Atheists and the "Us vs. Them" Mentality

ConflictAre atheists, particularly outspoken atheists who engage in secular activism, guilty of fostering an "us vs. them" mentality? This is a common criticism we hear from Christians and more than a few atheists. Are those of us who speak out part of the problem, contributing to a religious vs. secular culture war?

My take on these questions is probably about what you'd expect. I think that an "us vs. them" mentality was established long ago by religious believers and has been kept alive today primarily by religious believers. To say that outspoken atheists are somehow guilty of causing it or even maintaining it denies this basic reality: it exists and will continue to exist whether we express ourselves or not.

Besides, just what are we saying when we express ourselves? We are criticizing religion, promoting separation of church and state, seeking to normalize atheism, advance equality for secular persons, and so on. Can anybody seriously argue that we'd be better off not doing any of this?

I understand how it might seem to make sense to accuse outspoken atheists of fanning the flames of conflict. But is that really what we are doing? Isn't it a bit more accurate to say that we are acknowledging what already is the case and exercising our right to contribute to the discussion?