I shall now tread into a combat zone, gingerly...inadvisedly..and without really having done my homework. What's with all the criticism of Chris Mooney, here, here, here, and elsewhere? From what I gather, Chris Mooney is a promoter of science literacy and science-based policy-making. He also happens to be an atheist. His view, I take it, is that it's problematic to promote atheism and science literacy at the same time. The receptive audience for science is vastly larger than the receptive audience for atheism, and religious folk can get turned off to science messages when they're mixed up with anti-religious messages.
My experience teaching and interacting with religious folk tells me this is a very plausible hypothesis. I bet someone could even test it out. For example, I wonder if religious people are still buying Richard Dawkins' superb science books, now that he's so closely associated with atheism. Has he undercut his power to explain science to the masses? Could be!
Lots of people have such problems to deal with--they want to convince people that X and have to decide whether to expose or conceal a more provocative and divisive belief about Y. Even where there might be a connection between X and Y, it can be wise to downplay Y, if X is really, really important. For another example involving religion, take Peter Singer's new book The Life You Can Save (see review link in the previous post). He's downright respectful toward religion in the book, never letting on that he's actually an atheist. Well of course not--he's trying to alleviate the vast problem of extreme poverty, and the last thing he wants to do is alienate religious readers.
I notice the same thing in Ingrid Newkirk, whose agenda is to improve the lot of animals. Asked about religion in the movie biography I am an Animal, she says she's an atheist. But this is something you don't see her talking about in any of her books or in other media appearances.
My own daughter finds herself having to make strategic decisions about what she says about her beliefs. At 12 years old, she's an outspoken vegetarian and animal advocate. She's often told by her friends that God put animals on earth to be eaten and even taunted with the question "Don't you believe in God?" She wisely gets the conversation back to the topic of animals and away from religion.
So...sure. If increasing science literacy is your ultimate goal, you ought to make careful strategic decisions about the way you discuss religion. Of course, that's not everyone's ultimate goal. Some people are interested in the debate about the existence of God for its own sake. Let them have at it. But there is some real and legitimate worry when our best science writers become notoriously anti-religious. Of course there is. Without getting into exactly what Chris Mooney is saying about specific science writers, I have to say the guy just sounds to me like the voice of common sense.