Atheism is harder though. At In Living Color, Jean Kazez writes that "new atheists" like Dawkins and Harris are really anti-theists, unlike most atheists, who are more just skeptical, and might appreciate that religion offers people some good things. But if you are an atheist rather than an agnostic, don't you have to reject theism? You might not reject it rudely or with much confidence, but I think you have to reject it to count as an atheist. That doesn't mean you reject theists, of course, and perhaps that is what Kazez and Julian Baggini (whom she cites) have in mind. Or they might just mean that normal atheists do reject theism, but not as much as Dawkins, et al., do. And they seem to think that this is a good thing, since Dawkins (in their opinion and mine) goes too far.
Speaking of Baggini and a talk he gave, Kazez says:
Atheists come to be overly anti-theist, he said, when they don't try to understand what religion offers people. It doesn't so much offer doctrine as it offers practices --many positive, like expressing gratitude before meals, and creates communities.This could be read as saying that religion consists primarily in practices or that what is good about it consists primarily in practices. But atheists can engage in these practices too, can't they? Unless the practices include things like saying sincerely that you believe in God, but then doctrine comes in again.
If religion is mostly practice but theism and atheism are beliefs, then atheists can be (to a large extent) religious. But that seems wrong. So should we think of atheism as a kind of practice, or as non-engagement in a range of practices? That seems promising to me. But it raises the question why atheists who see value in these practices do not engage in them. And the answer to that seems to be that the distinction between doctrine and practice breaks down here (or somewhere, anyway).
And maybe that is where Dawkins and co. go wrong. If there is no sharp distinction to be made between doctrine and practice and if, therefore, there is no sharp cut-off point between theism and atheism, then the kind of black-and-white thinking that says you are either a loony (who might as well worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Russell's teapot) or a Bright seems insufficiently motivated. It seems like a difference of taste masquerading as a difference of insight. But I'm not sure how sharply we can distinguish taste from insight either.