Unfortunately, I think many atheists, even prominent ones, have misconceptions about what is going on in the mind of most believers. I don’t pretend to know what is going on in peoples’ minds, but I think I have a better idea than some about what is at the core of believing in God. Such statements as: “religious people are God's slaves,” or “religion makes people take this life for granted, dismissing this world as unimportant and merely a transitional stage to the next,” while having some measure of truth, do not, in my opinion, really speak with believers. This is because the believers just don’t see it that way. In order to get people thinking, you must get on their level, and must not rely on too many statements that the religious cannot connect with.
At the root of religious belief is an inner feeling. To believers, believing in God feels special; it feels right. They cannot imagine a world without God, without that amazing feeling. It is this inner conviction that drives belief. There are many traditional arguments for the existence of God, but instead of showing why these arguments fail, we can just make the point that these arguments are not why people become religious in the first place. Religious people don’t need use arguments to justify their belief in God, they know that God exists – it is how they feel. This statement doesn’t come from me, but from many believers themselves. Viewed in this light, arguments for God are an attempt to make religion seem rational when in fact it is not.
Given that religious belief is rooted in inner conviction, my strategy is to show that inner conviction, no matter how amazing or transcendental or special it seems to you, is no way to judge whether or not a belief is true. Many people around the world use the same grounds – personal conviction – to justify completely incompatible beliefs. Anything that can be used to justify many different incompatible claims is a horrible indicator of truth.
I believe that religious people are concerned with how their beliefs make them feel, and atheists are concerned with whether or not their beliefs are true. For those of you who cannot imagine a world without a god, I think you should try harder. Imagine what it would be like to be an atheist. For as you know, atheists still have happiness and values. What would it be like if it were just us and this beautiful world?