Re: Is atheism a religion?
This is a question I think about a lot. Materialism is the philosophy that only matter exists. That means in principle the fundamental existence of all real things is material. The problem that arises is to explain the existence of spirit and concept. For example, linguistic events have material causal effects, operating purely through conceptual processes, such as when someone does what they are told.
While in theory it may make sense to say the conceptual cause rests upon material causes, in practice the gulf between concept and object appears to be a difference of type. Spiritual freedom exercises autonomy from its material substrate, with the hypothetical causal connections between matter and spirit so complex as to be effectively infinite in complexity.
An example of this complexity is the presence of the past. People's identity is constructed in imagination based on myriad past influences. All these influences come together in the concept of soul as defining an enduring but intangible personal identity.
The material connections between present action or identity and past influences certainly cannot be discerned in any exhaustive way, whereas seeing the influence of the past in purely conceptual and spiritual terms can often generate plausible understanding. Materialism is not sufficient to explain history, although reductive accounts such as class struggle provide important information. The sense of subjective inner meaning within spiritual ideas has to be respected alongside material explanations.
As a broad example of the problem, I regard the influences of astronomical beliefs on ancient religion as ultimately requiring material explanation based on evidence and logic, in the sense that these causal processes are entirely within our physical world rather than caused by any supernatural entity. Even if the spiritual belief seems completely separate from material causes, that does not mean in principle that anything actually exists that is not material. This question of whether anything exists other than matter is a bit like asking whether there are other universes, plausible but of limited use. In principle it seems logical to say only matter exists, for example at the level of Einstein's equation between matter and energy.
There is a strong ethical dimension to materialist atheism with its insistence that all claims be justified by evidence and logic, which function as supreme moral principles. The problem is that decisions require value judgements which can never be fully explained in material terms, even where the material cause of a decision seems obvious.