What’s the Deal with Atheism?

Dustin Huguet Articles 12 Comments

Recently I posted a question on reddit.com.  I simply asked “What are your questions about God, or the existence of God?” Essentially, I believed this to be a rather harmless inquiry; however, I was surprised to see the anger communicated both to me and to the idea of God.  My intention was not to spark a torrent of rage, but simply to get some good questions that people struggled with when it comes to a belief in a higher power.  I received over 200 comments within 3 hours of posting this question, and although I did my best to “weather the storm” so to speak, my attempts proved futile.  Amongst the fierce barrage of rather unhappy criticism, I was unable to begin a meaningful conversation.  Even if there were a few that were genuinely interested in doing so, their voice was lost in a sea of displeasure.  Although I understand that perhaps this website is not the best place to find strong intellectual advocates for atheism, it still inspired inquiry to the motivation behind the atheist’s mission.  I find that amongst the atheist community there is great anger toward belief in God.  Whether they have been hurt by the church or people whom they know to be Christian, or even hurt by what Christians stand for, clearly there is something more than just intellectual blockage involved.  So then, what is the deal with Atheism, really?

I have had many conversations with atheists, and most of them are positive.  They usually begin with thoughts and ideas from both perspectives. Obviously I attempt to explain why belief in God is reasonable, and they usually counter with an argument against; thus begins a healthy dialogue.   I have typically enjoyed my conversations with those who disagree with the existence of God.  Not because I like hearing why God doesn’t exist, but rather because it sharpens my ability to give an account for the hope that I have (paraphrasing 1 Peter 3:15).  That all being said, there does sometimes come a point in the conversation where reason is no longer valued…or so it seems.  Instead of friendly dialogue, there develops an accusative tone that suggests belief in God is idiotic.  This is when arguments are no longer made but are replaced by sarcastic comments about invisible spaghetti monsters and cosmic Jewish zombies.  I often cannot help but wonder, “what happened here?”  All of a sudden the conversation turns hostile.  Our once civil discussion meets its end and I begin searching for answers as to what went wrong.  Although I cannot give an account for what was said that triggers such change, I can only speculate that there has to be more than meets the eye.

The media has also played an influential role in the uprising atheistic community.  Although perhaps there is not much of a strong intellectual attack taking place, I often see shows like Family Guy and The Simpsons taking cracks at Christianity.  These jests toward Christianity not only claim that it is untrue, but make it seem laughable to believe such things.  Often I see Christianity represented by a particular character in the show that turns out to be some crazy fundamentalist that does something insane or says something bizarre.  In a plea of guilt, I must say that I have even found myself laughing at these satirical scenes, however, soon realize that these scenes are created to point out the stupidity of religious belief; particularly Christianity.  Therefore anyone putting any social value in shows like these could actually feel embarrassed to believe in God.  As ridiculous as this may sound, people (especially teens) don’t necessarily care about what is true, they care about what their friends think; and according to these shows, their friends think it’s stupid.

So then what is it? Is Atheism overly emotional? Is there something beyond intellect that holds them back? Or are we as Christians just so wrong that getting passionate about it is a natural response? I guess if the latter is true, the question I would ask is, if they have such a solid “case-closed” argument for the non-existence of God, why hasn’t anyone heard it? Also, if it is so unreasonable to believe in God, why bother getting so passionate? In fact, why even bother engaging in a debate with anyone that is so clearly delusional?  Perhaps it is because it isn’t so cut and dry as one may think. Perhaps it is because faith is actually reasonable!

So if you find yourself in the middle of a hostile situation, don’t become discouraged. Instead continue articulating the reasons you believe in a respectful and loving manner and trust that God can change hearts no matter how impossible it may seem!

Comments 12

  1. The problem is that athiests actually know God exists, they are just in denial. Romans1:18-19 says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is know about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” So they suppress the truth to the point where they believe their own lies. They have blindfolded themselves to the things that God has revealed, so when you use sound reasoning to prove the existence of God you are essentially tearing off that blindfold and exposing their eyes to the full glory of God. If you had lived your life with a blindfold over your eyes and someone suddenly tore it off and shone a bright light in yours eyes, what would you do? You would immediately grab and claw for that blindfold and thrust it over your eyes any way you could, not to mention you would be quite angry with the one who took it in the first place.

    You can never reason anyone to saving faith in Christ. Paul talks about this in 1Corinthians2:1-5. He talks about when he came and witnessed to the Corinthians, how he “did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom” but simply preached “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” In 1:18-31, he talks about how God uses the simple things to shame the wise. We need to trust in God to save the lost through the simplicity of the gospel, not trust in our own ability to convince them using logical reasoning.

