even then, the New Atheism is a closer analogue with political movements. For all that, you may as well claim that Communism is a religion or the French Revolution is a religion, because all the above are true of Communism and the French Revolution.
Let's not muck with English. New Atheism just isn't a religion. It's a sociological movement, like suffragettism, the hippie movement, communism, fascism, democracy, egalitarianism, etc etc.
What we're really witnessing with the New Atheism is a backlash against the final abuses of religion. We're in the throes of a new Reformation. Just as the Islamic world has gone thru a Reformation and split into Sunni/Shiite, like the West split Catholic/Protestant, we're now entering the new phase where the conflict is Belief/Nonbelief. And if Marx is right, a new result of the competition between antithesis and thesis, will be a new synthesis.
What that new synthesis will be, who knows? Maybe esoterica? Maybe pantheism?
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