I wonder how many atheists would know what to make of Orthodox theology as it differs from the fundamentalist flavor?ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š I've met a few atheists on-line who really liked the Orthodox as compared to other Christians, but that doesn't mean they're going to convert.
There are obviously huge differences between different Christian groups, but that in itself is a mark against Christianity in the eyes of many atheists/agnostics. So just trying to make the point "Yeah, but we're different than those fundamentalist types" only strengthens the perception that Christianity is a fragmented mess. The typical response would probably be something like "Oh, yeah, right. Just another group who claims that they
have all the right answers". This type of thing just reinforces in atheists/agnostics the belief that Christianity is divided amongst itself and cannot give one, unified answer regarding what the truth is (like most groups claim they can).ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
I will say that I do think that this tendency is a shame, because I would agree that Orthodoxy really does do the best job at preserving what Christianity originally was, so it's unfair to just lump her in with more recent groups and dismiss her out of hand. Some might say Catholicism instead of (or in addition to) Orthodoxy, I guess that's a matter of opinion. I have constantly noted while reading atheist/agnostic books that the authors almost always deal with European or American Protestantism (depending on the time/place of writing), and hardly ever speak to anything more traditional, except for perhaps a quote or two from Augustine, and maybe some other Father they accidentally came across (e.g., Tertullian). Actually I plan on attempting to rectify the situation, so if it makes you feel any better, there might be an agnostic book out next year dealing specifically with arguments from more traditional groups, with a particular focus on dealing with patristic arguments.
So, as you might have guessed, it is my opinion that even if an atheist/agnostic did learn about Orthodoxy, there would not be IMO enough reasons to convert. As to the reasons, apart from the above, there are issues with the Bible (both it's accurary and it's morality), Church history, the character of tradition, theological concepts such as hell, etc. Orthodoxy is certainly (IMO I'm certain anyway) more stable and sensible than, say, the theology of your typical Protestant televangelist. But that doesn't make it right or the best choice.
However, the fact that Christian prayer really, really bothered people seemed to indicate (to me anyway) that there must be more to it. There is no logical reason why an atheist would be bothered by something they consider stupid and ineffective.
Personally, I can understand this, and it doesn't have to do with people being bothered because of some subconscious idea that prayer really is effective. I'm sure that others like myself just get tired at how people treat prayer like a magic pill. Any time something goes wrong, it's "I'll pray for you". You are a drunk... "I'll pray for you". You need to get a good grade on your test... "I'll pray for you". You have cancer... "I'll pray for you". You are thinking about becoming a Buddhist... "I'll pray for you". For someone who doesn't think that prayer works, hearing this on a daily basis can just about drive you bonkers. Think of it this way, if you believed that something was false, and you heard it unthinkingly promoted as true each and every day, wouldn't you get frustrated as well? Wouldn't you want to just grab your loved ones and friends by the collar and politely inform them that they'd been fooled? That they were wasting their time? That they should be trying to actually help solve problems, rather than waiting for the big man in the sky to fix things?
But it's hard to say that, because of the reaction that it will get. To tell someone such things would be a very personal insult to most people. Most people want to believe that prayer works. Most people want to believe that their family and friends are in heaven waiting to be reunited with them. Telling them that it ain't so is like a slap in the face. So, people come on the internet and talk about it with mostly like-minded people--just like many other groups of people. I personally don't hang around the II forum either, since it is not a place for discussion, but rather a place for attacking Christians and pretty much anyone who disagrees with the majority there. However, on this particular point I can understand where they are coming from.