    1. Adam, thanks for taking the time to comment here.

      I agree with what you are saying about the suppression of truth by those who willfully reject God and his saving grace through Jesus. We are certainly experts at deceiving ourselves with the lies we create for ourselves so as to suppress the truth that God has revealed to us.

      However, I must respectfully disagree with your second paragraph, Adam. “You can never reason anyone to saving faith in Christ” is a common claim made in the church today. But then this can’t explain those who come to Christ through ministries of people like William Lane Craig or Ravi Zacharias. Lee Strobel would tell you that he lost count of how many emails he’s received from people who committed (or recommitted) their life to Christ from reading one of his books. Yes, you *can* reason someone to saving faith, though that is not to say that reason *alone* can bring someone to salvation in Christ. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, no amount of reasoning will be sufficient. But, then, without the work of the Holy Spirit, no amount of *anything* will be sufficient to bring someone to salvation in Christ.

      Contrary to what one might think from passages like 1 Cor. 2:1-5 and 1:18-31, Paul did not have such a low view of reason. On his missionary journeys, Paul reasoned with people in various places “as was his custom”. For example, in Acts 17:16-34, you see Paul reasoning in the synagogues and in the marketplace. You also see Paul preaching at the meeting of the Areopagus, quoting Greek poets and philosophers. (And people came to faith in Jesus Christ this way.) He was a highly educated man who could defend his faith intelligently (Acts 26:24-29). What he is talking about in 1 Corinthians are “big personalities.” In 1st century Rome, it was common for people to follow hotshot orators who won popular appeal with sheer rhetorical skills. They were something of celebrities in that culture who tried to out-speak one another. That sort of tendency was also threatening the church in Corinth, creating division among its congregants (1 Cor. 1:10-17). It is in this context that Paul is writing to the Corinthians. What he is attacking is a *particular* sort of wisdom (“the wisdom of the world”), the kind that seeks to elevate oneself by winning popularity and influence rather than glorify God through simple (though not simplistic) preaching.

      I hope this helps clarify a few things. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

  2. ” I guess if the latter is true, the question I would ask is, if they have such a solid “case-closed” argument for the non-existence of God, why hasn’t anyone heard it?”

    This is easy to answer. Since you went to reddit, we’ll check there. There’s an atheism sub, and they have a FAQ:

    “Anyone who does not hold a belief in one or more gods is an atheist. Someone who holds an active belief in the nonexistence of particular gods is specifically known as a “strong” atheist, as opposed to “weak” or “implicit” atheists who make no claims either way.

    On the other hand, the vast majority of atheists are at least technically agnostic, even if they are willing to treat fairy tales about Zeus or Allah with the same contempt that they treat tales about unicorns and leprechauns.”

    So, the atheists on reddit are generally merely stating that they do not believe in any gods. They are not actively arguing that no gods exist. That is where the “spaghetti monster” comes in: if someone has faith in the existence of a spaghetti monster, how would you show them that it does not exist? Would their faith not be actually reasonable? Russel’s Teapot is a variation of the argument.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/9pnh4/how_do_you_know_god_doesnt_exist/

    Check the top comments. Although you didn’t link to your own topic, chances are, if the topic of “how can you be so sure there’s no god?” came up, that is the sort of response you received. It is the norm among atheists; and stated plainly on reddit. So the question then becomes one of how you could ask people their opinions on the existence of gods, receive 200 replies, and miss such a simple point. Especially if you’re engaging in apologetics, this should not have been your first brush with atheists.

    “Also, if it is so unreasonable to believe in God, why bother getting so passionate? In fact, why even bother engaging in a debate with anyone that is so clearly delusional?”

    Once again, we’ll start with the FAQ:

    Why are you all so angry? Why do you dislike religion if it’s a personal choice?
    If religion were nothing but a personal choice, many of us would have no problem with it. Unfortunately, it causes a great deal of harm in the world, from justifying historical slavery and genocide, to current oppression of women, LGBT individuals, and other minorities across the globe, to promoting child abuse and teaching fairy tales as fact in science classrooms.

    Greta Christina wrote a fairly comprehensive article on why atheists have good reason to be angry, which is also available in video form (48:18), as well as an upcoming book which goes into more detail.”

    The article and video in question:

    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/10/atheists-and-an.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUI_ML1qkQE

    So, once again: if you were on reddit, you were given access to countless examples of why atheists care about what people believe. If the comments received were angry, then even more examples would have been pointed directly at you. And yet, despite this, instead of reporting back with your newfound understanding of what angers atheists about delusional beliefs, you only have rhetorical confusion.

