I recently quit a message board I had belonged to for close to a decade because of the religious arguments. With some irony I'll state that it was my fellow atheists who drove me away with their condescention and intolerance. You know; those traits that atheists most often ascribe to the religious.
I want a new movement in atheism. One that is not 'angry' at god or church, one that is not condescending, one that can speak without rancor or snark with those who believe in God. When Christopher Hitchens titles a chapter of God is Not Great "Is Religion Child Abuse?" he is clearly preaching to the choir and not interested in any sort of discussion. How can we establish a meaningful dialog with our neighbors if we do not respect them? Are we so certain of our purpose that we cannot even allow people to practice as they wish? That we must tear them down when discussing religion? Because zeal and fanaticism like that might be mistaken for a crusade.
Now, I'm not against rigorous discussion and even argument when necessary. That's fine. But it would be nice if it could be done without the words idiot, fool, stupid, or ignorant getting thrown around so liberally. Because that's exactly what intolerant people do, and if you adopt their play book, you are one and the same with the religious intolerant.
If we cannot respect religions, then is our intent to destroy them? Mine certainly is not. I believe the vast majority of religious folk work quietly toward what good they can. The loud-mouthed are not the majority, and not representative of any group as a whole. It is my firm belief that religion helps people to live better lives. The accusation that it does not seems to come most often from atheists who have not contributed to a charity in years.
And ultimately, it doesn't matter. We have our lives, and then we are dead. If we are right and there is no afterlife, and no one will be able to gloat over anyone. And that's the joke, isn't it? Atheists seem to believe themselves somehow stonger because they live without the 'crutch' of religion (I do not believe religion is a crutch, but that's a discussion for another time). But if the religious are good people and happier durng their lifetimes than atheists, well the joke's on us.