A friend and I have been discussing gnu atheism and various concomitant topics on a loooong Facebook thread recently. The following paragraphs have been lifted from one of my comments. I felt they were worth sharing here (others, of course, may feel differently.)
Religion, I think, is a bad thing. It is bad because it asks its adherents (and it claims adherents when they are too young to question it) to subscribe to fanciful, illogical and superstitious ideas which it calls “truth.” It invents a cosmic scenario which is divisive, and plays a high-stakes game with humanity. It teaches believers they possess absolute truth with absolute faith. It offers a poor substitute for ethics (e.g. the 10 commandments) and prizes obedience over skepticism. It is, in a word, illiberal.
Liberal religion is a fine thing on paper, and I agree most religious people ascribe to some gradation of liberal religion – the Unitarian Universalists and Humanistic Jews being two examples I admire. But essentially these are religions without beliefs, without god and without “religion.” The more seriously you take your bible or qur’an, the more illiberal you are likely to get in your beliefs and observance. The scriptures themselves are illiberal beyond belief; to take them seriously is a dangerous game (I know because I tried it). So what’s left when the illiberal aspects of religion are stripped away? Essentially nothing which anyone would recognize as “religion.”
Religion has the uncanny power to take a bunch of already-existing prejudices, biological factors and bad ideas and exacerbate them to the nth power. Religion has been the main obstacle to progress since humanity began thinking scientifically. It still is. It’s a bastion of anti-scientific thinking. It offers nothing of value that couldn’t be had elsewhere, and emphatically does not make humans behave better (as most religions would have it.) So why let this “major aspect of human culture” off the hook so easily? Atheists, secularists and freethinkers should demand that religion earn their respect; instead, it often appears that respect is a default position adopted out of the unwillingness to offend the sensibilities of religious friends and family (however liberal in their belief and practice). Religion doesn’t get a free pass. It’s been revoked. And it’s about time, too, I’d say.