A-T-H-E-I-S-M... find out what it means to them
(Look at that - you wait ages for a post and then three come along at once. They're like buses.)
There's been a bit of a debate (kicked off by the recent "Questions for atheists" meme) around the blogworld over what the term "atheist" actually denotes. John S. Wilkins of 'Evolving Thoughts' has a thought-provoking post outlining his own views on the matter - which manages to capture the distinction between positive and negative atheism (which seems to split people) quite well.
In summary, he states that:
I think there's a bit of a conundrum here for atheists. Either they have to make a positive claim and exclude agnostics and soi disant deists, or they have to accept they are defined by the religion du jour.
John thinks that atheists should go for the former - positively stating that there are no gods, as opposed to the more agnostic position of simply not accepting religious claims. I can't agree though: The absolutist claim he seems to be arguing for (as an agnostic himself) seems to me to be unsupportable - without some form of absolute knowledge it's impossible to dismiss deistic or more nebulous theistic claims about the nature of the universe. It may be that the evidence for the existence of a creator is incredibly weak, but that doesn't mean we can rule out the possibility altogether, merely that we have to pronounce it extremely unlikely - which seems to bring us closer to the second position.
And it's this position I find myself quite comfortable in: When I say that I'm an atheist, I don't intend to say anything more than that I've found religious arguments so far unconvincing (I am "non-theistic"). It is not so much a claim about the universe as a claim about how the universe appears to me now. I see no way (or need) to deny the possibility that at some point I'll encounter evidence that will change my mind.
Nor in my reading of people such as Dawkins or Hitchens do I see them as advancing much more than a similar position - neither completely rule out that possibility of God (in some form), they simply make the case that all arguments for God so far have been flawed.