I see the word spectrum a lot in online discussions. I think it’s a perfect word for when you’re trying to delineate between extremes and show there is a middle ground. Which is why I’m using it here to describe different atheist positions in terms of the utility, and overall negative/positive impact of religion.
It is a spectrum, as are most ideological positions, ranging from atheists who are outright religious apologists (Douglas Murray, Steve Shives, ect.) to atheists who cannot countenance even the slightest positive word on religion. (Daniel Dennet, Richard Dawkins, ect.) The disconnect I’m seeing is coming more from the later than the former.
Let me clarify something. I’m not referring to athiesm as an ideology here. I believe the lack of belief definition for atheism is the best definition for atheism in general, though I find that people have much more subjective definitions for their personal atheist experience. I, for example, do not lack a belief, but actively disbelieve in any God. There is no God. That’s my stance. So the broad definition doesn’t apply to me. By ideological stance I mean the position on the utility of religion.
Amongst anti-thiests there seems to be a reluctance to see any spectrum at all. It seems that any deviance from the strict anti-religious position anti-thiests hold is often met with open hostility, such as Reece’s anti-thiesm or gtfo position. (Don’t get me wrong here, I respect Reece both for his content, and his unwavering principled stance. I just don’t agree.)
This leaves people in different areas of the spectrum feeling disenfranchised to say the least. It also lends to the idea that there is something inherently dogmatic and fundamentalist about the anti-thiest position in general. I tend to see anti-thiesm and pro-theism as polar opposite positions on the same spectrum. We all agree there is likely no God, but cannot come to terms on what level of relevance religion has, if any, in modern society.
This is not to say that the pro-religious, cultural Christian group do not pose a problem to the movement also. They certainly do, such as lending credence and credulity to an oppressive system of thought that, in my humble opinion we would be well better without. And these people need to be called out for that, with no quarter asked and none given, but an out of the closet atheist expressing trepidation at calling religion all bad, in every possible way, all the time is not synonymous with the aforementioned group. It just isn’t. That said, I don’t see pro-theists to be as great of a threat to group cohesion as many of the anti-thiests in the movement.
I’ve often heard that creating an atheist movement is tantamount to herding cats. While this may be true in the present, I don’t believe it need be true forever.
Look at the modern Christian movement. It should be impossible. Once upon a time these were groups of people who viewed themselves not as Christian, but as Pentecostal, Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, and so on. They viewed each other with distrust, and disgust, reacting with violence, to the point of burning each other for heresy. Yet here we are in the 21st century dealing with Christians united in nondenominational groups that are pushing hard for their values in government and society at large, and they outnumber us on a ridiculous level. Why? They have a common enemy: the modern, secular, liberal movement. If we want to make changes in society, and increase liberal values, we will have to find a way to emulate the faithful and put aside our differences for our common goals. In my opinion (and all of this is opinion) the disconnect between anti-thiests, and…well everyone else is the biggest stumbling block to achieving that.