Perhaps one of the reasons that contemporary secularists do not simply reject religion but hate it is that they know that, while they can easily rise to the levels of hatred that religion has sometimes encouraged, they will always find it difficult to rise to the levels of love that it has sometimes encouraged.
I haven't sat down with Dennett, Hitchens, and Sam Harris, and probably won't save possibly for Hitchens, but I wonder how closely this fits any of them. It's gratifying to think of oneself as a lonely, even desperate voice of reason, trapped in a world of mindless pod people. Maybe it takes a conscious effort, some learned life skill, to not turn into the stereotypical "village atheist", and instead just take one's own rather unique but hardly unheard of place in the larger society. Yet something has set off the hardline atheist intelligentsia these past few years, as the flood of new, hard-hitting books attests. What could it be? 9/11? Advances in science? The Bush administration and its talk of "faith-based initiatives"? Do they sense an opening for a fresh offensive, or do they feel they are holding a line? Whatever, these new books may mark (or announce) the beginning of a pervasive anti-religious tone in educated society, the like of which we haven't seen since Voltaire.
However it may play out, there's one thing that's for sure:
We can keep from a child all knowledge of earlier myths, but we cannot take from him the need for mythology.
--Carl Jung, 1912