Dr. R. Elisabeth Cornwell is Executive Director of the U.S. branch of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. The thrust of the “Out Campaign” is to take the stigma out of atheism, and give it a positive image. She saw no need to soft-peddle the word “atheist” – it’s the best word for the purpose, clear and concise.
The campaign has adopted the “Scarlet A” – t-shirts and buttons with a big red letter A proclaiming atheism. It’s a bit of a joke, referring to Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, whose heroine was forced to wear it to advertise her sin. Of course, atheism is not a sin.
Also part of the campaign to purge negative stereotypes about atheists is to participate visibly in good works. My local humanist group, for example, helps out in the town’s annual Aids Walk.
I would add that one aspect of atheism’s negative image is the notion that atheists “believe in nothing,” and have no anchor for morality. To the contrary, all the atheists I know have very strong positive beliefs, and embody the human instincts for fair and moral behavior, which have nothing to do with religion – as I have argued in depth, in this blog, and elsewhere.