Re: Manifestestations of a more confident atheism
Because man is a rational creature, he wants to understand the universe in which he lives. Both religion and science are ways for man to pursue this quest for truth.
I don't understand how Ricky's testimony, while honest, is convincing. He doesn't give any reasons for this conversion other than the fact that his older brother asked him, "Why do you believe in God?", and he felt that neither he nor his mother had a satisfactory answer. I suppose he was saying that if his mother didn't have a satisfactory answer, then one must not exist? Nothing against his mother, but just because you can't explain something with 100% certitude doesn't mean you can't believe in it. Most scientifically-aware people would agree that the speed of light is the fastest that anything can travel in our universe, but would be hard pressed to explain why.
So, I would invite you to investigate why other people have decided that atheism just doesn't make sense, and how faith and reason can and should complement one another. Religion, if true, can stand up to inquiry and criticism.
Great authors and thinkers such as C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton have made this discovery.
More recently, Jen at Et Tu? has a written a very moving story of her conversion from atheism, as well as a piece on why she believes in God in the first place.
I made this discovery myself about three years ago now. Part of the reason was that I realized that the natural sciences can't explain the "why" of things. At the time I didn't think that there was necessarily a purpose to life, the universe, and everything...but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered why it was that the scientific method worked at all? We rely on our reason, logical and mathematical principles to explain the phenomena of the world around us. But why do our reason, logic, and math have any capability to explain? Math and logic cannot be explained by science, rather, they form the foundations of science. So why are math and logic true?
At the same time I was coming to the realization that there is a limit to human knowledge. I figured that since there is an infinite amount of knowledge to know (e.g. the set of transcendental numbers or the digits of pi), and since no person or group of people will ever live for an infinite amount of time, then some things will always remain outside the realm of knowable things. This meant to me that I could never disprove the existence of God...but could I prove it? This is the position of the agnostic: that we can't really know one way or another.
The position of the Christian is that not only does God exist, but he wants to tell us about himself; so much so that he became one of us. I began reading more about what the Catholic Church had to say in the matter. The Church's bold claim is that it is the earthly institution that was founded by none other than God, the Creator of the universe who became man. To my surprise, I found it to be an intellectual treasure trove. The Catholic Church is, and always has been, a great defender and promoter of reason and the sciences. Nothing in Christianity is contrary to reason. At the same time, it reminds us of the limits to human knowledge, and reveals truths to us that our reason could have never reached on its own.
All of this is my long-winded way of saying to you, and to all people of good will, that Christianity is not the enemy of reason, nor of science, nor of any legitimate human endeavour. It deserves a serious and honest analysis before it is discarded as logically fallacious or as merely an emotional crutch.