I suppose I'm what the media calls a "new atheist"--I'm an atheist and I advocate for atheist causes. Many people see opposing religion as the primary atheist cause. But in my case, this is not entirely accurate. I oppose many religions, but I don't know that there is anything wrong with religion per se.
oppose most religions I see around me, for many reasons. Faith is seen
as a virtue. Supernaturalism is encouraged. Voices from ancient
societies are thought to have moral authority. Special privilege and
admiration is given to people who happen to enjoy ritual or awe (not
that there is anything wrong with enjoying those things). And of course
religious people systematically advocate many specific causes that I
oppose, such as Creationism and abstinence-only sex education.
I don't think any of these are essential properties of
religion. Perhaps you think that at least some of them are
essential--for example, many people think that if there are no
supernatural beliefs, then it's not a religion. But even so, you can
certainly imagine a religion that places a much lower value on faith,
does not value ancient morality, and does not advocate such terrible
political causes; I would oppose this hypothetical religion far less
To make the hypothetical more concrete, what if I moved to
some part of Asia? I know very little about how religion interacts
with society on the other side of the world. In that situation, I would
tentatively still oppose religion, but it would be a kind of shallow
opposition until I learned more about the specific harms caused by
religion in that culture.
Even in the US, there are some "religions" that I have
little to no problem with: Unitarian Universalism, Secular Judaism, and
the Sunday Assembly.
I put religion in scare
quotes because I've heard many atheists argue that these are not
religions. There are likely reasonable arguments to be had about the
best definition of religion, but my impression is that atheists are
using motivated reasoning; they want to be able to say concisely that they oppose religion, so they're motivated to argue that things they do not oppose do not count as religion.
I don't think it's useful to get too attached to any
particular definition of religion--if you're interacting with UU people
(who see themselves as having a religion), would you rather argue with
them about what counts as a religion, or would you rather work together
on more productive causes? (Disclosure: my boyfriend is ex-UU.)
Another advantage is that no one can cheat their way out of criticism.
If you say you're spiritual but not religious, maybe because you have a
personal relationship with Jesus but don't participate in any churches,
that doesn't give you an out. If you think that my atheism is a
religion, I think you're really stretching the definition, but also it
doesn't matter. If there appeared an atheist organization that had a
hierarchical structure and performed rituals and sermons in a church, it
could more plausibly be called a religion, but that still wouldn't make
TL;DR: I oppose the major religions in my present society,
but I am unwilling to generalize to everything in the world, present or
future, which could plausibly be called a religion.