The name of the article I have linked below is “Atheist Schism.” I find that title unfair. Like all movements, what we are currently calling “Atheism” will need to go through some growth pains. Such disagreement within the ranks is not a sign of weakness, but of health. The dominant voices of the movement have been white upper class men, but does that reveal a flaw in the movement, or does it reveal that our culture only listens to certain types of people? New voices are emerging within the movement that include women, people of color and non-Western approaches that are very different. People from the East know that nontheistic thinking is not new but has roots going back to the beginnings of history. Not only were many Greek philosophers nontheistic, but so was the Buddha himself and many other religious sages.
Not coming from that camp, I don’t get to vote on the issue, but I think the name “atheist” is a recipe for misunderstanding. Most nontheists I know aren’t against God, they just don’t believe there is one. While they are against the special claims of religion, most nontheists are not making special claims for their own group. They feel a duty to expose superstition when it invades the public sphere, but most nontheist I know have no desire to rob believers of whatever comfort or inspiration religion brings.
We live in a culture where a certain type of person rises to the top. So obnoxious white upper class men represent many movements, but they do not really speak for anyone but themselves. My idea of religion is consummated in universal love. Love does not ask another to convert to its own ways, but rejoices in the other as he or she is. Love requires all of us to have the humility to meet at the mysterious reality beyond any of our understandings. In that place of actual meeting, words fall away.
All worldviews begin in a little cocoon where members are convinced they are different from and superior to someone else. If they live long enough, they find their own center of gravity which does not need an enemy. They open up to live in peace with others as good neighbors. One particular brand of Buddhism calls this process of opening “mahayana” or the big vessel.
Even as I serve my own little congregation, I follow my nontheistic brothers and sisters online. I see people leaving the cocoon of simply being against religion, and finding their own center as free thinkers. I see their internal bickering not as a sign that their movement is dying, but as a sign of health. It means they are still going through pangs of new birth.