Is authentic theism/atheism (a) a matter of choice or (b) a matter of conviction born from perceived evidence? Furthermore if the answer is (b) as I believe it is then what are the implications for theists who attempt to convert non-believers?
The Southern evangelicals that I live among make no claims to having evidence of the existence of God. They understand that theism is a matter of faith, meaning the acceptance of the truth of propositions for which is there is no evidence. Eternal life in heaven the promised reward for faith. That is, if you believe that Jesus will save your soul, he will. Why not believe, then?
For the same reason I don't believe Allah will save my soul.
That's a version of Pascal's (Silly) Wager.
Where is the evidence that humans even have "immortal souls"? Where does one reside? Inside the brain? Our brains start to decompose rather rapidly once oxygenated blood circulation stops... within about 4 minutes (Which is why I have "DNR" engraved on my MedicAlert bracelet...I don't want to be revived with brain damage. D'ruther just quit.). So what does this "soul" do in that situation? Fly out an ear? A nostril?
Makes as much sense as the belief that emotions reside in a pump (the heart).
I would qualify that observation by stating that evangelical/literalists tout the source of the Bible as crucial evidence for a particular paradigm of faith/belief. It is sort of an argument from biblio-antiquarian foundation logical fallacy sort of thing ~~ extraordinary for the depth of conviction it engenders. The evidence for the textual foundations, or just as importantly the lack thereof is treated with acrimonious hostility toward anyone who raises the issues.
Even more astonishing is the response from moderate and believing nominal Christians. They have no trouble with "textual criticism", but insist that profound analogy and textual metaphor suggest spiritual inspiration, despite chapter and verse evincing a litany of cruelties and brutalities. Increasingly, in a liberalized tribute to general religiosity, these folks laud the literature of other religions like the Koran and Bhagavad Gita as further evidences of "divine" inspiration. Generally, more studied explanations like evolutionary trends toward elevated intellect in human cognition and the outcome toward social hierarchy are not well considered.
Charles Schulz had a simple answer to that:
Social hierarchy is an outcome of religion. What did you mean the connection to be, Sam?
It has always been my contention that religion has deep genetic roots. Cultures that have been separated from each other for 10's of thousands of years have religion of some sort. Like language, religion is universal. To be more accurate all cultures maintain supernatural entities as part of their cultural identity whether it's the spirit of the wolf or the river spirit among the Animist or the complexity and ritual of the Catholic Church - it's religion. However, I give the edge to the Animist for common sense because one can actually see a wolf or a river - no need to question the the existence of rivers or wolves.