For reference, we'll be discussing "Western Atheism". As a disclaimer, I make no supposition that "All" of any group of
individuals are "All" the same or "All" believe the same way. For the
purpose of debating this subject it's necessary to establish that in
this context, "Atheists" is a reference to the prominent leaders (And the numbers that maintain their belief) in Atheism in Western Culture today: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Michael Shermer and Peter Singer. Understanding that there are individuals out there who do not necessarily believe the same way that the individuals listed above do, we're going to discuss prominent Atheism as the majority and not the exception to the group.
The case for the assertion that Atheism can be viewed as a Religion can be found in an answer that an Atheist might have for the question "Are you a Christian"?
An Atheist might answer with, "No, I'm an Atheist".
When asked "Are you a Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu"? An Atheist may answer the same, "No, I'm an Atheist".
This is indicative that being an Atheist is analogous to being a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist. On the same hand this also suggests that Atheism is analogous to Christianity, Islam or Buddhism. In layman's terms, Atheism can be viewed as comparable to Religion.
To make this further evident we should ask ourselves the following:
1. What does Atheism have in common with Religion?
a. They have their own worldview: Materialism: The theory of belief that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications. Atheists interpret all data within the worldview of materialism. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/materialismhttp://strangenotions.com/nothings-the-matter-with-atheistic-materialism/
b. They have their own Orthodoxy : Authorized or generally accepted theories, doctrines, or practices. Atheists maintain that everything can be explained as the product of unintentional, non-directed, purposeless evolution. No truth claim is acceptable if it cannot be subjected to scientific scrutiny.https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/orthodoxy
c. They have their own Apostasy: To abandon one's former religious faith. Antony Flew was one of the world's most prominent Atheists before he changed his mind. He was vilified by Richard Dawkins and the New Atheist Movement and was accused of "Tergiversation" (Changing one's loyalties; abandoning a belief or principle).http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2009/09/eminent-atheist-changes-his-mind-the-antony-flew-story/https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/tergiversate
d. They have their own messiah: Charles Darwin. In thew views of the New Atheist Movement, Charles Darwin destroyed Theism by providing the explanation of life that doesn't require God as a cause or explanation.
e. They have their own preachers and evangelists: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett. These Men aren't out there to ask that Atheism be given respect, they're looking for converts and calling for the end of Theism.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Atheism
f. They have faith: God cannot be proven or refuted, to deny it takes faith. Evolution cannot account for why our universe is orderly, predictable or measurable. Evolutionary theory has no rational explanation for why we have rational explanation. The source of our self-awareness, the source of our consciousness, the universal sense of right and wrong...none of these things can be accounted for with any degree of rationality by Atheists and so faith steps in.http://strangenotions.com/do-atheists-have-faith/
Now as to the meaning of Religion. While I admit in the past I have held strictly conservative views on the meanings of words, I concede that context is the supreme ruler of communication in that the meaning of a word can change not only over time, but by how people use them. It's still worthwhile to respect our socially accepted meaning of a word before attempting to build a case around it.
1. The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or Gods.
1.1 [count noun
] A particular system of faith and worship.
1.2 [count noun
] A pursuit or interest followed with great devotion.
To summarize, one could say that if something is Religious, then that something is concerning, related to or regarding God(s). Atheism is a direct position against the existence of God(s). While distinctions are firmly in place between Atheism and traditional Religious practices, the hallmarks of Religion are observable within the Atheist community and those are:
1. Faith based belief.
2. Ritualistic acts
3. Moral code with supernatural origin
4. A worldview and organization of one's life based upon such
5. A social group bound together by the above
To clarify,1). Atheism is faith based as I've mentioned before, there is no proving or disproving God and therefor any belief or disbelief is faith based at some point. 2). Atheists apply the materialistic worldview to all data as a matter of rigorous practice. 3). Atheists have admitted openly to having a moral code which comes off more often than not as "I don't need God to be good" but since Morality is beyond scientific understanding...it's supernatural.https://www.thoughtco.com/defining-the-characteristics-of-religion-250679
For these reasons I contend that Atheism is a Religion, a Religion unlike any other but a Religion none-the-less.