Okay, cards on the table I am an atheist. I suppose if I were to get technical I'm an atheist bordering on agnostic but there it is. I'm not an anti-theist, although I admit I shake my head at the concept of organized religion. I may not agree with tenets of a specific religion, but I don't rail against those religions or those who hold religious convictions except for the reasons stated below.
I have long held the belief that a person, any person, has the right to their faith. They have the right to believe in a deity, to worship that deity within the bounds of the law, and not be shunned or discriminated against because of their faith. I agree that where a faith brings comfort and enhances a life then I'm all for it.
For me there are three points I do have a problem with when it comes to religion, and most of this comes from religious dogma rather than faith.
Firstly, never state a belief as if it is an established fact. I respect a persons right to believe in a deity, and that they believe unswervingly that such a deity is there and they have every right to hold that belief. But when they say "there is a God" rather than "I believe there is a God" that is where I take issue. The existence of a deity is not a proven fact. Similarly when they quote their holy texts and state "this is the word of God". Again, not an established fact. Nitpicking by me possibly, but its a bugbear of mine.
Secondly, I do not believe that religious institutions should get special exemptions from the law. And for me that includes tax and employment law. I am all for taxing religious institutions and ring-fencing that money for local services so the churches really are putting into the local community rather than their own coffers. Also I believe that all religions should be subject to employment law and end discrimination based on race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
Thirdly, the biggest one for me, is that I despise anyone who attempts to use their faith as a justification or excuse for bigotry. Those who openly practice discrimination should not be able to claim religion as a defence. I have sadly seen the religious more than once get on their supposed high horse and rant and rave against the innocent and demand that others be bigots with them whilst demanding protection from the law so that they can't be held accountable for their hate speech.
I think if I ever were to become religious I too would be a solo practitioner. I have friends who are pagan and I respect the pagan tradition a lot, mostly because I have found that the biggest hate mongers have been followers of the monotheistic religions. Broad generalization I know but its held true so far sadly.