Engaging the Atheist in the Neighborhood

 

Definition of atheism

The term is simply “no god”. Atheism can mean a lack of belief in a particular god or the belief that there is no god. Further, some atheists are non-theists while others are anti-theists.

Common characteristics of atheism

Popular atheism has become more and more aggressively militant in recent years. It boldly attempts to gain widespread sympathy by means of identifying itself as the only reasonable view. Many of these atheists are condescending and profane. Although atheism technically denies the existence of any god, Christianity is clearly the prime target. Open season has been declared on Christians. Hence I will use the term Christianity throughout this paper, however one could as readily substitute “theism.”

In fairness, not all atheists are the same. Indeed some are extremely militant and outspoken making decent conversation with them difficult. Others believe that all evidences lead to the conclusion that there is no god. Others may be open to the possibility of a god. Others may support your right to believe in a god. Hence, not all of the characterizations listed here are applicable to every atheist.

Atheism declares that Christianity is anti-intellectual. Only pitiful morons could actually believe such drivel.

Atheism refuses to see that his belief system must actually be taken on faith in the same manner as Christianity. One well known atheist apologist contended that “…belief is not a belief.” and “Our principles are not a faith.”(Christopher Hitchens in god is not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything, p 5)? This is really funny business.

Atheism routinely mocks the Bible as an outdated historically unreliable piece of human literature. Quotations from the Bible prove nothing.

Atheism makes no bones about its view of Jesus as an innately bad person who hoodwinked people.

Atheism views all religions as a group. To rebut one is to rebut all. So, the atheism apologist will often paints astrology, various superstitions, and Christianity with the same brush and in so doing builds a straw man he labels religion or Christianity and then tears it down. The fallacy of his central argument is easily seen. It goes something like this:

Observation 1 - Here are some examples of the bad things religions have done

Observation 2 - All religions are the same

Conclusion 1 - All religions are bad

Conclusion 2 - Religion is the reason for all bad things

Substitute hospitals or universities or politicians or laws in place of religion above and see how off the wall this argument is.

Most leading atheists are committed naturalists and materialists; that is they think that science must explain everything. Darwin is their prophet and evolution is their creed. Of course they have yet to demonstrate how this model explains a mother’s love or all human choices or human consciousness itself.

Atheists not only are determined to eradicate all religion, they also have declared war on institutions typically honored by the Bible such as traditional marriage and parenthood.

Atheists deny the concept of sin – there is no god to offend. Morality and ethical behavior are relative matters as well.

Atheism is tied to the position that there are no logical absolutes which statement itself is a logical absolute. A system of thought with no absolute truth leads to relativism. Thus the non-existence of absolute truth means the axiom that there is no absolute truth cannot be true. To admit that there are absolute truths is to open the possibility of God.

Atheists deny anything supernatural whether God or Satan or demons or miracles or the soul or afterlife. All things can be explained in terms of measurable material data.

Engaging atheists 

How should I, as a Christian, relate to atheists? Regardless of the degree of atheism a person advocates, I believe the following suggestions are helpful.

I am not interested in defending religion. I am a Biblical Christian. There is a decided difference.

I am not interested in defending the God of the Bible either. Nor am I interested in arguing for His existence. For me and many Christian apologists the existence of the God of the Bible is a basic presupposition of Biblical Christianity. I begin where the Bible begins (Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…”). I don’t ask if God is or where He came from.

I assume the inspiration and authority of the Bible as the sole criterion for truth. Now obviously, if we do not agree on these presuppositions, we cannot expect to have an argument leading to resolution of our differences. In other words, one’s epistemology is critical. A person’s criterion for truth is everything.

I understand that belief in God is not tied to a set of philosophic proofs and syllogistic logic. The so called proofs set forth by well-meaning Christians miss the mark. Further, I do not believe I can logically prove the existence of the God of the Bible. Nor should I. I don’t look at the beautiful mountains in Montana and posit God. Instead, I realize that the mountains in Montana are beautiful because God exists. I start with God. Atheists must also start someplace.

I aver that ultimate questions such as the existence of God cannot be answered by means of science and logic. But they must be answered! I answer ultimate questions by faith. The atheist uses “belief that is not belief”, whatever that is!

The core issue is really one of certainty. Can I be certain about anything? Post-modern thinkers argue that there is no absolute truth, or if there is, I cannot certainly know it. Of course, this line of reasoning begs the question. What is really meant is that there is only one truth that can be known certainly; namely that there is no certain truth. Out of this fog arises the popular atheism which is the endgame of postmodern secularism. Though the new atheism is a tiny segment of the global population, it is none-the-less an elitist minority exerting a wide influence.

No one comes to the question of God’s existence neutrally. All have preconditions. So, in the interest of courtesy, I desire to know what the basic presuppositions of the atheist are, what his criterion for truth is, and what his resultant worldview is. And that, by the way, is all I ask in return – I would like others to know what the Biblical worldview is.

The basic approach is the same with an atheist as with anyone else. I must eventually get to the gospel with my atheist friend. The gospel is the only power that can remedy his lost condition.

Respect, patience, and compassion must be my strong suit; even if I am unfairly attacked.

My friend will undoubtedly write the Bible off as an irrelevant book. Nonetheless, my goal must be to make the central message of the Bible known.

I will not engage in extended debate about the existence of God. If I could convince my friend that God exists I will have done nothing for his soul.

Given atheism’s absolute truth that there is no absolute truth, I realize the general futility of attempting to win logical debates with my friend.

My friend’s starting point determines his end point as does mine. I will not panic if he does not agree with my presuppositions. The gospel is still the key.

 In the end, the only way to establish Christian theism is by means of the special revelation of God, the Bible. Either God has spoken or He has not.

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2017. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.