Who does a rabid football fan hate more: A football fan from a rival team, or someone who doesn't watch football at all? What about team rivalries: Is a rabid fan likely to dislike a team that's on the other side of the country, or a team that's in the next city or state? And as we all know, football fans are much more likely to hate a fan from another team, and their biggest rival will be a team that's close to them. And the same thing goes for ideological and religious zealots.
This is a little understood fact, but traditionally, religions are much more likely to hate a similar religion than a dissimilar one, and should leave non-religious alone. I know, that's not a firm rule, but there is sense to this. Because a similar religion is direct competition for the minds of believers. That's why Pepsi competes against Coke, not Budweiser. While all three are drinks, if someone's reaching for an ice cold Bud, Pepsi probably wasn't an option.
That's also why Ralph Nader wanted to hurt Democrats more than Republicans. Because he sees them as blasphemers. People who are taking his beliefs and ruining them. Republicans are Republicans and will do their thing, but the Democrats were stealing his people and making them impure. And in religion, while Christians have waged war against Islam over land and gold, they've attacked each other simply for mild variations in doctrine; such as, which language the bible should be in. And because Buddhists were even further from Christians, both geographically and ideologically, they were the safest of all.
That's one reason why Mormonism is a bigger threat to traditional Christianity than atheism. If someone already believes in the bible, it's more likely that they'll learn to adopt the extra book of Mormon, than to abandon the bible altogether. And if they were going to abandon Christianity, there probably wasn't much keeping them there to begin with. Atheism isn't a rival to Christianity; it's for the people who just don't want to bother. Again, a Packers fan is much more likely to hate a Bears fan than a Cubs fan. And none of them care about a Chess fanatic.
And so what explains the big push against atheism, and why Romney would bother attacking atheism as a way to be embraced by evangelicals? One word: Politics. Religious people have been hoodwinked by politicians to hate atheists most of all. Why? Because atheists are generally liberals, and so by attacking atheists, they score political points. (BTW, I should state that I'm referring to most atheists, and not the Madalyn Murray O'Hair style atheists, who actively oppose religion.)
By labeling Democrats as the Party of Atheism, they're not only trying to rally Christians into the voting booths, but also as a way to get Democratic Christians to switch sides. Similarly, minorities are more likely to be Democrats, so Republicans have to demonize them too. And this would have worked a lot better than it has, except they hadn't counted on the fact that there really aren't as many bigots in America as they had imagined.
But it's all a sham. Atheists aren't their enemy, and if people are becoming more and more secular, this has nothing to do with atheism. This has to do with people understanding how the world works and no longer feeling that they need a god to explain what life is about. We've got weathermen to explain the weather and philosophers to help us learn how to behave ethically, and while those aren't guarantees that you'll abandon your faith, they make you better equipped to do so if that's what you desire. But if you do want a god, atheism isn't where you're going to turn, any more than you'd grab pretzels if you were thirsty. Only in the political world are atheists the enemies of theists.
And while the Republican con game on this has been relatively successful, as we all know, you can't fool all the people all the time. Using fear to motivate a mob might work in the short term, but eventually rationality will catch-up and people will realize they've been duped. And then they get pissed and lash-back against the people who duped them. And while a few years of scare-mongering may seem to last forever, history has shown that these periods don't last for long and generally hurt the fear-mongers most of all.
And that's what we're already seeing now. And the more desperate the Republicans get, the more they're cranking up the hate-mongering machine; and thus, hasten their own demise. But if they stop trying, they'll be rejected by the minority of people who are still on-board, and thus complete their doom. And I couldn't be any happier about it.