(this began as a comment to a vjack post at Atheist Revolution)
A recent Associated Press article, Atheists Split Over Message, discusses a perceived split in the atheist community. Not in their convictions and rejection of religious belief and dogma, mind you, but merely in how strongly they advocate it. It's unrelated to atheism. It's like saying that there is a split among math students because some of them are more interested in doing problems on the blackboard than others. The so-called split is not actually relevant to math. It is regarding a tangential quality.
This kind of publicity is potentially harmful. Any group that has had as much trouble getting organized as we are having does not needs headlines like Atheists Split being thrown about.
First off, it's a distraction. We're all atheists, and how much we want to promote atheism or how opposed we are to theism doesn't change this. Creating the illusion of some kind of non-religious Great Schism could in fact be harmful for all of us, as it weakens the conviction of our position in the minds of outsiders. "Why should we listen to them, they can't even decide what they think amongst themselves!" In our math class example, the reputation of the class might weaken if rumor of a split among the students hinted at the possibility that not all of the students were interested in math.
Secondly, it suggests a false dichotomy. There are some atheists like Harris and Dawkins that are extremely vocal, passionate and on the offense with wide audiences. Others, like me, are vocal and passionate with more moderate views and in a much smaller forum. Others don't even mention their atheism to their family. Many are in between two of these points. It is unfair to call us split because what we really have is a spectrum. In our imaginary math class, the inclination of each student to go up to the blackboard covers a spectrum of preferences. Some students will always be the first ones up, others will volunteer only if additional students are needed, others try to avoid eye contact with the teacher so as to not be asked.
And finally, it paves the way for easy mischaracterization. I think most atheists would agree that Dawkins and Harris are clearly at one end of the spectrum. But if you characterize a spectrum as a split between two extremes, you are mischaracterizing the vast majority of the points that lie in between. It would be easier for religious leaders, for instance, to turn followers against atheism by citing particularly harsh phrases from Dawkins' and Harris' material. "Atheists are disrespectful. They consider God a 'psychotic delinquent!'" (a description from The God Delusion) Taking one last look at our ficticious math class, imagine the teacher showing off to a colleague: "My students are very willing to participate. They hop right up to do problems on the board!" That characterization is not representative of the entire class.
The article also uses the dread labels fundamentalist and militant. The concepts of "fundamentalist" atheists and "militant" atheists just set us up for a straw man attack. The labels don't make sense, but once applied it's easy for theists to make straw man arguments like, "There are militant atheists. Terrorists are militant. All atheists should be locked up because they are dangerous."
If you ask me, if there's a 'split' among atheists today, it's between those that realize how important our struggle is, and those who don't. Call them "passionate atheists" and "passive atheists." There is no inner conflict, so it's not divisive. It's just that some of them feel a conflict with the theists and some don't.