Many in the atheist community do engage in mockery, and predictably Randal disagrees with that decision.
Since I seem to enjoy taking abuse, I come in on the middle ground:
Mockery is a double edged sword, but to pretend that this sword is always unnecessary is wrong.
Certainly there are plenty of atheists who don’t engage on the issues strongly, and all too often resort to mockery of religious believers. Blanket mockery is a dangerous thing that can lead to uncritical acceptance of the status quo. I would imagine that this is something Christians would appreciate.
However, this doesn’t mean that mockery cannot or even should not be used. It does mean that mockery should not be the default response, reason and kindness should always be the first thing to be employed. But that can only go so far.
Riddle me this dear moderate Christians:
What response should we have towards the more dangerous fundamentalists like Ken Ham, or the (US) congressmen who cite bible passages as to why climate change isn’t a real problem because human’s can’t really harm the planet due to god’s providence?
Ken Ham is a perfect example, many have attempted to reason with the man, and his response is to ask “Were you there?” as though it was a piece of rhetorical brilliance.
When reason has been tried, and your ideological opponents consciously reject the use of reason and science to determine the truth of empirical matters, what exactly are we left to do? These are the people who define “truth” as a literal reading of the bible, and they reject any attempts at defining it otherwise. Reasonable, meaningful dialog is pretty much lost at that point.
I think quoting Sam Harris is appropriate here:
“If someone doesn’t value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide that proves they should value evidence?
If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?”
There are certainly many problems that will come as a result of mockery, and Randal has highlighted many of them. The conscious anti-intellectualism, the Young Earth “Creation Science”, the increasing levels of cultural isolation (homeschooling, ideologically “pure” colleges, etc).
The only good thing is that on the long haul, the mockery is working. The numbers of the Young Earth creationists are dwindling, and they will continue to dwindle as each generation progressively rejects their ideology.
That said I fear we have no other recourse. There is at the core of this a fundamental disconnect between science and religion because sub-groups of religious people have decided to reject the accomodationist approach and have made it the case.