Ronald A. Lindsay has a good editorial piece in the latest issue of Free Inquiry. In light of the latest debates about Gnu Atheism and accommodationism, this piece by Lindsay is especially useful. The following three paras not only provide a good sample of the article but also offer a commonsense approach that is valuable in its own right:
There should be no inherent limits on how criticism of religious belief is expressed, any more than there should be inherent limits on how criticism of a political belief is expressed. Cartoons and slogans are freely used in politics. Is there any reason why we cannot use them to make a point about religious beliefs or practices? Religion should not enjoy a privileged status, especially when many religious people strive to influence politics and public policy based on their religious beliefs. Do I violate some rule of civil discourse if I draw or publish a cartoon lampooning the Catholic Church's position on abortion when the Catholic Church is trying to influence public policy on abortion? If so, I fail to understand the reason for such a rule. Such self-censorship merely serves to perpetuate the taboo mentality that has protected religion for too long. As Daniel C. Dennett has so elegantly stated, we need to "break the spell."
This is not to say that we should do nothing but publish cartoons or work continuously to craft the best twenty-word jab against religion-any more than those engaged in politics confine themselves to cartoons or slogans alone. In criticizing another viewpoint, an array of expressive means is available and acceptable for use, including scholarly articles, detailed arguments, position papers, speeches, cartoons, billboards, slogans, and even jokes. What the appropriate mix of expressive forms may be is determined by the circumstances, including the goal of the criticism and the expertise and capabilities of the person or organization making the criticism. But determining the appropriate mix is a practical question, not a moral one. There is nothing per se immoral or unacceptable about a cartoon with a religious subject.
Nothing that I have stated should be interpreted as endorsing in-your-face criticism of religion around the clock, on any and all occasions. Religious beliefs are not always in play, just as political beliefs are not always in play. If you are at a party and people are discussing a movie, it is pointless, at best, to blurt out suddenly, "There is no God, and anyone who believes there is must be misguided, ignorant, or stupid." We are neither cranks nor missionaries. Similarly, if you attend a religious funeral, it is beyond tasteless to carry a sign saying, "It is a shame the deceased will never know how wrong she was." If you have strong objections to religious funerals, weddings, or similar events, just don't go.
Now, with all respect to Ron Lindsay, this isn't rocket science. It wouldn't have occurred to me that anyone would take an approach greatly different from the above, except for some of the wilder fantasies that appear, and sometimes get endorsed by the gullible, on the internet. But good for Lindsay in spelling it out.
He has pretty much described how I see it, and how I think most public critics of religion see it. We're not going to spit on the local vicar, but we do maintain the right to challenge religion's truth-claims and moral authority in a robust public debate analogous the the various political debates that we're all involved in. That may involve presenting our views in books, or articles, or book reviews ... or in other ways such as cartoons and stand-up comedy. It doesn't mean that we are going to go around acting unprofessionally or simply like arseholes ... or that we encourage anyone else to do so. I don't know why this is so hard to understand, but obviously some people find it difficult to get their heads around.
The same issue of Free Inquiry contains a lengthy and favourable review by George Zebrowski of 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists.