When I answer with Atheism to the question: “What religion are you?” I often get responses like, “Atheism isn’t a religion; it is the absence of religion.” Mike Newdow handles the topic pretty well in a sermon presented to his church, the First Amendment Church of True Science. While I’m not going to regurgitate everything that he has said so far, I am going to focus on a separate issue, with this being that Atheism should be considered a religion, else Atheists will have fundamentally less rights than America’s traditionally religious folk.
Let us assume that I, Christopher Robert Prokop, want to get into the business of murdering children by means of abstaining from vaccinations, like our good friends the Christian Scientists. Under many state’s laws, people are allowed religious exemption rights if a government policy explicitly violates the codes of their religion (in the Christian Science case, it is the rejection of germ theory, the most important, experimentally verifiable development in biology of the past millennia). In this case, Christian Scientists fundamentally have a choice, and thus more rights, in a situation where other religions do not. This rule exists in many different permutations, but if your ideology isn’t divinely inspired, you are shit out of luck. As a fundamental rule, Atheists have less rights than mystical religions; how can this problem be solved? The first step is demanding all basic rules that religions get and apply them to the non-theistic beliefs. The morality of Secular Humanists, Agnostics, and Atheists still deserve the same respect that Christians, Muslims, and Hindu get.
The other breaking point is tax exemptions. When people spend their time frightening impressionable youths with tales of fire and sodomy, they get rewarded by the government with a tax exemption. Meanwhile, if I were to preach the word of immorality, personal freedom, and logic, my paltry income would still be taxed. Why are organizations founded in faith and dogmatism viewed as more worthy of tax exemptions than those that require open discussion and the development of ideas? If those dependent upon Houses of God, Allah, or Zysnarch can take their income tax free, then so should the International House of Prokop.
All non-theists, not just Atheists, deserve the same benefits that believers receive. If this requires labeling your belief system as a ‘religion’, so be it. It does nobody any good to waive fundamental rights over semantics.