On the Twitter, I find myself having an interesting conversation with a Christian who began the talk by asking me if I felt that Dawkins was helping anyone when his message seems to be that he hates God. How can hate be helpful, he asked, and why don't more atheists dedicate themselves to building relationships with the religious community rather than isolating themselves from the religious by way of harsh criticisms of God.
I feel like these are all really good questions, not because of the questions themselves, but they're good questions because they expose a fundamental difference in thought that makes it difficult for theists and atheists to get along.
First off - atheists don't hate God. Some of us hate the concept of God, but to say that an atheist hates God is like saying a Jewish person hates Satan. They don't hate Satan, they don't even believe in Satan. The same is true for atheists and God. Hating a concept is not the same thing as agreeing that a concept physically exists.
I told my twitter pal that if he had questions about Dawkins' personal motivations that he would have to ask him, however I did say that for a lot of people in a lot of areas of the world - the US included - being an atheist openly was a great way to lose your job, lose the support of your family, or otherwise be treated badly. People like Dawkins are appreciated in the atheist community not because they're perceived as being hateful but because they give a lot of people hope and encouragements about themselves as human beings.
How many times have you heard from one source or another that atheists lack morality? That atheists are sub human, incapable of being parents, are inherently selfish, shouldn't be allowed in positions of influence, are untrustworthy, and on and on and on? Is it any suprise that there is an outpouring of support for authors like Dawkins and the like who are publishing books that say - "you're not a bad person for thinking this way. I think this way too, and here's why." Of course people who are atheists are going to look at the bible and say 'why does it contradict itself? If God is loving, why did he kill so many people? Why did he kill babies and tell men to stone their wives and sell their daughters?' When you reject the divinity of something, it's far easier to see all of the parts that comprise the whole.
Logically, this criticism is going to be offensive to the religious. Of course it will be. But I think it's unfair to say that people like Dawkins are wrong or destructive in their actions because they offer the kind of support that a lot of non-religious people need right now. Would it be fair to say that slaves in 1870 who distrusted the forces that oppressed them and worked to create support structures for their people were being unhelpful or hateful because they weren't trying to build bridges with the people who were in positions of influence and power over them? Of course not. Slavery and atheism are vastly different cicumstances, but the social repercussions of being an outsider in a society is the same regardless of who is being excluded. I don't think atheists are to a point yet where we have the political or social clout to build bridges - we're still convincing ourselves that we're not broken human beings for rejecting God despite a large, vocal, and powerful group of people who still have no qualms telling us we are!
So no, I don't think Dawkins is a bad guy for what he says or even how he says it. I think he's a reflection of how a lot of atheists feel around the world - we are good people with strong moral values and our lack of belief in God is not an excuse to marginalize us.