Nick and Stu:
It strikes me that the two of you are talking about two different kinds of "truth", and two different kinds of "knowing." Therefore, Stu, you completely talk past Nick when you say "I believe what evidence supports," because Nick relies on "spiritual evidence" while you rely on "material evidence." And by the same token, Nick, you completely talk past Stu when you say "I cannot reveal anything to you that you are unwilling to see," and "evidence is all fine and dandy, but I seek truth on a higher level: reason."
In Stu's world view, I think, these are not well-formed English sentences; they conform to the syntax of English, but their semantics are either empty or self-contradictory.
Nick, you believe that there is such a thing as revelation, in the biblical sense, meaning that some higher truth is directly revealed to you by God in some internal process that must always remain ineffable. In this way of knowing, you don't become convinced of things by a an incremental process of rational thought that proceeds from known facts to reasonable conclusions by use of logic. Instead, you find yourself suddenly overwhelmed by an epiphany: in an instant, everything becomes clear and you feel no need to question, because you just know that you know what you know...
The rapture of resolved tension is so great that it does not occur to you to double check the truth which has been revealed to you; you are totally convinced. And, because of the intensity of this feeling, you believe that this process is more valid than that based on reasoning from evidence to conclusions.
Stu, your comparatively slow and unglamourous process of reasoning from established facts to necessary conclusions, using provably correct logical operations, cannot possibly offer Nick an emotional experience of comparable intensity, and therefore you cannot convince Nick of anything.
And Nick, Stu does not judge the truth of a statement by the intensity of his emotional response to it, and therefore you cannot convince Stu of anything.
Personally, I try to remain skeptical of any belief that I have a strong emotional response to. The stronger the emotional response, the more likely it is to color my reasoning, and therefore the more careful I must be to seek validation by alternative means. I am no stranger to that moment of inspiration and insight, when one shouts "AHA! Now I see it all!" But I try to keep myself honest by backtracking to what was previously known and tediously building the bridge of reason that will prove to me that I have not fooled myself, or given in to wishful thinking, or simply made a mistake...
That's what reason is for.
That quote perfectly illustrates why discussions between the religious and atheists can be so frustrating for both sides; we’re simply not speaking the same language. Personal revelation is something that science can’t deal with (at least not yet, although some of the articles I’ve read indicate that we’re getting close), and the evidence that atheists seek is just not there (at least in any form besides personal revelation).
The best way to think of the “culture wars” or whatever it’s being called is in terms of logic versus emotion. Instead of “faith”, think about trying to convince your best friend that their cheating lover is not good for them. Without any emotional attachment, it’s really easy to see. But when you’re in love, there’s almost no logic that can break it. The human brain can so easily be made completely illogical by love, and (I’d imagine) the same thing happens with faith.
So how can those without faith preach, if you will, to the faithful? It would seem to me that you’d have to do it the same way you’d convince a friend that their significant other is no good, hammer home the evidence, and maybe get a little mean and confrontational (if the situation warrants it). It probably won’t work, but if you’ve seeded doubt in their mind, it may grow. Eventually some people will deconvert. As far as I can tell, this is what most people espouse anyway.
The opposite could be said of converting people, and it’s exactly what evangelicals do. They’ve had thousands of years to figure out what works, and appealing to fears of death or needs for community or a sense of purpose work. They play to emotion, and unbelievers need to have counters to those emotions (some of which, such as personal revelation, we might not have anything to counter with, except perhaps Sam Harris’ meditation).
But the numbers of the religious are dwindling, as more and more kids leave the church when the leave the home, so something is going right for us. We need to take advantage of it, and work to show people that godlessness can be a very good, happy place. All the evidence in the world cannot make up for that.