What’s Wrong With “Atheist”?

Ricky Gervais argues that "there shouldn’t be a word for atheism: it shouldn’t exist, it’s ridiculous. If people didn’t keep making up supernatural deities, I wouldn’t have to deny they exist." Fellow unbeliever Norm Geras disagrees:

Gervais professes not to have any problem with the fact that others than himself believe in God or in an afterlife. OK, so he's not after stamping out religion, and that being the case, the word 'atheism' has a useful meaning. It puzzles me why atheists are sometimes shy of the word. If it's because they consider the phenomenon with which atheist belief contrasts to be a negative one, you might expect anti-racists and feminists to have a problem with the terms 'anti-racism' and 'feminism', but by and large they seem not to, though it would be better if those terms weren't needed.