Evolution as a Religion
For as long as they have co-existed, evolution and religion have butted heads. Religions decry evolution as a farce and evolution, in turn, condemns religion for touting what they believe to be a wrong and ignorant argument. Ironically however, both evolution and religion have evolved to mimic one another in certain ways. In order to maintain and attract more followers (ie: survive), religion has changed and adapted (ie: evolved). Meanwhile, evolution has grown closer to becoming a religion.
Evolution and religion are simply two philosophies set on opposite sides of the spectrum. On the abstract end, there is the intangible-based religion and on the other, more concrete end, lies evolution, relying on the tangible. Just as faith feeds religion, its opposite, reason, sustains evolution. It is reasoning that drives evolution forward and allows it to change. If new evidence is discovered to dispute an argument of evolution, it is simply changed to suit the newfound proof. Religion, on the other hand, relies on faith to move forward-if evidence is found to dispute a belief, it is ignored. In both, change is a necessity-in evolution, because it as a theory in itself, requires that change occur as more evidence is discovered and in religion because as time and society changes, it must adapt to remain attractive to new and current prospects.
Like religion, evolution has its own set of advocates, or followers, and like religion, these followers spread across their own spectrum. There are those who are more towards the middle of the spectrum, finding a compromise between their faith and reason. Then, further away on either ends of the spectrum, there are the followers who, though they disagree with the other end, are willing to listen and be receptive to the thoughts or beliefs of the other spectrum. Lastly, there are those who remain on the extreme ends of the spectrum, closed to the arguments and points made by the other side. Being a part of the same spectrum, however, does not alone make evolution similar to religion.
The most defining aspect in deciding what is a religion and what is not is whether or not the theory argues for the existence of (a) diety(ies). This has been consistent with all religions. In ancient times, Egyptians worshipped Ra, Isis, Osiris and a host of other gods and goddesses and the Greeks and Romans worshipped Zeus, Hera, Athena, and others, though under different names. Today, Christianity and Catholicism have God, Islam has Allah, and Hinduism has Brahma, and, depending on one's interpretation, a host of other Gods and Goddesses as well. Although evolution itself does not have a deity, does not promote nor seek one, the theory in itself, or at least, its main principles of natural selection and evolution of species (old species giving way to new ones, common ancestry/descent, etc.) has somewhat become a deity. It has, in a sense, become the defining "face" of evolution, just as the major deities of other religions are the "faces" of their respective religions. As the existence of God(s) is not to be questioned in religion, neither are the main principles (the "deities") of evolution.
As theories, both religion and evolution are human creations. Somewhat ironically, both theories of human creation, when taken as a fact, created a system placing power beyond human control. However, humans continue to affect both religion and evolution, although in the end, they do not actually have control. Humans do not control the Gods (who arguably were created by humans and who, according to followers of their religion, created humans), nor do humans control evolution. Thing can be done to affect both-for instance, humans can affect evolution through technology (ex: antibiotics forcing bacteria to evolve to be resilient against it) and affect religion in the way they interpret the text(s) of the religion, by society changing so much that the religion changes to adapt to the situation (ex: Katharine Jeferts Schori became the first woman appointed to the position of a top bishop in the Episcopal Church in November, 2006), or, simply, by choosing to either follow a religion or not (although the effect is best seen when done in large numbers).
Furthermore, like religion, evolution offers closure in a sense. It helps to satisfy human curiosity by offering an answer to the unexplained (how did we come to be?), although it offers a different answer than that often provided by religion. In many religions, there exists an afterlife, offering humans hope that death is not the end. In a sense, evolution offers the same hope, though through a different manner. In passing on one's genes, one ensures that in a sense, one is "passed on," at least partly, to the next generation and so on. In both ideas, there is the sense that in death, a part of the person continues to exist.
In conclusion, evolution, though often seen as a threat to religion, has in a way, become a religion (or at least, very close to one). It has its followers and set of beliefs, and though what it presents as facts can be changed, the basic idea remains the same, as it does in religion. There may be no rituals involved, but in its own way, it has its Holy Text (studies, such as Darwin's studies and Gregory Mendel's study of genes), its own set of laws (natural selection, survival of the fittest, etc.), a "higher power" (main principles driving evolution), and of course, followers. Perhaps the only true difference between evolution and religion is that one seeks reason whereas the other seeks faith.
"A Statement Affirming Evolution as a Principle of Science." The American Humanist Association. <http://www.americanhumanist.org/about/affirming-evolution.html>
"A Woman is Installed as Top Episcopal Bishop." New York Times. 05 Nov 2006. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/05/us/05bishop.html?ex=1320382800&en=309e3ff237c2430e&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss>