Look up the definition of religion in the dictionary and you’ll discover several definitions under the one word. Here is one in particular: “something one believes in and follows; a point or matter of ethics or conscience.” When the concept of religion comes to mind I’m sure most people think in terms of an organized, specific, and fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a group of people or sects. But it occurred to me that with the above definition in mind everyone has a religion. Ask an atheist what his/her religion is and he/she will tell you, “I’m an atheist.” All religion really is, is a system of beliefs. But whether a person defines their beliefs by a known system such as Christianity, Paganism, Buddhism or Islam, or uses more abstract and vague terms to describe their own unique set of beliefs, or whether one flatly denies the existence of a higher power (this, I may never understand, although I am humbled by humanity’s endless diversity), how one views the nature of reality is really one’s religion.
There is certainly a substantial amount of unfavorable attention that has been had concerning the subject: Jihads and holy wars, hypocrisy, superstition, fear, fanaticism, ignorance, blind acceptance, self-righteousness, rigidity, inquisitions, dogmatism, cruelty, prejudice, persecution, animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, book-burning, witch hunts, conformity, morbid guilt, insanity, even genocide just to list some that fall under the broad spectrum of atrocities committed and conditions endured for the sake of religion.
How is it, I wonder, that an atheist might have a more highly developed sense of Christian morality, for example, than say, a Catholic who routinely attends mass or a Protestant who is faithfully attends church? The problem is not religion, the problem is people. People tend to be dogmatic. An atheist can be just as dogmatic about unbelief as a believer can about belief. Therefore, it is not religion or beliefs that we need to shake off, it is dogmatism.