There are two main approaches that Atheists take when trying to open a religious mind, and release the seed of reason trapped inside. One group, such as Dawkins, Harris, Dennet, use mainly their own reason as a pry bar to try and accomplish this, while another group, people such as Hitchens, Bill Mahr, or any number of other comics like Doug Stanhope, prefer to use the hammer of ridicule to bust the piggy bank wide open. Which method is best?
Most Atheists, I think can appreciate both paths, if for no other reason than the entertainment value, but there seems to be a significant number of Atheists that are uncomfortable with the brute force approach, since they think it doesn't convey the best image of Atheists, but I just think this is a huge mistake.
Reasonable people have been attacking Christianity with the pry bar of reason for at least the last 250 years but what has been it's fruits? Certainly much of Europe is free from this disease, but the US and much of the world are still being burdened under it's crushing weight.
I don't think many would argue that a lot of progress has been made in the last few years since the publication of Dawkin's book "The God Delusion". It set off a parade of such books and debates, and prompted many more people to get involved, but what is really the source of it's success. Is it the well reasoned arguments contained in it's pages, or might it be something much simpler. What if Dawkin's had called his book something like "A Rational Refutation of Religion" instead? Is there any question it would have had less of an impact.
It was the ridicule explicit in the title that did the trick. He tapped into a simmering emotions of millions of people who felt the same way but had been afraid to speak up themselves. Same with Hitchen's "God is Not Great - Religion poisons everything". The ridicule and directness of the title, probably selling more books than all the pages inside. Another example is Bill Mahr's Movie Religulous, Just the trailer alone playing on public television, perhaps affecting more people than all the reasonable arguments in a dozen of the most popular philosophy books.
The problem is that most Atheists are very rational people, and many can appreciate the well reasoned arguments of a Dan Dennet or a Sam Harris (my personal fav.) but the fact is we don't have to convince ourselves, we have to get through to people that are more adept than beavers at building dams to our rivers of reason, and in such cases, maybe a battering ram is the better option.
For myself, I am convinced that it is the ridicule and humor explicit in all the works I've mentioned so far, that has done more for the Atheist movement in 4 years than all of the rational argument in the previous 200, and I do so grudgingly, since I am much better at debate than i will ever be at humor, but as Atheist groups grow, I just think we need to be wary of ever becoming too concerned with our "image", as this may quiet the very voices that are doing the most to free us.