I have come to the conclusion that those who don’t believe in God don’t want to believe in God. There is nothing that a believer in God can say or do to change their mind for it must be accomplished by the Holy Spirit in the depths of those who doubt or deny His existence.
A couple of quick stories to illustrate my point.
When I was in college as a philosophy and English major, I did not believe in God or at least I denied that I did. I was a fallen away protestant and vehement in my belief. On a bus trip to NYC from Boston I was seated next to a priest. I had on several occasions tried to get the reading light to come on so that I could read and not be bothered by conversing with him. It seemed to be useless and so the priest began a conversation with me concerning faith and God. He was amiable and I thought I was holding my own in arguments for or against the belief in God. At one point I said to the priest, “If God really exists, why not just create a miracle and cause this light to come on so that I can read?” No sooner had I spoken these words than the light flashed on. The priest said that he doubted that I would take this as a sign that God existed and he was right. I immediately began to rationalize the event by telling him that it must certainly be a short circuit in the light or a loose wire. We continued to speak and the kind old priest had a wry smile on his face as he continued to tell me that I just couldn’t accept the fact that God had answered my request. I then, in an act of defiance, said to the priest that if that were the case, he had my permission to now turn the light off. And quick as that, the light went off. But I went back to my theories of loose wires and such. We left each other’s company amiably but with him jovially saying that God was trying to get me to know that He truly exists and that He wants me to come back to Him. It was of no use. I wasn’t ready.
My second story actually happened about a year or so earlier while I was in my college dorm room sleeping. In the dream, the room was as visible and real to me as it was when I was awake; I could see everything and indeed, I’m sure I could have picked up a book and read from it. The oddest thing however was that my dog of 17 years was sitting at the foot of my bed. He moved his mouth and my cognition of what he was attempting to do was to say goodbye. As I wondered at this in my dream, I awoke from it by a loud knock on the dorm room door. It was a phone call for me. Still wiping the sleep from my eyes, I went to the phone booth in the hall and picked up the phone only to hear my mother tell me that my dog from childhood had just been put to sleep. She just wanted me to know because I was very fond of him as we practically grew up together. Now the first thought that quickly ran through my mind was that God granted this gift to me because I could not be home to say my goodbyes. But as usual, I could not allow myself to hold to such nonsense. I went back to thinking that it was just an extraordinary coincidence.
Those are my personal stories and they revolve around minor or what we might call “silly” miracles or “signs”. But they illustrate our reluctance to change our minds when our hearts are far from accepting what our senses and our intellect are telling us.
My thought is that one need not try to evangelize or convert an atheist or an agnostic. All you can do is resist them in many of their preconceived notions. You can point out the utilitarian outlook of atheism as an affront to human dignity but they will not believe you or if they do they will not care and they may even endorse the idea.
God does speak to us but often we don’t allow our hearts to hear and God will not violate His gift to us of free will.