    And an elaboration on why atheists seem angry, for people who ignore the fundamental criticisms of religion and think the beliefs are fine as long as people aren’t being attacked:

    “Do you consider moderate beliefs to be better than fundamentalist beliefs?
    Better in some ways, but worse in others. It is far better to believe that your hair-dryer is telling you to volunteer at a homeless shelter than to believe that it’s telling you to go out and murder every redhead you see, but far better than both is not listening to what you think your hair-dryer is telling you.

    A strongly held belief in the Santa Claus is mostly harmless, and may well help you to be a more generous person, but it still requires you to ignore or rationalize away huge piles of evidence in order to maintain. This sort of Faith requires a suspension of the part of your brain responsible for telling sense from nonsense, and if you’re willing to let something so huge as a God Claim through unchallenged, who knows what else might slip through the cracks? Once you admit that you believe in something “because of faith”, you are essentially admitting that you don’t care whether or not it is actually true. As soon as you stop caring about reality in one aspect of your life, it becomes that much easier to stop caring about reality in others.

    The problem isn’t specifically a hatred of gays/women/blacks/etc., or an opposition to Cosmology or Biology. The problem is delusion, dogma, and a willingness to ignore reality that one finds inconvenient. As far as most skeptics are concerned, people who believe uncritically in supernaturalist religion, who are willing to continue believing in extraordinary claims despite the complete lack of evidence, have a fundamentally dishonest worldview that can never fully coincide with evidence and rationality.

    Furthermore, anyone who demands respect for uncritical acceptance of superstitious nonsense, even mostly harmless nonsense, is indirectly giving aid and comfort to the fundamentalists, because they’re making it that much less acceptable to criticize those who hold similar beliefs which are obviously crazy or evil.

    It’s nice that some religious people share some political opinions with some atheists. It’s nice that some religious people don’t hate gay people, it’s nice that some religious people accept evolution, it’s nice that some religious people accept that the Big Bang happened. Heck, it’s nice that most religious people are willing to accept that the Earth isn’t flat. It’s certainly better than the alternative.

    In short, We know you’re not as bad as those crazies. But unless you’re opposed to all of the things wrong with religion, don’t be surprised if you’re seen as part of the problem.”

    The information is all there, waiting for you. A lot of it was probably presented to you directly. But if your response to them(and time on the site) resulted only in cutting off dialog once you felt they weren’t being friendly enough, you’re not trying to engage in civil discussion, you’re using mock civility as an excuse to avoid engagement. Even if your suspicions were correct, even if they were all people who:

    ” Whether they have been hurt by the church or people whom they know to be Christian, or even hurt by what Christians stand for, clearly there is something more than just intellectual blockage involved”

    at best, you basically stared down people who had been hurt by Christians and the church and…told them that their frustrations weren’t worth responding to. The Church? Probably didn’t receive much intervention from Christians while it harmed people. The harmed people? Well, they’d better get their act together if they want a Christian to actually pay attention to what they have to say.

    Being able to participate in a discussion means taking the time to understand people’s frustrations and navigate them; to take their honest opinions in the form they’re expressed not put up artificial barriers that let you ignore what they have to say. The only time you need to take a step back is when what is being said actually does not make sense, and that can occur in polite discussion as easily as it can with someone you think is being rude.

  3. To “Spitz”

    First I want to thank you for your comment and I appreciate your input in the matter.

    There are however a couple things I would like to address.

    First and foremost, my intention was never to make it seem like I was writing atheists off. I did not mean for it to sound as if I was labeling them all in one category such that we can justify ignoring them. On the contrary, I actually encourage discussion between atheists and theists.

    My article was not designed to pigeonhole atheists, but rather to gather understanding of their viewpoint.

    Your comment about Christianity being harmful is actually something I addressed in another article entitled “Is Christianity harmful” which can be found here: https://www.apologeticscanada.com/2012/10/09/is-christianity-harmful/

    It is a short and easy read if you wish to understand my viewpoint on that subject. However, to summarize, I believe that labeling Christianity as “harmful” is a misunderstanding of what Christianity is. Often times the Old Testament is looked at as a modern reference to how we as Christians are, apparently, supposed to conduct our behavior. However, that unfortunately is not taking into consideration the time, place, and culture as to which it was written.

    For example: Much of the ethics that are called into question by atheists mainly exist in the first five books of the Old Testament, particularly the book of Leviticus. Now when we read that book and compare it to our culture today, of course it seems completely unreasonable, and unethical. However, if we look at the context of the culture, in this case, the code of Hammurabi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi (this is the wikipedia version, not sure about accuracy, but the idea is still there) We can actually see that even back then, the people of God were commanded to take a stance above reproach. In other words, they were commanded to live with more honor, integrity and love than the culture prescribed.

