Richard Dawkins is often accused of being a fundamentalist atheist. He dismisses theism almost without argument. The arguments he gives are often straw men or miss the point in some other way. He shows little familiarity with the best philosophical representatives of theism, and since his work on atheism is actually philosophy he's really dropped the ball in backing up his views. It ends up looking like mere dogmatism without much allowance for dialogue with the other side, i.e. fundamentalism.
The answer to the familiar accusation of atheist fundamentalism is plain enough. The onus is not on the atheist to demonstrate the non-existence of the invisible unicorn in the room, and we cannot be accused of undue confidence in our disbelief. The devout churchgoer recites the Nicene Creed weekly, enumerating a detailed and precise list of things he positively believes, with no more evidence than supports the unicorn. Now that’s overconfidence. By contrast, the atheist says the humble thing: of all the millions of possible entities that one might imagine, I believe only in those for which there is evidence – trombones, pelicans and electrons, say, but not unicorns or leprechauns, not Thor with his hammer, not Ganesh the elephant god, not the Holy Ghost.
Macht at Prosthesis offers a reply, and I think he's right. What atheists are rejecting when they reject theism is not mere theism. They reject a whole set of beliefs and values, a way of life, a kind of community, a view on the meaning and purpose of life, and so on. They reject the fundamental conception of how most people in the world today and throughout history have seen the significance of their lives and how they live. That does seem to me to be disanalogous with merely not believing in an invisible unicorn that someone else tells you is in the room.
I had to laugh when I read his response to the charge that Hitchens rants. I'm sure this is coming from his being on the receiving end of the same charge. He insinuates that the charge comes from an assumption that anyone speaking against Christianity is ranting. Not so. Many of the people I've seen making this charge are actually atheists themselves, and they think Dawkins, Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris are embarrassments to the atheist cause for their unhealthy and irrational rhetoric. They rant with fundamentalist zeal, not caring about how fair their arguments are. Many theists who make the charge compare such work with good atheistic apologeticst, e.g. the philosophical work of William Rowe or J.L. Mackie. The new book by Robin le Poidevin may also be in this category. They show an awareness of contemporary theistic philosophy in its best form and explain why they disagree with theism nonetheless.
Saying that Dawkins or Hitchens rants does not in any way come from an assumption that all who criticize theism are ranting. It's simply an observation that they use very harsh language to criticize while hiding behind unfair and ignorant representations of their target rather than dealing with more representative or more reasonable positions or people. Harsh, passionate language directed against a group one is not being all that fair toward isn't all that far from ranting.
Some examples right in this piece:
1. Thinking that someone must be a half-hearted religions apologists for thinking God isn't some old man with a beard.
2. Calling the Bible Belt a reptilian brain, whereas the coasts are the cerebral cortex.
3. Connecting the Bush Administration with something he's calling know-nothing theocracy, which either (a) waters down theocracy to the point of being unrecognizable or (b) amounts to real paranoia and conspiracy theorizing. See also #8 below.
4. Equating the thoughtful with those who would receive Hitchens well.
5. Presenting without argument a view about biblical reporting of events in Jesus' life that shows no awareness of contemporary evangelical views (I don't mean that it disagrees; he couldn't assert what he says and be fair to those who disagree without some awareness of and response to good work by real scholars like Richard Bauckham, R.T. France, Darrell Bock, Craig Evans, and Craig Keener, who are generally recognized by skeptical biblical studies specialists as good scholars).
6. Relying on a pretty hideous straw man version of penal views of the atonement.
7. Presenting those who hold to the Ten Commandments as believing that this was God's first revelation of any moral content to humanity and as thinking that special revelation could be the only source for any moral knowledge, when the Bible itself discusses the particular command he picks out (not to murder) long before the Ten Commandments arrive (explicitly in Genesis 9 and implicitly in Genesis 4), and the Bible itself treats the first murderer as having been responsible despite never being told not to do it (as far as the text reveals).
8. Referring to this view of interaction with God by saying "the President of the most powerful nation on earth takes his marching orders directly from God" and then connecting that point with the worst examples of religious justifications for atrocities.
Now it's true that some of this is merely summarizing Hitchens' views, but Dawkins does so approvingly, and he seems to think that the kind of thing he and Hitchens both do is not ranting. Whatever you want to call it, it's not based on an accurate assessment of the most thoughtful of religious people, and it often uses pretty harsh language indiscriminately in a way that's hard for me to see as remotely fair to those being criticized. If that's not ranting, then surely it's something in the ballpark.
Update: Dawkins the aworldviewist