I think if I were to meet an atheist I would ask him or her if she or he had looked in the closet for God. The purpose of this odd and possibly insulting question would be to express my skepticism as to whether or not atheists really seek God in all possible places.
The first step in finding God is to understand that God is not knowledge but experience. The arguments between Christians and atheists have focused on the possibility of knowing for sure whether God does or does not exist. This shift, in effect, moves finding God into the realm of philosophy. A wise Roman Christian in the time of Constantine, Lactantius, told his fellow Christians to avoid arguments with philosophers and let them argue among themselves, which they were always eager to do.
Experience, though it is the way to find God, is not an easy path to follow. For one reason, it is not transferrable. I enjoyed my dinner last night but I cannot give you that experience, although you might accept that I did enjoy the meal. Other people’s experiences of God not only cannot be provided to you but can, in most instances, be discounted for one reason or another. In the same way you have probably been exposed to Christian preaching and teaching and found a way to reject the information about God given to you.
There are logical arguments for believing in God. Blaise Pascal put one of these arguments in the form of a bet. He said that the Christian believer bets on God and when he or she dies goes on either to eternal glory or nonexistence. The atheist places his or her wager on nonexistence but may face annihilation by a righteous God. Much of the force of Pascal’s proposal has been removed by so many Christians abolishing hell and thinking everybody will go to glory. Still the possibility of nonexistence probably doesn’t sit too well with you or most people. Most of us very much like our existence and wish it to continue.
If knowledge, logic or others experiences are not the way to God, what about the possibility of a religion other than Christianity? The twentieth-century novelist W. Somerset Maugham wrote novels dealing with the human condition, one was even titled Of Human Bondage. He found in his own life that he was unable to accept Christianity so he explored the other major religions. He came to think Buddhism the best but he could not practice it. This is not the place to compare religions but it does lead to discussing finding God in Christianity.
First, we need to note the distinction between the Old and New Testaments in the Christian Bible. In the Old Testament, God comes to the Jewish people and gives them his instructions for living. The Old Testament is used by many people as an excuse not to seek God. And it is true that it is difficult. It has to be. It shows that everything people think might make them right with God, except for faith, is insufficient.
In the New Testament, God sends his son, Jesus Christ, to the Jews and everybody else so that anyone who seeks God can find him through the person and teachings of Jesus. At this point, I think I need to tell you that many Christians believe that the desire to seek God is itself an act of God and thus, if you are to have this desire, you must be given the grace of God before you have it.
Asking for something from somebody requires putting ourselves in a position of need. This is not easy for most people and may be even harder for atheists, as rejecting the existence of God requires an ego large enough to put aside the religious understanding common to almost everybody.
The author of The Tales of Narnia series, C.S. Lewis, wrote elsewhere that if we took a hard, honest look at ourselves we would see a small dirty thing and so it was better to look at Jesus Christ. How much you are brought to see yourself as God sees you before he enables you to seek him is a matter between you and God. What seems certain is that if you are truly to seek God you must change your thinking probably by beginning to shrink your ego and then opening yourself to the revelation concerning God contained in the New Testament. Jesus said that those who believed in him were able to see God and to see in this sense is to have found God.