In an article for Newsweek, Lisa Miller (http://www.newsweek.com/id/216551)reports on a study which Sam Harris and his colleagues have been conducting on the brain-- specifically looking to see if people who believe in god are wired differently than people who do not believe in god. Interestingly, the results of the study show that religious beliefs are carried in the same part of the brain as the part that contains empirical fact. So-- there is no difference in how a child learns about math or science than how they learn and understand god. The authors go on to point out that people who believe in god are just as emphatic about the reality of god as a mathematician would be about the speed of light. (The difference I would point out would be that people who are in mathematical or scientific studies DO modify their beliefs about math and what it tells them when the evidence demands a reevaluation while believers... well, you know) At any rate, at the end of the article, she says, "While the brains of believers and nonbelievers do not differentiate between beliefs about God and about mathematics, the believers themselves do, a little. Participants retrieved their religious beliefs and their historical facts from the same place and in the same way, but they showed less certainty when thinking about the religious statements. It took them a little longer to push the button, and a part of the brain having to do with uncertainty, or cognitive dissonance, lit up. If even the strongest believers are a little unsure about God, and the strongest atheists are a teeny bit anxious that they might be wrong, there’s room, perhaps, for one person to begin to try to imagine the world view of another, no matter what the brain sees as true."
My response to this statement is: understanding why atheists believe what they do and a believer's willingness to admit her or she also has doubts will hardly end the debate. And atheists do not need to understand why believers believe what they do to understand that they are adding 2 + 2 and coming up with 10. And, point in fact, many of them do understand why believers believe. The argument is not about one group not understanding another. When someone erroneously believes something and then tries to get others to believe this inaccuracy, a problem is being created which needs to be addressed.
And furthermore, the ongoing argument is not simply about god or no god. The argument is really about issues like: teaching evolution in schools (without adding myths about gods creating the earth-- and by the way- why does the christian creation story hold more weight than say the Native American stories?), allowing women to choose what is best for themselves (i.e. abortion and birth control), allowing research on stem cells...
I can go on and on about the damage that is done in the name of belief in god, but you get the point.
There is simply no middle ground.