Atheists and believers have a habit of equating religion with god, and that is not accurate. If you are going to consider god then you need to be specific in defining the term. People often tell me I hate god. I can't hate what isn't there. What I hate is the idea of god created by religion. When people say you can't know god they are correct. No one can know god because we have no evidence god even exists. What religion does is present an artist's rendering of god.
It would be like me asking you to draw me a picture of the 3rd planet from the star I was pointing at in the night sky. You would know only the very basics. It is a planet,so it is probably round. What else would you know? Nothing. You wouldn't even know for sure if there is a third planet orbiting that star. So it would be impossible to go any further and know you were correct.
You could go into detail and claim it has one large ocean. It also has creatures that can live both on land and breath underwater. The trees grow to the height of skyscrapers. you could say the days last a month and the sun is the color green in the sky. You could claim anything you want, the most important things to remember are all the attributes you give this planet would come from what you know about living on earth and they are all made up, you couldn't even call them educated guesses.
The bible stories are the science fiction stories of that time. These days we have Star Wars. Back then they had angels, beasts with multiple heads, turning water into wine and knocking women up with out having intercourse. The authors of the bible were The Steven Speilburgs and George Lucas' of their time.When they imagined the end of times they thought of famine, disease, hordes of locus covering the land, and earthquakes. Those were the things that were scary to them. Those were the things that they had night mares about. If you were to write about what was going to happen during the rapture would you say a horde of locus is going to swarm across America and eat us? Probably not. It would be more like the earth is going to have climate change and turn into an uninhabitable sphere of floating ice, if you were the scientific type. The younger generation might say the internet will become sentient and enslave humanity. The bible is science fiction before science had had a chance to catch up. Now science has passed up religion and is well on its way to destroying it all together accept for the sentimental few who just can't give up the old ways. (see people who still use record players, or commodore 64 enthusiasts)
I think Atheists have been going about it the wrong way for the most part (from what I've seen) We shouldn't be debating if a god (or gods) exist, we should be discussing it. There is no way for us to know one way or the other. If people want to believe in god they should realize they must believe in something created from no actual knowledge except that it is the he/she/it/them that created the universe. That's all, you can not give any other characteristics because they are unknown.
This is where religion comes in and this is where we need to concentrate our efforts. We need to make sure believers know we do not consider god and religion as the same thing, they are not interchangeable. They define god according to their bible,book or imagination . We don't define god the same way. I think many if not most Atheists do not consider this when speaking to or debating believers. I'm sure most know what I'm talking about though, they just dont use the argument against believers. It would give people a far different impression if Atheists were to say "You know I'm not sure, there could be a god." which any reasonable person would have to admit simply because we don't know everything. You can claim to know there is no possibility of a god no matter what. If you do believe this then please stay away from me because I can't stand stupid people who think they know everything and feel the need to show it off, they annoy the hell out of me. you can't even explain to them why you think they suck cause there is no way for the concept to break through the stupid.
A believer will be more open to discussion if you find some common ground. Tell the you can not completely dismiss the possibility of some type of creator.Then you can make them own their god who in most cases is a bi-polar dick. The reason he is a dick is because mankind as a whole is a bi-polar dick too. Maybe you should refrain from calling their god bi-polar or a dick (use your judgment) but most religious people who are intelligent will admit there are aspects of their religions god they are not quite sure of. Bring up the way their god allows so many people to starve to death. Do those people deserve that terrible suffering? Why would a god as described in their bible do that? To say god's it's god's plan doesn't make any sense couldn't god have found another more humane way to kill people if he must kill them? The bible itself is a contradiction why would god allow it to be so vague? If we go after the man made version of god and cause people to question it using common sense it may work better than simply walking up and saying "I'm an Atheist, there is no god" that tends to shut down any further constructive discussion. This isn't a show of uncertainty or a weakening of position, it is a way of smarter interaction with believers. Not everyone is going to be able to pull it off and it isn't a silver bullet but it may work better than what we are doing now.
The last piece of advice- Never get into a debate with anyone as to whether god exists or not. You can't win because, like I said it is unknowable at this point. Make sure you know what god you are debating about. Once you lock the person on the religious side into a certain man made version of god you can easily come out on top using common sense.
I'd like to thank Frank Apisa for the inspiration and assistance in forming these thoughts without laying any of the blame for them upon him