Atheist Matthew Nisbet, Ph.D, is a professor in the School of Communication at American University, and a blogger on Scienceblogs, the site hosting P.Z. Myers' vile.
Yesterday morning, he distanced himself from Myers' bigotry understanding how much fanatic extremists like Myers hurts their atheist cause. Surprisingly, he draws attention to Jeff Gardner's piece at the National Catholic Register in regard to focusing on the damage Myers has done within the faith-based community and its byproduct of deteriorating society's overall perception of Atheists:
Atheists have a major image problem. There's a reason that when people ask me what I believe I have to say with a smile: "I'm an atheist...but a friendly atheist."
...These "new atheists" are the dark under belly of atheism. In books, blogs, and public statements, they sell us ideological porn, sophomoric rants that feed our dark sides and reinforce our own unfair stereotypes about the "other," i.e. the religious.
Yet all of this does far more harm than good. The addictive nature of their rhetoric radicalizes us and leads us to an ever more closed off conversation about how we are superior and everyone else is delusional.
In the process, we miss out on working together with religious communities around shared common values and problems. And when their self-promoting atheist punditry is picked up by either the mainstream press or the religious media, we as a community of atheists incur deep self-inflicted wounds, with news coverage feeding the stereotype that we are a bunch of intolerant and arrogant eccentrics.
Consider this recent article at the National Catholic Register. Titled "The Face of the New Atheism," it profiles PZ Myers and his rants against the Eucharist and the Catholic community. Notice the key words emphasized. The dominant image of atheism portrayed in the article is one of "hate," "contempt," "dogmatism," "a junior high level understanding of religion," "irate," "incredulous," "bigoted"...the list goes on.
Is this how we really want Catholics to view us? Do we really want a group of moderately religious Americans--who polls show otherwise prize science, reason, and stand for many of the same values that we hold dear--to think of us through the prism of PZ Myers?
The image of atheism doesn't have to be this way....
The points of emphasis for the rest of the public should be on "strong community member and leaders," "teachers," "listeners," "working with others on common problems," "tolerant," "engaged," "open-minded," "pragmatic," "improving society," "cares about people and social issues..."
This is the "new atheism" that we should promote, not an image of attacks and intolerance.