Jason is right to stress that there is something offensive about the view Jean Kazez has been putting: i.e., that there are some things that should not be said to a popular audience. That is, Jean's views is likely to cause offence, and the taking of offence is understandable and not unreasonable by our ordinary standards of how a reasonable person reacts. But he's also correct that this does not make her wrong. While taking offence at Jean's claim may be understandable, inevitable, even reasonable, there's still a question as to whether, on reflection, it is justified to remain offended (and as it happens, I don't feel offended at all).
It's possible that Jean is, herself, offering a disconcerting truth about the capacity of most people to understand difficult concepts, and about how difficult concepts can be distorted and simplified before they are acted on. Even if she's wrong about this in when the concepts in question relate to such things as moral error theory and science/religion, I welcome an open, honest debate. I think one of the things that was annoying about an earlier phase of all this discussion of accommodationism and related issues was Chris Mooney's unwillingness to engage in any substantial way.
Enough for now. Check out Jason's analysis and see what you think. This, in particular, needed to be said:
For atheists like me, there is one issue that matters most in all of this: the role of religious authority in society. I'm not saying atheists are concerned with this issue above all else. Not at all. They might be more concerned about global warming, say, or human rights violations in third-world countries. What I am saying is that, for many atheists, atheism is first and foremost about the rejection of religious authority. Public atheism is first and foremost about putting religious authority in its proper place. For us, to be a public atheist just is to deny that there is any objectively valid moral authority which religions could claim and to deny that religious authority is similar to, equal to, or in any methodological or philosophical sense compatible with scientific authority. If we cannot argue these points in public, then we cannot be public atheists in the way that is meaningful to us.