What are the main differences between spiritual atheists and fundamentalist atheists?
First of all I am not sure there is a formal group that call themselves fundamentalist atheists. There are people who call themselves anti-theists whom I would lump in with fundamentalists. The term fundamentalist atheist is a provisional term I use here to describe a certain type of atheist I have encountered over the years.
I once attended a group that held meetings once a week. They declared that the Bible was an evil book. Period! End of discussion! This is the kind of atheist I am talking about when I say "fundamentalist atheist." For the sake of brevity, I will henceforth refer to them as the fundies.
Even though I agreed with their basic premise that the god Jehovah does not exist, I was turned off by what I believe is atheist dogma: "We own the truth and anyone who disagrees is evil!"
They also believe that if there was no religion in the world, there would be no persecution. Essentially they believe they are saints riding white unicorns. Now, I'm sorry but I find that hard to believe.
I think any group that thinks other groups are evil simply because those other groups have a different take on things is quite capable of persecution. It seems likely that if the fundies were in charge, they would put theists in jail or kill them. Why? "Because theists are evil!"
Some fundies, who also happened to be communists, showed conclusively that outlawing religion does not reduce or eliminate persecution. Millions of theists were either murdered or sent to gulags.
Unfortunately, when fundies reject religion, they often reject the morality that goes with it. And, they don't replace that morality with any formal moral code of their own.
If the Bible is evil, then so are the ten commandments, so is the golden rule and other things that make civilization possible. It is no surprise to me that the Soviet Union, having outlawed religion, only lasted a couple of generations.
Fundies don't build a civilization, they tear it down.
Spiritual atheists, by contrast, see the value in things like the ten commandments and the golden rule. Like the fundies, we don't believe in Jehovah, but we believe that morals are essential for the success of any civilization.
As far as I know, this life could be the only life. That is why life is precious to me. I want this life to be as good as possible, and I think morals help me to achieve that. I am not moral because I fear hell and look forward to heaven. I am moral because I fear jail and seek the praise, love and friendship of real people.
As a spiritual atheist, I won't argue with success. If your vision of god works for you, so be it. I will only argue against fallacies that some theists use to prove the existence of their gods.
As a spiritual atheist, I don't have a problem with the word God appearing on my paper money or on public buildings. I only have a problem if you try to force me to worship said God or prohibit me from being a spiritual atheist.
The fundies, by contrast, want to annihilate any reference to God because they simply believe all religion is evil. They completely discount the fact that every great and free civilization that has ever existed had a spiritual base.
Spiritualism has value whether you believe in God or not. Since spirituality is not owned by any particular faith, it can therefore be owned by anyone--including an atheist.
In my humble opinion, spirituality in its purest form is simply the ability of people to see things not as they are--but as they can be. It is people striving for a greater good. Some reach for an unreachable star; some reach for the light at the end of a dark tunnel; some ponder the sound of one hand clapping; some try to be more like Jesus.
In all these instances, it is the same process--the human ability to rise above the quagmire--to improve oneself and the world.
When it comes to the religions and philosophies of the world, spiritual atheists like to separate the wheat from the chaff. We reject religious fallacies and persecution while preserving spirituality, morality and tolerance.
By contrast, theists have erred by taking the chaff with the wheat and fundies err by throwing out the wheat along with the chaff.
Check out the Spiritual Atheists.