Ever notice how participants in a debate will often attempt to direct the discussion by labeling the participants? Sometimes this is helpful and relevant – as when a person’s background or position can give an indication of their knowledge and authority of their comments. On the other hand it is sometime an obvious pandering to the “them vs us” mentality – a guide to how “we” should reject the arguments of a participant because she is one of “them.” The old red smear ploy. (I wonder if this was the motive for the label “kiwi atheist” applied to me in a recent discussion).
I think this smearing is commonly used by religious fundamentalists. Just check how often scientists are discredited by labelling them “atheists” in the intelligent design/creationism vs evolutionary science debate. Very often the issue of atheism is exposed as the main concern. And it seems that this label is the most effective way of discrediting any opponent amongst this conservative Christian constituency. And yet, the ‘atheist’ label says hardly anything about a person or the reliability of their knowledge – and, of course, may be completely wrong.