I consider myself an atheist, in the sense that I have no relationship with or belief in any type of anthropomorphic god. I believe there is plenty about this existence that is outwith the capacity for human understanding, much of that falling into a category that might best be described with that muddy and imprecise word "spiritual," but I am, for all intents and purposes, an atheist.
That said, I have respect for those who are religious, as long as they don't wield it like a weapon and regard my beliefs with the same respect I extend to them—a reciprocity generally determined by one’s opinion about whether religion belongs in the public sphere. Once it starts creeping beyond privacy and into a place where I am expected to conform to religion’s expectations of its adherents, that’s when the problems begin.
There have been a lot of problems with just that sort of invasiveness lately, and, consequently, the intensity of the response of the nonreligious to such incursions has escalated. To that end, the Green Knight, a liberal Christian blogger, whose contributions on religious topics are invaluable, has written an interesting piece on the intolerance of the Left toward religion, questioning, quite fairly, whether much of the contempt shown toward religion (and, by association, religious people, irrespective of their politics) was birthed by possible injustices meted out by the religious (or just plain old intellectual snobbery), and noting, quite rightly, that we’re going to have to excise those demons if we don’t want to alienate potential allies.
It’s a dialogue we need to have on the Left; undeniably there is a backlash against religion as a result of the insurgence of religiously driven wingnuttery that has become such a prominent part of the national debate, but many liberals have become incapable of tolerating the merest presence of godspeak. And not all religious people are intolerant; indeed, some of the kindest, most inclusive, most welcoming people I’ve known have been devoutly religious, letting a belief in God inform a rare and wonderful empathy, rather than narrowly construe their boundaries of acceptance into something odiously judgmental and unrecognizable as an intention of the tenets of any major religion. It is tempting, and easy, to cast the religious in together as a uniform lot, especially when the most vitriolic of their numbers are the ones who seem to have the loudest voices. But good godly people dissociate themselves from that garbage, and we should be willing to do the same.