Religion is defined as:
“1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing amoral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.”
Science is defined as:
2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.”
People who claim to hold Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist beliefs enjoy special privileges under the law. They can demand special treatment at work to accommodate their beliefs. They can refuse to partake in activities that conflict with their beliefs. They can demand that other people alter and censor their behavior in their presence so as not to offend their religion. Religious organizations can still operate tax-free and pay their board of directors as much as they want.The military even hires chaplains to provide ethical and emotional guidance to believers and provides deceased soldiers with free tombstones in the shape of religious symbols.
Getting a religion legally recognized is a serious thing. The freedoms and advantages it gives to organizations and individuals effectively put them in a higher class of citizenship than those who can’t claim a legal religion on a human resource form. This leaves atheists and agnostics at a disadvantage in society. To a small but significant degree, atheists and agnostics are literally second-class citizens to Christians, Muslims, Jews, Mormons and Hindus since they don’t have a religion. Yet if you look at the definition of “religion,” you’ll see most atheists and agnostics do practice a set of beliefs and customs that are very compatible with that definition:
1: Science has a widely believed creation story
Scientists have used the scientific method to construct a far more elaborate and reliable explanation of the universe than any religious prophet. The scientific creation story has been printed in countless books that are sold in the nonfiction section of bookstores. Granted, we don’t know exactly how it all started, but we know more about the big bang than we know about Jesus. The point is that anyone who adheres to a scientific understanding of the universe holds beliefs on par with religion. Why should atheists and agnostics be punished for believing in an explanation of the universe that has independently verifiable evidence to back it up?
2: Science has widely practiced unique rituals, rites, and customs
Every religious organization has rituals, rites, and customs that define them as a unique and identifiable culture. So do scientists. By following the scientific method, scientist from different countries, who speak different languages, can collaborate on solving extremely complex problems. Science students and entry-level professional scientists get crash courses on using the scientific method to ensure conformity of behavior. These are uniquely identifiable behavior patterns that fit the legal definition of a religious organization.
3: Science has a “divine” language.
Theists may argue a belief system can’t be recognized as religious if it doesn’t have a book written by God. Though not all scientists would say math is the language of God, many have. Math is a collection of truths that predate humanity, which scientists discovered and transcribed into books. Regardless of if you believe math is the language of God, science textbooks still fit the same legal criteria religions use to justify their holy books as worthy of special honors, setting a legal precedent that science books deserve the same treatment.
4: Science has widely practiced codes of ethics.
The members of scientific organizations go to great lengths to incorporate consistent ethical values into their lives. Those organizations themselves will fire members who don’t live up to their organizational bylaws. So people live, prosper, suffer and die by secular ethical codes written in books that are already endorsed by the government.
According to the definitions of the terms “religion” and “science,” and the precedents set by protected religious groups, science should be recognized as an official religion for the purpose of honoring the rights, privileges, and freedoms due to practitioners of those beliefs and behaviors. If you think this is nit-picking and anal and not that big of a deal, then you should have no problem letting this insignificant little issue get passed into law. Or maybe we should just stop pampering people because they believe in fairy tales and let everybody be equal under the eyes of the law.