Maybe the atheist cannot find God for the same reason a thief cannot find a policeman.
The claim that atheists can't find God for the same reason that thieves can't find the police is an increasingly popular analogy which exists to attack the character of atheists and nothing more. We have to be absolutely clear about what is being said her: thieves can't find the police because they are actively avoiding from the police, if not hiding from them. This is because they know they have done something wrong and don't want to be punished. What does this say about atheists?
Atheists as Criminals
First, atheists are being compared explicitly to criminals — even if every other aspect of the analogy were completely neutral, this comparison cannot avoid creating a negative image of atheists and atheism in people's minds. And remember, few people are starting from a baseline of neutrality anyway — they are already starting out with anti-atheist animus. In the absence of any good reason to think that atheists really are like thieves, this is an obvious and base form of hate mongering.
Second, as already noted, the reason why thieves cannot find police is that they avoid the police. Thieves are criminals whom police arrest and put in prison and few people want that, so it's only human nature for those with a guilty conscience to make every effort to avoid contact with those empowered to enforce the law. If lucky, a thief will never find the police.
This analogy thus communicates the idea that an atheist must also be avoiding God because they have a guilty conscience. This connects directly with a couple of popular myths about atheists: they know God exists but are in denial because they want to continue with their sinful ways and they know God exists but are afraid that God won't forgive them for all their heinous sins. The latter is perhaps slightly less hateful than the first since it doesn't imply that atheists want to commit crimes, but both stake out the position that atheists know God exists and are lying when they claim they don't believe.
Not a Neutral Analogy
Just how credible is it that a person can look at the statement "the reason why a thief cannot find police" and conclude that the "reason" is the completely neutral idea that thieves simply don't invest any effort in trying to find police? So when a murderer doesn't find the police, it's for completely neutral reasons -- it's not because of a fear of being caught and put in prison? If an escaped convict doesn't find the police, it's for the totally neutral reason that they don't happen to be searching for police at the moment -- it has nothing to do with a fear of being sent back to prison?
I'm sorry, but none of that is credible and the idea that thieves merely aren't searching for police isn't any more credible. I don't find it credible that anyone would be ignorant of the fact that thieves actively avoid the police when possible because they have a legitimate concern about being caught and imprisoned. So, I have to conclude that people promoting this mythare not ignorant of the implications of the analogy they offer -- and if they offer the analogy in fully awareness of the false, prejudiced, and hateful things it communicates about atheists, then they must be held personally responsible for that.