Steve's post on the role of religious discourse in public life is an interesting one. As a "nonbeliever" myself, I'm going to offer up some advice to believers and nonbelievers alike.
In Part 1, I'll address believers. In Part 2, I'll address nonbelievers.
And yes, as you'd expect, I apportion blame to both sides.
So, without ado, my advice to believers:
1) Stop being so sanctimonious. Many of the most intolerable religious advocates are, frankly, snobs. They carry themselves as though they have done no wrong, and are God's agents upon earth -- here to pass judgment on others, comment on the most intimate aspects of their lives, and to enforce the will of the almighty. Here's the reality -- you're human just like everyone else, the "holy book" you thump has lots of admonitions against you as well, and supernatural beings don't need the "help" of mere mortals to enforce their "laws."
2) Nonbelievers often know your holy book as well, or better, than you do. Most nontheists are raised in religious environments -- I certainly was. I can quote the Bible (and Talmud) chapter and verse if need be. That's why many of us find constant "biblical quotes" tossed out like a cheap rhetorical point to be so tedious. We know that you've revised and shortened the quote. We know the following three verses that invalidate its application in the particular circumstance you're seeking to apply it in. And many of us, religious AND non-religious, view those verses as a product of the times in which they were written. Stop presuming that you're the only one who knows the content.
3) Stop lying. My favorite lie: "The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it." The Bible contradicts itself, and let's be honest -- you don't believe in all of it. You quote Leviticus to call for the punishment and death of gay folks, but you don't banish your menstruating wife to a ritual tent in the backyard to stay clean. You enjoy lobster, crabcakes and cheeseburgers. You have been divorced, despite Jesus's observation that divorce is banned and all divorcees who remarry are hell-bound adulterers. You don't stone your disobedient children. You don't own slaves, nor do you support submission of individuals who are enslaved. You don't support genocidal wars against nonbelievers (well, most of you don't). All that stuff is in the Bible, it says it, and you DON'T believe it.
4) Consider others' points of view. I have heard much outrage about the recent demonstrations by gays and others outside of Mormon temples and churches. A recent story about a small atheist sign contradicting religion generated terrabytes of outraged commentary, video and blog posts. Yet both of these infrequent and low-key events pale in comparison to what many religious people subject others to -- including fellow believers.
Jewish people are happy being Jewish. Stop trying to convert or "save" their young children. Imagine if Jews became evangelicals and got YOUR six-year-old to renounce Jesus. You'd be apoplectic. Jews and others respond similarly.
Gay people often have religious beliefs of their own, and are happy living the way they wish. They don't need or want your "I'm a Christian and want to save you from your evil ways" rhetoric, any more than you'd welcome commentary on your wardrobe, decorating skills, or sexual techniques from them.
Too often, those with religious zeal are unwilling to live and let live, and describe all backlash to their most obnoxious activities as "persecution," which leads me to...
5) Drop the persecution syndrome. In these politically correct times, I understand that victimhood status has its attraction. But for a white, middle class married Baptist pillar of his community to describe himself as "persecuted" is truly surreal and absurd. It's the driver of many folks' need to make fun of you.
6) If you have to brag about it, it's not charity. A large number of religious organizations do important charitable work, and I applaud that. However, they often point to it as justification for their political activities targeting other groups of people in society. Worse still, they advertise their work -- often through mass media.
Some, like the Salvation Army, have transformed charity into a weapon against those who they don't like... making news by denying aid to people they don't like in disaster areas, etc.
News for you: if you boast about charity, it isn't charity -- it's marketing. If you set religious, personal or other conditions on charity, it isn't charity -- it's coercion.
Tomorrow, I'll tackle those things that nonbelievers do that help muddy the waters. Comments are, of course, always welcome.