Atheism is a religion?

A couple of weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled that an atheist discussion group in prison must be treated the same as religious discussion groups.

The ruling clarified an earlier ruling that prisons don’t get to define religion as “some really large denomination I’ve heard of.” If the prison gives special privileges to Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups, then they they must accord the same privileges to Wiccans, Native American spirituality and even Satanists.

There was a flaw in that ruling, though, which was quickly pointed out by atheists. The Supreme Court ruling gave religious inmates special privileges not open to non-religious inmates. Prison is a deadly dull place. Religious services are something to do. They break the monotony and provide something interesting to focus on. Attendance at a religious observance is viewed as a privilege and a treat. If you are non-religious, though, you were automatically disqualified from attending such observances. That inequity has now been corrected.

This latest ruling has been spun by Christian Right organizations as proving once and for all that atheism is a religion. That is a lie, of course. The ruling is only an attempt to provide equitable treatment of inmates in federal prisons.

Untroubled by morality, the Christian Right has previously promoted the lie that evolution is exactly the same thing as atheism. This new ruling has added legs to an old argument creationists have pushed for years: since evolution is exactly the same thing as atheism, atheism is being taught in public schools. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled atheism is a religion, schools either will be forced to give equal time to creationism or quit teaching evolution because it violates the Establishment Clause.

Slick. False and vicious, but slick.

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