In this essay, I have endeavored to take a sociological approach to the question of whether or not atheism possess the qualities of what it takes to be classified as a religion.
One of the difficulties of this task is that those identifying as atheists are seeking to differentiate themselves from what is established in their minds as a “religion”. The self-perception that they wish to embody is that, individually, they are not “religious”, and to do this they specifically deny what is perceived as and normally recognized as “religious”. However, taken sociologically—that is scientifically—atheism, at least as it presents itself as a cultural phenomenon, has become what it sought to destroy or, at least, deny.
Humans are inherently social creatures, and we do not operate as individuals, disconnected from one another; rather we operate as communities and–in order to function as productive members of communities–mechanisms are required to serve as the means to preserve and transmit the communal aspect. This can only be properly called “religion”.
Religion has been shown as the means to recognize and subtly communicate a variety of components necessary for the community to function, and it has been shown that atheism can also serve as a vehicle that can carry and transmit these components. Therefore atheism, when operating as a community-building mechanism, can be properly understood as a religion.
Again, the chief assertion herein has been that atheism itself is not a religion, but rather that the religious impulses of individuals are worked out under such headings result in atheism becoming a religion. Proper and coherent definitions of subjects serve to bring the matter wholly into line and demonstrate the fact that human beings are innately religious. And while a person may specifically deny being religious in one context, that reality will work itself out regardless.