"I don't believe in all that crap."
Hear that one often when discussing religion with friends or family? One side of my family has said that enough to keep Jack Nicholson busy typing it in the Overlook Hotel for an entire winter. From my father's family, it is a bit comical as they fit the stereotype of religious Americans as portrayed on TV: poor, ethnic white, and from a large family. I don't even bother praying for them when they develop cancer or have a heart attack since they would consider it an insult to their atheistic beliefs. I don't consider myself religious, but I am a believer, which sadly to them, has made me "very religious". As time passes and they reveal more of their thought process, they are unwilling to admit that they apply a standard to religion (belief in God in the Christian variety) that they never apply to individuals.
My belief in God is mostly belief in a unifying force for the universe and just a touch of Pascal's Wager. As I have stated to others, we are all individual subjective experiences of one objective existence. I refuse to believe life happens "just 'cause". I recognize there are good and bad qualities to Christianity. I recognize that the past has good and bad events or actions related to Christianity. I'm a firm believer that man is wicked and prone to selfish acts, and that Christianity offers a guide to help people restrain their selfish impulses and live in accord with neighbors. Forgiveness is a great feature as humans are human and may sin, but if you truly feel remorse, you will be forgiven. There is rejoicing in admitting your error, and coming back to the fold. This is not just how I feel about religion, but how I feel about people. My friends and family are a motely crew of three dimensional characters. When they do bad or even horrible things, I will forgive them and move on if they genuinely feel remorse and admit their error. I apply the same standard. My very vocally atheist relatives do not.
Talking with some of my family members about politics is hard enough as they are to the left of Daily Kos readers, but religion is an even sadder ordeal. Not all of them are atheists, but enough are, and they are 'those' types of atheists. They are the Dawkinsian smug asshole looking-down-on-the-fools-and-their-God types who are evangelical atheists. A conversation with them about Christianity will discuss the Crusades, the Inquisition, magical wars in recent history carried out in God's name that they cannot cite but swear have happened. You will hear about pedos in the Catholic Church. Some of the hokey things like angels, miracles and doomsday predictions will be mocked. What you will never hear is any positive contribution from Christianity. When they discuss different degenerate family members or friends, they will always play up the good points and play down the negatives. They will give an individual every benefit of the doubt. Every half truth mythical thing an individual claism to have happened is believed with gusto. Even when involving jail time for obvious wrong doing, that person is family so by gum, they will stick by them no matter what. It is completely opposite of how they view Christianity, and they never see or admit to the double standard.
I used to think it was with all religion, but it is not. I'll hear them talk about respecting the spirituality of Hinduism or Buddhism (Buddhism very 'Christian' + has its own weird shit). They don't make fun of those faiths despite 6 armed gods with funny back stories. They'll never mock Judaism or Islam because they can't. They will treat Christianity different from all other religions and from individuals due to its feature as the parent religion of their culture and the moral code that would judge them as sinful or virtuous. It's not just that they know they cannot live up to the moral code of Christianity; they can shit on it as a form of rebellion versus their father or father substitute. There is the emancipation from the code and the play acting of defiance. Unlike a person though, they cannot ever give it credit (despite using it at weddings + funerals) because then the doubts would creep in about their rejection of Christianity or their entire worldview of religion being a fraud. They cannot allow any doubt or any challenge because to admit there are positives, one would be stripped down to a simple rejection of God. That is a harder thing to defend compared to ripping on Christianity as a belief system. Forgiving an institution for past transgressions also doesn't carry with it the status juice of forgiving some idiot relative. "See, I love them not like you judgmental bastards". Maybe at the heart of the different approach is a very selfish motive that is, "I won't judge you, and you won't judge me".