Oooh... where to start. It's worth getting a few reference points. One label which a great many atheists would accept is "humanist." I've had issues with some of the accounts of humanism I've read; see here and here for examples of typical attempts to articualte what humanism is. My issues are partially a matter of instinctive recoil, but I think there's an important reason they ring discordant: they try to give a good amount of detail without being dogmatic, and the result is a vague mush, far vaguer than what one sees coming out of most idea-based organizations. On the other hand, I think it is possible to give a decent rough statement of what most people who gravitate towards the label "humanism" believe. Once, at an event put on by the Secular Student Alliance, a PR guy from the American Humanist Association suggested, for use when you need a quick talking-point, "science, reason, and compassion." Solid, and attentive readers of Sam Harris et. al. realize that they criticize religion precisely because they see it as a threat to religion.
That brings me back to an idea I floated way back in February, the idea of principly refering to people like Harris as religion critics. At the same time, I'm led to appreciate Paul Kurtz's suggestion that we focus on skeptic of religious claims. That's a term that can fit people who are relatively quiet but implies a somewhat active attitude toward avoiding error.
Finally, it should be obvious that various subgroups of are never going to be perfectly aligned with eachother. On a practical level, just consider the world of difference between followers of Ayn Rand and followers of Karl Marx. On a somewhat deeper level, does anybody expect all the various subgroups of theists (from Anglicans to Wahhabis) to align with eachother? Of course not.
With that groundwork, this part of the Newsweek article is exposed as silly without further comment:
...what’s happening in the “atheist, humanist, freethinkers” community is more like what happens to any ideological or political group as it matures: the hard-liners knock heads with the folks who want to just get along, and the cracks are beginning to show.Now consider this quote from Greg Epstein from the Washington Post:
“At times they’ve made statements that sound really problematic, and when Sam Harris says science must destroy religion, to me that sounds dangerously close to fundamentalism,” Epstein said in an interview after the meeting. “What we need now is a voice that says, ‘That is not all there is to atheism.’ ”Hemant notes that Epstein is not helping things by continuing to use the f-word, but I think there's actually a bigger problem: Epstein implies there should be more to atheism than what Harris is doing, but really atheism involves considerably less. Harris falls under the category of religion critic/humanist/etc. Hemant is partially on track when he says "Still, his point was clear. There need to be atheists who can communicate more powerfully about what we do believe in rather than what we don’t believe in," though it really perpetuates a distorted view of what recent religion critics have done that can be demolished by a glance at the subtitle of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. Catch that last word? If that's not enough, at the very least its hard not to notice that Harris' defense of reason is quite impassioned.
Unfortunately, Hemant once again steps in it at the very end: "
Every time there is media coverage, we need to be speaking about what atheism has to offer, not just what religion gets wrong." The only thing atheism has to offer is not making the mistakes made by religion. To claim otherwise is to introduce a lot of needless confusion into public discourse.