I have long argued that there is a difference between atheism and anti-theism, a movement that is not so much atheist as anti-religion. You know, Dawkins and his ilk. I have little time for people who define as atheists just to bash religion. Fine, faith not your bag. No problem, but what's it to you if some people spend Sunday in a cloud of incense?
Reza Aslan is on the same page :
What Harris, Dawkins and their ilk are preaching is a polemic that has been around since the 18th century – one properly termed, anti-theism.
The earliest known English record of the term “anti-theist” dates back to 1788, but the first citation of the word can be found in the 1833 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary, where it is defined as “one opposed to belief in the existence of a god” (italics mine). In other words, while an atheist believes there is no god and so follows no religion, an anti-theist opposes the very idea of religious belief, often viewing religion as an insidious force that must be rooted from society – forcibly if necessary.....
Anti-theism is a relatively new phenomenon. But atheism is as old as theism itself. For wherever we find belief in gods we find those who reject such beliefs.....So where does the anti-theist come from?
[Scholars] trace the emergence of atheism as a distinct worldview to the end of the Enlightenment era, which, not coincidentally, is also the time that anti-theism first arose. The Enlightenment’s emphasis on skepticism, reason and scientific advancement posed a direct challenge to religion in general, and Christianity in particular.But here's the kicker:
That makes sense when you consider that Christianity was not only the sole religion with which many Enlightenment thinkers had any familiarity. It was an all-encompassing political presence in the lives of most Europeans, which is why the atheism of the Enlightenment was grounded less in denying the existence of God than in trying to liberate humanity from religion’s grip on earthly power.And that's the crux. Once Christianity became entangled in the power of the State, resistance to that power became entangled in the language of belief.
[I]n the century that followed the Enlightenment, a stridently militant form of atheism arose that merged the Enlightenment’s criticism of institutional religion with the strict empiricism of the scientific revolution to not only reject belief in God, but to actively oppose it. By the middle of the 19th century, this movement was given its own name – anti-theism – specifically to differentiate it from atheism.He points out that Stalin and Mao were not atheists, but anti-theists. A pushback against the identification of religion with power. And in our era, I think very much a pushback against fundamentalist Islam and fundamentalist CHristianity, with its own form of fundamentalism.
Like religious fundamentalism, New Atheism is primarily a reactionary phenomenon, one that responds to religion with the same venomous ire with which religious fundamentalists respond to atheism. What one finds in the writings of anti-theist ideologues like Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens is the same sense of utter certainty, the same claim to a monopoly on truth, the same close-mindedness that views one’s own position as unequivocally good and one’s opponent’s views as not just wrong but irrational and even stupid, the same intolerance for alternative explanations, the same rabid adherents (as anyone who has dared criticize Dawkins or Harris on social media can attest), and, most shockingly, the same proselytizing fervor that one sees in any fundamentalist community.Exactly. The anti-theists have a made a religion out of opposing religion. I know some of these people, and they burn with the fire of a fanatic in their opposition to religion. But by far the majroity of non-believers simply don't care.
One can certainly be both an atheist and an anti-theist. But the point is that the vast majority of atheists – 85 percent according to one poll – are not anti-theists and should not be lumped into the same category as the anti-theist ideologues that inundate the media landscape. (A diverse community being defined by its loudest voices? Imagine that). In fact, let’s stop calling New Atheism, “atheism,” and start calling it what it is: anti-theism.Here's the thing, though. The religious fundamentalists in the US punch way above their weight, and attempt to push their religious view into the secular polis. You know, opposing reproductive rights, LGBT rights, and environmental skepticism. This generates a backlash. We know that the largest increases in religious identity is the Nones, and we also know that the Dones are a looming class, those being the people who have left religion. Indeed, ex-Roman Catholics would be the 2nd or 3rd largest denomination in the country.
I'm not a fan of the New a(nti)theists, being a church-going atheist myself, but I certainly understand from whence comes their frustration.
Check this out for the 6 kinds of atheists.