"If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, 'Curse David,' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?'" "Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to."
-David (When Shimei stood to mock him in his flight from Absalom)
Have you ever wondered what theological purpose atheists serve for this earth? How exactly do they serve the Sovereign Lord, and what has he raised them up for? It would be interesting to investigate this question via scriptural exegesis and solid theological (and philosophical work).
I used to think that they were a sort of bulwark of reason and scientific knowledge. In that sense one could propose that they have been sent to rebuke the Church's severe lack of understanding and thoughtlessness in regards to the aforementioned epistemic regimes. But that cannot really suffice for a doctrine of atheism. I have seen just as many close-minded and thoughtless atheists in regards to reason and science as I have Christians within the church. Besides, there are still far too many good scientists and philosophers in the church for any need of this rebuke (one is reminded off-hand of the quantum physicist John Polkinghorne or the phenomenologist Paul Ricoer). What then?
This might be pseudo-Barthian, but could it be that their publications of rhetoric and mockery against Christianity or even religion in general are their raison d'être? A Christopher Hitchins or a Richard Dawkins cannot teach us much about reason, but what they can do is shame us and oppose us with their ice and their slander. This has the effect of humbling all of our religious attempts to move beyond or manipulate the Revelation of God in Christ. We think we have scientific ownership of God much as 'scientismists' (my own word) claim in regards to truth and reality. Both of us are dead wrong. God opposes the proud. But often he will use a proud man to bring down another proud man.
Just some naive considerations.