The underlying humanity
I have many problems with any kind of religiosity. I think the intellectual lazyness nessesary for faith is a symptom of the worst tendancies in human nature. But this is all in spite of the solid fact that for the most part, I like the religious people I know. This is a simple extension of the fact that I like most of the people-in-general I know. I have a friend who I used to work with, whom I saw again recently, who is one of the nicest, most levelheaded people I know, who also happens to be one of the most openly christian people I've known. My grandparents, for whom I hold more admiration than for any other people on earth, attend church regularly and say prayers before meals. It is a fact I lose sight of sometimes in my anger towards the bad people of faith, that most people who call themselves religious aren't BAD. Huamn beings are, for the most part, selfish when they have to be and nice when they can. Religion, or its lack, doesn't say alot about how nice a person you are, or how generous, or how vigorous your intellect. Yes, I believe that more people should be atheists, that if people would just pay attention, they'd stop believing in that nasty old skydaddy and join those of us liberated from the supernatural, but it isn't happening. Most people don't care enough. They were raised with their beliefs, they are comforted by them, they don't feel compelled to do all that much outside their own inclinations by their beliefs- so why change, why put in the effort? I could argue with them- I have- but when I start to proselytize, I start to imitate one of the worst aspects of those I most despise on the other side- acting like I know better than other people what they should believe. When I don't. I don't know that my beliefs, though absolutely, without doubt grounded in fact, are the best beliefs for others. Maybe the idea of a friendly dude up in the sky provides enough in the way of psychological comfort to it's adherants to more than offset the nessesary fuzzy thinking. It's plausible.
Of course organized religion is still an enemy to be fought tooth and nail. When religion inflicts itself upon the public sphere its benefits drop away and its costs soar. It is only the private spirtual beliefs of regular people that should recieve immunity from intellectual attack. I sometimes feel like i'm hiding something shameful in not being an 'open' atheist at work, but here is the thing: I don't know the religious inclinations of most of my co-workers. It just doesn't come up. That is, I think, the ideal: religion has lost its importance in categorizing us, it's just something we do at home and with our families. Religion has become in effect what it was all along in principle: essentially meaningless in the judgement of others.