If you are an atheist, be prepared to be identified with every atheist who ever lived, even if you have never heard of them.
When I was still in college a few years ago, my Lit professors were all Christian, save one who was Buddhist. From them, I first heard the annoying comments that I would spend more time responding to than I would have ever liked.
The first: "Richard Dawkins never studied theology, so he isn't qualified to discuss it." At this point, I had seen Richard Dawkins a few times on TV shows pushing his books (I only remembered "The God Delusion"). What struck me was that I had never read his work, yet here these professors were telling me that my arguments are unfounded because some British Biologist didn't understand religion. Instead of addressing anything I said, the believers brought up Dawkins, and felt that discrediting him would somehow have an effect on me.
The second: "Christopher Hitchens is a drunk." Again, a man whose books I had never even touched was the target of criticism for my professors. I had never quoted him, mentioned him, or even suggested any ideas that I am aware are his. Of course, this didn't stop any of them from attempting to debunk his ideas for my disinterested benefit.
The third: "Something something Sam Harris." By now I had completely stopped paying attention whenever they got that defensive tone in their voice. Sam Harris is sort of the Holy Spirit in this atheist trinity, because I know the least about him and he's just mysteriously there, lumped into some movement called "The New Atheists."
If my understanding is correct, these guys sell books to believers who buy them to be shocked. I have never read the work of these men, nor do I feel compelled. And yet, believers everywhere feel the need to criticize these men. Not the ideas of these men, mind you, just the men themselves. It would help if believers would state some of their ideas, so I had any fucking clue what they were talking about. I guess believers assume all atheists run out to buy the latest atheist diatribe in print form whenever it is available, since this is what they do. This is what psychologists call "projection."
I wonder, how would Christians feel if I judged them solely based on the Pope, Pat Robertson, and the head of the Mormon Church (whoever that is)? I can imagine the vast majority would be pissed off that I was assuming hundreds of millions of people were all taking their cues from three men who I find easy to criticize.
Why do Christians bother to criticize prominent atheists, rather than their claims? Atheists all appear to independently have the same ideas, since the things I said to my professors must have sparked recognition. They must have thought, "Oh, I heard that before when I was reading something by Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris. If I debase the author, clearly their idea is wrong!"
But this is not the case. Atheists have common arguments because we as atheists observe and must deal with believers who are standardized in their thinking, attitudes, opinions, and theology. This atheist does not meet up every week with other atheists to exchange notes. Religious people do. This atheist does not read from an ideologically-themed book list and plagiarize their ideas. Religious people do. This atheist is not swayed by charisma. Religious people are.
Do I observe evolution as a biological fact? Yes, but that just means I woke up in time for two semesters of biology, two semesters of biochem, a semester of anatomy, a semester of immunology, two semesters of physiology, and a semester of microbiology. In none of those classes were Dawkins, Hitchens, or Harris ever mentioned. Even Darwin was mentioned only during historical overviews because his direct contribution to evolution is merely its initial observation. Darwin is not the foundation of evolution. At best, he was the first shovel in the ground.
So why do religious people constantly misrepresent atheists? Is it retaliation for years of atheists pointing out the horrible things religious leaders have done? Is it a naive belief that atheism actually is a cohesive religion? Is it lazy rhetoric? I may never know, but I do know this: Christians refuse to discuss the Bible, the one thing they all admit to having in common. Christians worship a book of lies, and they are unable to imagine atheists doing any different. Again, this is what psychologists call "projection."
I guess you can't expect much from a group of people who view not only themselves, but all of humanity as a horrible, sinful race requiring supernatural assistance. Psychologists call that... well, you know.