Fiction is a good way of sneaking atheist thinking into the attention of faith-afflicted readers. The following is a good example.
The quotes are from pages 103 to 105 of the novel 'The Mystery Of The Locks' by Edgar Watson Howe. The novel was published in 1885.
In the following dialogue, a newly wed couple discusses her wish to be reunited in heaven after death, and he expresses his wish, this could be true, in spite of his lack of religious belief.
"I have never thought about it much, and investigated but little," he answered. "It has always been natural for me to think of the grave as the end of everything, so far as I am concerned. But I have confidence in your intelligence and judgment; if you have investigated, and believe, that is enough for me; _I_ believe. Please do not worry about it any more; I will try very hard to remain with you."
He said it lightly, yet there was enough seriousness in his manner to convince her that his love for her was honest, even if his religion was not.
"Religion is not natural with me: I feel no necessity for it or lack of it," he said again. "But I have no objection to it; on the contrary, I have always liked the idea, but I lack the necessary faith. It would be pleasant for me to believe that, in the next country, a day's journey removed, good gifts might be found; but if I could not believe it, I could not be reasonably blamed for my refusal to attempt the journey. I might even regret that the accounts were not true; but I would not insist that they _were_ true against my honest convictions, because I _hoped_ they were. I am religious enough in sentiment, but my brain is an inexorable skeptic. Nothing is more pleasing to me than the promise of your faith. What a blessed hope it is, that after death you will live in a land of perpetual summer; and exist forever with your friends where there is only peace and content! I am sure I can never see as much of you as I want to in this life, and I cannot tell you how much I hope we will be reunited beyond the grave, and live forever to love each other, even as we do now. I am willing to make any sacrifice necessary to ensure this future; it would be a pleasure for me to make greater sacrifices than are required, according to common rumor, for they are not at all exacting, except in the particular of faith; but that I lack, to a most alarming extent, though I cannot help it. You cannot have faith because it is your duty any more than you can love because it is your duty. I only regret that I cannot be religious as naturally as I love you, but I cannot, though I try because you want me to. I want to believe that men do not grow old and become a burden to themselves and those around them; but I know differently, and while I hope that there will be a resurrection, I know that those who have gone away on the journey which begins with death send back no messenger, and that nothing is known of heaven except the declaration of pious people that they believe in it. I love to hear the laughter of children, but it does not convince me that all the world is in a laughing mood, and that there are no tears. No one can find fault with your religion except that they cannot believe in it. Everything in nature teaches us that we will return to dust, and that we will be resurrected only as dust by the idle winds. You don't mind that I speak freely?"
"I have tried all my life to convince myself that I possessed the spark of immortality, but my stubborn brain resists the attempt. All my reasoning convinces me that I live for the same reason that my horse exists. I am superior to the faithful animal only in intelligence, for in physical organization I am only an animal. When an animal dies, I see its body dwindle away until there is nothing left; it becomes dust again. I _hope_ that I may share a different fate, but I _believe_ that I shall pass away in precisely the same manner. Understand me; I want to be religious, but I cannot be. There are some people--I suppose there are a great many, though I never knew but one personally--who ought to live forever; they are too rare to die. You are one of them, but I fear you will be lost to the world in the course of nature. You ought to be preserved for the good you can accomplish by playing the organ. I never believe in heaven so much as when I am in the back pews listening to your music. There is more religion in the old organ when you are at the keyboard than in all the people who listen to it put together; and I sometimes think that those who write the music and the songs are inspired, though when you know them, their personal characters do not encourage that impression."
She put her hand to his mouth as if to stop him, but he pushed it away with a laugh, and continued,--
"Let me finish, that you may know what I really am, and then I will never mention the subject again. But don't think me worse than other men for my unbelief; they nearly all think as I do, though only the bad ones say so. All good men rejoice that there is a pleasing hope in religion, and encourage it all they can, but only a few of them have your faith."
"All be well yet, Allan," the wife answered. "You have promised to try and get rid of your unbelief, and I know that you will be honest in it. The Master whom I serve next to you--I fear I am becoming very wicked myself, for you are more to me than everything else--"
"There it is again," Dorris said, looking at her, half laughing. "That expression wasn't studied, I know, but it pleases me greatly. You are always at it, though you have a right to now."
"He is more considerate than any of us imagine, and if He knows you did not believe, He will also know that you could not, and did not intend any disrespect."
"There is something in that," he answered. "I loved you before I knew you, though I did not believe you existed."
"But you _did_ find me. Is it not possible that you will find Him, though you do not believe He exists?"
"That is worth thinking about. The next time I take a long ride into the country I will think it over, if I can get you out of my mind long enough. One thing, however, is certain; I want to follow you, wherever that leads me. Let me add, too, that in what I have said I intend no disrespect. It would be impudent in me, a single pebble in the sands surrounding the shores of eternity, to speak ill of a faith which is held by so many thousands of intelligent and worthy people. I speak freely to you, as my wife, my confidant, that you may know what I am."
This text is a modified version of an entry in my ERCP-blog.