If one spends much time amongst online atheists, one is likely to come across the definition of atheism as:
A lack of belief in God or gods.
I like to point out that two of the gods commonly worshiped in the ancient world were the sun and the moon. The response to this I get is usually some version of saying that atheists believe in the sun and moon, just not that they have an intellect or will.
I usually don’t pursue this any further because it is obvious that the original definition is not really what’s meant, but it is actually a topic worth considering why it is that the atheists don’t worship the sun and the moon.
After all, it’s not like the ancients actually thought that the sun was literally the wheels on a chariot—all you have to do is look at the sun and you’ll notice no chariot that’s even bigger than it, nor a man significantly taller than the wheel above it. You would see those things if they were literally there. Of course much of what’s misunderstood by modern atheists is that the poets of the ancient world were not the scientists of the ancient world, but the comic book writers of the ancient world (and TV writers, etc). They weren’t trying to explain the world, they were trying to tell cool stories. This explains why they followed the rule of cool so often. I guarantee you that in Hesiod’s Theogeny when he said that the sky bedded with the earth to produce the titans, the ancient Greeks did think that this was a history of a giant air penis thrusting into the earth.
But leaving aside whether the ancients who weren’t poets actually thought that the sun was intelligent, they did certainly think that the sun was very powerful. Because it obviously was. The sun is responsible for life on the surface of the earth, and not infrequently for death on the surface of the earth. The sun is enormous and powerful and we depend on it. Why shouldn’t an atheist worship it?
And here we get to one of the really interesting things about atheists which the noisy minority often called the new atheists tends to completely miss. Most atheists do worship something. For a great many of them, it’s humanity, or society, or science, or the state; but whatever is the object of their worship, they are clearly religious about it. They are generally not organized in their religious observance, so it’s easy to miss as no rituals have yet been codified, but it only takes a few minutes of watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey to recognize that you’re watching an atheist’s televised sunday worship service. Marxists are of course notorious for worshiping the state; so much so that even new atheists accuse them of it—if, granted, in order to get around admitting the many atrocities these atheist regimes committed.
Much has been commented on how the New Atheists weren’t really all that new, but in fact they did bring one new thing to the table: they don’t understand human nature even a little bit. They actually thought that most human beings can exist without religious observance. In consequence, it never occurred to them that it might be a good idea to formalize it, so that good—or at least harmless—ideas crowd out the bad ideas. Worshiping the sun and the stars has its dangers, but they’re very small compared to worshiping the state. The New Atheist movement was doomed from its inception because it really was the absurd attempt to get rid of religion. You can’t get rid of religion. You can only pick what religion will predominate. If you take away God, men will worship gods, and if you take away even the gods, men will worship far worse things.