If you spend any time engaging with the lay atheist/skeptic community, you will soon discover that “apologetics” is a four letter word. This is ironic given that the lay atheist/skeptic who treats “apologetics” as a curse is inevitably invested in her own apologetic enterprise, albeit from an atheistic perspective. She’s read her Dawkins and Stenger, her Dennett and Harris, and so her anti-religious apologists have equipped her with a fiery indignation toward “apologetics”.
It turns out, then, that she is mistaken. It is not apologetics she dislikes. Rather, it is a particular kind of apologetics, perhaps Christian apologetics, or theistic apologetics or religious apologetics. But then she’d do well to clear up the confusion. You don’t find players for the Yankees intoning how they dislike baseball: after all, that’s what they play. Rather, they specify the team(s) they don’t like: “I can’t stand those Red Sox!”
By the same token, those atheists that get worked up over (Christian) apologetics are playing the same game, so they better get more specific about their complaint.
Of course, were the derision expressed in those terms (“I can’t stand Christian apologetics!”), we could then turn to the next question: is the dislike justified? Are Christian apologists more ignorant, less winsome, more acerbic, less honest, more polemical, less kind, than their secular counterparts?
The answer, in my experience, is an unequivocal no. In both groups one finds nasty villagers and exemplary defenders, and a whole lot of others in between.
So from what does this deep aversion to apologetics arise? One suspects it is from a mixture of bad experiences with particular apologists combined with a heady dose of oorah tribalism and partisanship. Needless to say, while the interminable rivalries of baseball may serve the game, the same cannot be said in the world of apologetics. All those who invest time in the careful and thoughtful defense of their views are (presumably) concerned with getting at the way things are, and prejudices borne of bad experiences and partisanship do little more than frustrate that common goal.