I do not understand atheism at all. From what I've seen, the vast majority simply haven't educated themselves enough. I don't mean agnosticism, I mean full "God doesn't exist" atheism. First, there is no possible way that you can know
God doesn't exist unless you've somehow managed to know everything in the universe. More importantly, though, is the fact that self-professed atheists often simply aren't well-versed (pardon the pun) in religious doctrine and theology. I really hate seeing the "I knew a bad Christian once" and "I didn't get that pony I really
wanted" arguments against faith. I constantly see polemics against faith in general and Christianity in particular that are utterly lacking in knowledge. I wasn't always a Christian. I remember being an agnostic, I may have been an atheist at one point; I don't remember. I wanted to have faith, but I didn't see any evidence of it, so, being of a scientific mindset, I concluded that it was more likely that it didn't exist. Finally, mid-way through high school, I realized that I was very unhappy, and that all the Christians I knew seemed to have a sort of inner happiness. I wanted that, so I started looking into Christianity and muddling through. There were plenty of things I didn't understand, and a lot of apparent contradictions which I variously put down as either misconceptions or unimportant. I remember in my Senior year of high school in my Anatomy class being stunned by how complicated the human body is, and deciding that there was no way that this could've happened without an intelligent design. As I looked around, I saw bits of God everywhere. Looking at my own life, I realized that all the bad things that had ever happened to me had ultimately made me stronger as time had passed. With this new-found knowledge, I think I finally had faith, since I knew that things would turn out for the best in the long run. I also read a lot of theology, and the apparent contradictions began to melt away as I learned more about Hebrew culture, idiom, and context. I'm at the point now where most of the time when people point out what they see as a contradiction, I'm dumbfounded and think "You mean you really
don't see how this works, how these bits fit together nicely without damaging each other?" Sometimes, better reading is necessary, as when God says one thing at one time and another thing later, and this is treated as a contradiction. While this is worrisome, there's little that can be done to rectify sloppiness. It's true ignorance that is the enemy. None of the denominations do an adequate job of explaining doctrine and theology to their followers (I still don't know exactly what the narthex and sanctuary actually are, or when it's appropriate to cross yourself in an Episcopal church). For a while, I thought I'd lost faith, until I realized that I felt guilty for sinning whenever I did something wrong and I still prayed to God that I might have more faith. I realized that if I actually had lost faith in God, I wouldn't be praying to him in the first place, and certainly wouldn't feel bad for violating his will. I think that what I'm trying to say is that I know I have faith and that I'm saved. I'm not perfect. I still sin. I'm willing to bet I sin several times per day. The difference from before is that I'm doing my best not to, and I know I shouldn't be sinning. My hope is that over time, as I (ever so slowly) learn my lesson, I can become more of an instrument for God.