In a post I wrote entitled The Cult-like Culture of Atheism I wrote the following:
There is, indeed, something cult-like about some atheists (note that I said "some" -- it is certainly not true of all atheists, and this article is not intended to accuse each and every atheist of acting cult-like). That, however, is not surprising since atheism -- whether atheists will ever accept the truth of this or not -- is a religion, and every religion develops cults.
Atheism has its beliefs about God (i.e, there is no god or gods) and its beliefs that are part of the core understanding of the world. It has a grand metaphysical story which many of the true believers of atheists defend with all of the ardour of the most firm believer of any faith. Some atheists try to differentiate between religion and atheism on the basis that atheism lacks some of the ritual that religions have. For example, some argue that atheists don't worship anything so it can't be a religion, but that is a side-issue. Of course atheists don't worship a god who isn't there, but it is their faith in their unproven belief that there is no God, god or gods that is the religion. To the extent that atheists order their lives around that principal they are acting religiously. So, while it is true that atheists don't have a place of worship, i.e, there isn't a "church" of atheism, they prove their religious devotion when they go to places where they share their faith such as the discussion boards at the Internet Infidels website.
Several atheists denied this, and after reading an article earlier this morning, I now admit that I was wrong. There actually is a "church" of atheism. According to Time Magazine in an article entitled Sunday School for Atheists, atheists (excuse me, that's humanists) in Palo Alto, Phoenix and my own backyard of Albuquerque have started their own Sunday School for children to learn morality.
But some nonbelievers are beginning to think they might need something for their children. "When you have kids," says Julie Willey, a design engineer, "you start to notice that your co-workers or friends have church groups to help teach their kids values and to be able to lean on." So every week, Willey, who was raised Buddhist and says she has never believed in God, and her husband pack their four kids into their blue minivan and head to the Humanist Community Center in Palo Alto, Calif., for atheist Sunday school.
An estimated 14% of Americans profess to have no religion, and among 18-to-25-year-olds, the proportion rises to 20%, according to the Institute for Humanist Studies. The lives of these young people would be much easier, adult nonbelievers say, if they learned at an early age how to respond to the God-fearing majority in the U.S. "It's important for kids not to look weird," says Peter Bishop, who leads the preteen class at the Humanist center in Palo Alto. Others say the weekly instruction supports their position that it's O.K. to not believe in God and gives them a place to reinforce the morals and values they want their children to have.
The pioneering Palo Alto program began three years ago, and like-minded communities in Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore., plan to start similar classes next spring. The growing movement of institutions for kids in atheist families also includes Camp Quest, a group of sleep-away summer camps in five states plus Ontario, and the Carl Sagan Academy in Tampa, Fla., the country's first Humanism-influenced public charter school, which opened with 55 kids in the fall of 2005. Bri Kneisley, who sent her son Damian, 10, to Camp Quest Ohio this past summer, welcomes the sense of community these new choices offer him: "He's a child of atheist parents, and he's not the only one in the world."
If atheists cannot see how that is just another step on the road to finally recognizing themselves as a religion then they really need to think a little bit more about how they act.