I've had to deal with atheist tone trolls, and even a theist tone troll or two. Here's how this plays out.
Atheist tone troll: Atheism can be polarising. Don't make it 'us' vs. 'them' -- they'll only resist us harder. We need to take a more conciliatory approach. We need to work together with people on issues where we agree.That's a good aim. If someone wants to take that approach, I think that's fine. We need more 'nice atheists'.
But we also need 'mean atheists' like me, who take opportunities to call out religious foolishness with ridicule and a sledgehammer, and who explain about good reasoning and critical thinking. (Of course, you pick your battles, and sometimes the best thing is to say nothing. I don't always walk around in my stomping boots, but I'm not afraid to pull 'em on if I think the time is right.)
Think of these approaches as complementary. Or perhaps evolutionary. We don't know what will work in each case, so let's try everything. I want lots of atheists putting the heat to religion in all kinds of ways. Mockery, sympathy, calumny, there's no wrong way to do it.
The wrong thing to do, however, is wring one's hands in dismay, and lecture other atheists on how they're doing it wrong. Oh, my ears and whiskers! How teddibly uncivil! Theists will never agree with us if we challenge them! (See also: 'I'm an atheist, BUT...')
Well, frankly, not challenging them doesn't do much to move their opinion either. How well did not challenging them work for the last 50 years? Dumping your religion and becoming an atheist is hard. What could possibly be the impetus for someone to do it if all they hear is comforting church hymns, along with the song of the non-confrontational atheist? I know people don't like hearing that their religion is wrong. But I do say it from time to time because I think it's important to keep pushing the Overton Window in that direction. I don't know whether my sledgehammer wakes people up, or whether it just attracts the newly awakened, but more and more people are becoming aware of the absurdities of religion, and we're forming a vibrant and noisy community of non-believers.
I also had to deal with a theist tone troll once. It went like this:
Theist tone troll: You can say whatever you want. But you should realise that it's not respectful to say mean things about religion. It hurts people's feelings. It's your tone I object to.I don't worry too much about these folks. There's literally no way to talk about religion in less-than-laudatory terms without some people getting butthurt. The only thing they want is for atheists to shut up.
Pick your approach. Choose the kind of atheist you're going to be. But having chosen, please spare the rest of us the lecturing about tone. It's just a way of trying to control the communication of other people. Letting go of that need for control can be freeing.