The other day a friend on Facebook posted an article from the Ottawa Citizen titled "Atheists have a place in discussions on faith". The article basically says that atheists are unfairly being excluded from discussions of faith despite the fact that they would have unique perspectives on the issues at hand.
The author contradicts himself. In one paragraph he encourages "a messy process that may at times appear to engender disrespect" and then in the next paragraph says that "The idea that atheists are arrogant or shrill needs to be put into some perspective", implying that atheists are unfairly portrayed as screaming idiots. Which is it? Do you want be invited to a panel only to say everyone else on the panel is wrong? Or do you want to engage in discussion with other faiths by offering your own unique perspective?
Personally I would welcome an honest and professional discussion on faith by inviting atheists along because, whether atheists like it or not, Atheism is a religion. But what is religion? Simply put, religion is a set of beliefs (world-view) origin, nature, and purpose of the universe. Isn't that what Atheism is? It's a belief that the universe began with a big bang from which all things evolved, the universe changes over time through undirected processes like natural selection and survival of the fittest, and since the universe is just a gigantic accident then there is no purpose.
As such, atheism should be subject to the same rules as other religions. If they want to teach their religious views then they are free to do it in a school not subsidized by tax dollars. Teachers in public schools will be forbidden to teach atheistic material in the science, math, or other classrooms other than a religion class. They can form atheist organizations and get tax deductions for making donations just like any other church organization.
Perhaps then, they will think twice before claiming that Intelligent Design isn't real science just because the objective, observable, and repeatable experiments have metaphysical implications. At least I hope it would. Because let's face it, a belief in a lack of a metaphysical existence still has metaphysical implications.