    Obviously this could be a rather lengthy discussion, however the point I make is, that Christianity in today’s culture, is to be loving and caring to all and living with integrity, though, while honored, is not expected in our culture. However, that is not to say that Christians must “agree” with everything. As far as the LGBT community goes, we do not agree that this is a way in which we live that is in alignment with God’s best, but this does not translate into hate (or at least it shouldn’t) While I can’t speak for everyone who claims to be a bearer of Christ’s name, I can say that hating anyone, whether it be LGBT, a member of another religion, an atheist, etc., is not on Christ’s agenda. Therefore anyone proclaiming hate in the name of Christ is simply wrong.

    Just because a few crazies do things in the name of Christ, doesn’t mean that Christ is harmful or what Christianity teaches is harmful. Just as we don’t feel that Atheism is harmful because of what Hitler or Stalin did.

    As far as those on reddit.com go. I simply asked, “what questions do you have about God or the existence of God?” Unfortunately, that rather innocent question (I was attempting to get honest questions for a series I was doing) turned into a verbal flogging. It was clear that most people were not there to have a discussion. Also, while I wouldn’t assume this for every atheist, on that platform, all I heard was angry rhetoric, and despite all the nasty comments, I still attempted to give answers to what I thought were some honest questions; however, as I said, their perhaps honest responses were lost from plenty of others who chimed in with angry ones.

    In no way do I want to “battle” with atheists verbally. However, I do believe that the faith I have is reasonable. To suggest that having faith is being willfully ignorant is within itself a willfully ignorant statement. The whole point of Apologetics is to provide a defense for our faith. Within Christianity, we have many brilliant people (William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, Alvin Plantinga, to name a few) who have come up with or even studied and maintained very compelling arguments for what can be called a “reasonable faith”. In other words, we have reason to have faith in areas where there is not much else to be had.

    This does not mean for the statement “I have faith” to be used loosely as an excuse to be lazy, but rather to say “I have faith” in understanding the hope I have Christ. So based off of the reasons I have to believe and the faith that I have in the hope that Christ has given me, I know where I will spend my eternity.

    I hope that this has been mostly enlightening and not confrontational. I do not wish to attack atheists, but rather establish communication. I have learned much from your comment and I hope you feel the same about mine.

    I apologize for any unrest this has caused or any hatred that may have been unintentionally communicated.

  4. I agree with your conclusion to this. We don’t need to engage in emotionalism in our defense of Christianity, but understand that there is more to their “intellectual” argument than meets the eye. Our soft and controlled response is in itself an apologetic and certainly speaks ‘louder’ than their angry rant.

  5. Spitz said……….”If religion were nothing but a personal choice, many of us would have no problem with it. Unfortunately, it causes a great deal of harm in the world, from justifying historical slavery and genocide, to current oppression of women, LGBT individuals, and other minorities across the globe, to promoting child abuse and teaching fairy tales as fact in science classrooms.”

    In due respect to Spitz, the doctrines and attitudes of orthodox Christianity has been responsible for ending these horrors. You need to do the research. Perhaps a good start is Eric Metaxas’ “Wilberforce” re. how, against unbelievable odds from the secularists and atheists of the time, a small group of devout Christians brought about the end the slave trade. Of course, modern atheists have continued other forms of the slave trade with today’s sex trafficking.

    I think that Adam’s first reply was quite accurate…..” If you had lived your life with a blindfold over your eyes and someone suddenly tore it off and shone a bright light in yours eyes, what would you do? You would immediately grab and claw for that blindfold and thrust it over your eyes any way you could, not to mention you would be quite angry with the one who took it in the first place.”

    The kind of angry response you got to just asking what is perhaps the biggest and most important question anyone could contemplate,is very revealing. That just asking for a dialogue received such vituperation, invective, and hostility tells us an awful lot and belies the claim to tolerance and open-mindedness that we hear so much about.

    The blatant mis-characterizations that Spitz makes also reveals either a massive ignorance or a denial of reality.

  6. Do you have a link to the post? I am interested in seeing it. Keep in mind that not all atheists are like the ones on reddit.

  7. Yes, you CAN reason an atheist into believing that God exists and consequently incline him/her toward Christianity. If we couldn’t, Peter never would have said “always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in you…”

  8. And while these 5 arguments are certainly not exhaustive, they do provide us with enough of a framework to deal with the question mentioned above. Remember, atheism states as fact that God does

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