Jewish Philosopher wrote a post here, that he had emailed to me as well. I'm not sure why I responded to him since he has a poor history of fair discussion but I figured that it couldn't hurt much to give him a response.
Your entire understanding of why people become intellectual atheists is way off base. It has to do with seeing the type of world we live in as opposed to one where we'd expect to live if there was a God watching who kept everything just and fair. It has to do with the fact that the afterlife was made up as a cosmic placeholder for God's justice while we have no real evidence to suggest its actual existence. It has to do with the magical and miracle world of the Bible as opposed to the rational and natural law bound world that we live in.
It has to do with the fact that many ancient people wrote their own fantastic tales and the fact that people all over the world - to this day! - are fooled so easily into believing falsehoods and the impossible. It has to do with the fact that one person's supernatural claim is just as valid (or invalid) as any other person's supernatural claim. Once you accept the irrational into your ontological system how can one rationally justify that belief and no other irrational belief?
It has to do with the fact that the god of the gaps is shrinking with every step of scientific progress. It has to do with the fact that religion tends to act as a salve for emotional needs and that few people critically study it. It has to do with the fact that your most likely "chosen" religion is determined by the one you were born into.
It has to do with the fact that while religious leaders and theologians can make all sorts of arguments and apologies to explain all of the apparent inconsistencies with their teachings and holy books in relation to the actual world and internal makeup - the rational mind will eventually hit on Occam's razor and simplify the entire equation by taking theism out of it.
It has to do with the fact that people recognize the power of science and the power of applying the scientific method to any and all questions of the nature of man and the universe. To believe without evidence is irrational. To believe without evidence is faith.
All that is very well and good, however I believe it contradicts the history of modern academia.
Correct me if I'm wrong (and I mean this sincerely; please try to provide reliable sources I can check). The academic world was purely Christian for centuries. All the universities were primarily divinity schools. Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Linnaeus were all devoutly religious. Darwin was a theology student. I don't believe he ever earned a degree in biology. Until about 1840, geologists were busy working on "Flood geology".
Today of course that has completely changed. Why?
I think the dinosaurs did it. In 1842, the term "dinosaur" was coined and the realization dawned on the academic world that they had been fooled. Suddenly it became obvious that in earlier times life was entirely different than it is today. That meant, allegedly, that Genesis was fake. Suddenly, the entire culture of the academic world changed.
This could not be proclaimed openly. In many countries, including England, criticizing Christianity was a jailing offence. Darwin never dared admit publicly that he was an agnostic. However from 1842 onward, the academic world began quietly, gradually educating the public into the new doctrine of atheism [or secularism, agnosticism, naturalism, materialism, scientism or whatever you want to call it].
Of course, philosophers went to work creating all kinds of additional arguments to support the new faith, however I think the core was and remains the Argument from Fossils. Everything else is just fluff which no one was every bothered by before.
Some apologies had to formulated also.
Atheists are obviously going to be asked "OK, there is no god. So where did we come from?" The answer fabricated was "Evolution made us." And when asked "Oh, you don't believe in God. So you can do whatever you want if no one is watching?" the answer formulated was "Of course not! I am a humanist."
The way I see it, the essential debate between Judaism and atheism is:
"In your judgment, which argument is stronger: The Argument from Fossils or the Kuzari Principle?" Of course, you know my answer. ;-)
You're confusing the historical trends of beliefs in intellectual western civilization and the makings of modern day atheists.
The beginning of the end of faith was something called the Renaissance. Following centuries of living under the stifling and thought controlling auspices of the church, humanity began to rebel and to think freely. Since those early humanists through the empiricists and the later logical positivists people were growing more and more skeptical of traditional dogma. It wasn't as if dinosaurs became understood and then "poof" the whole world changed. The world had been changing for centuries.
Newton, Galieo, Copernicus, etc were indeed religious - but they also weren't cowed by authority. They were empiricists as they looked towards the physical evidence and not what the clergymen told them. This was the same type of thinking geologists would take later on. This was science.
Science is institutionalized skepticism. As more of religion's claims came to be under the scientific view people took a skeptical view of those claims and appealed to what the physical evidence substantiated. It is not faith, in fact, it is actually the opposite of faith.
People being skeptical of religious claims was a natural part of the entire ways of thought that the Age of Reason dominated. Generally the idea was skepticism, to not appeal to authority and to use Reason. Your way of saying that people suddenly became adherents to a new faith and then surreptitiously began to evangelize is false. It was just skepticism. The same skepticism that drove Galileo to take out his telescope and check out the heavens for himself.
Evolution didn't develop as an apology for atheism. If you've ever read Darwin's works you'd see that his theory was based on many studies and observations. Darwin was a devout theist as he composed it in his mind. It was just his understanding of the evidence he collected that brought him to the conclusion that it did. Skepticism plus evidence is science.
Proper science is minimalistic. Understand that and you'll understand why there are intellectual atheists today.