Atheists, especially of the ‘new’ variety, are used to being described as angry, shrill, arrogant, strident, rude, militant, and dogmatic (I may have missed a few) just for saying that there is no evidence that god exists so we might as well abandon that belief, and that religions are a negative influence in the world and we would be better off without them.
It does not matter how nicely and reasonably you say it, that message alone is enough to give people a license to assign personality traits to you, and in this article, David Silverman, president of American Atheists, embraces the ‘bad’ image and adds the term ‘grumpy’ to the lexicon, saying “We are the grumpy atheists who say you can’t use dead cops as a shield to put up a cross at Ground Zero and the fact that you are religious shouldn’t get you out of paying taxes.”
He relishes the role of being on the outer edge of the atheist movement, pushing its boundaries even at the cost of being reviled and even exulting in the resulting notoriety, just like the organization’s founder Madalyn Murray O’Hair, even if it means that that fewer people are drawn to it.
American Atheists membership is 4,000, Silverman said — a small sliver of the 2.4 percent of Americans who identified as atheists in a 2012 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. Less strident groups are larger: the Freedom from Religion Foundation claims more than 19,000 members, and the American Humanist Association claims 40,000.
I reject the idea that groups such as American Atheists are somehow driving people away from atheism and into the arms of religion. The decision to abandon the idea of a god is a highly personal one and people who want to do so will seek the most congenial home. I believe that American Atheists play an essential role in the atheist movement because we need a wide spectrum of welcoming organizations, from those pushing the boundaries to the ‘kinder, gentler’ types.