An atheist reader has asked that I devote a column to explaining what he sees as my contempt for atheists. In past columns, I have exhibited a careless tendency to lump atheists together into a single homogeneous category. In my experience, there are two distinct categories of atheists – the unbelieving atheist and the evangelistic atheist. Only the latter category is deserving of contempt.
There are a number of reasons why a person might identify himself as an unbelieving atheist. I believe very firmly that one can be reasonably mistaken in one’s unbelief. While I think atheists are uniformly wrong, I do not consider them to be uniformly unreasonable.
It may well be the case that the unbeliever was raised by atheist parents in a home without religious instruction. I know of atheists who were raised in homes without a copy of the Bible. Each had to rely upon second hand accounts of what the Bible says on a variety of issues. Most of them never got around to reading it firsthand.
Those who lack religious influence in the home and religious instruction at an early age are at a disadvantage in 21st century America. Long before President Obama declared that we are no longer a Christian nation, our courts and schools began to lay the foundation for post-Christian America.
There is no mistaking the fact that our public school system has become secularized to the point of relinquishing any claims of neutrality. Most schools have reached the point of being overtly anti-religious. Kids who have no firm foundation in Judeo-Christian ethics are likely to become highly resistant to conversion at a later age. You can thank our public schools for that. We all pay for public education in more ways than one.
The unbelieving atheist often sets a high standard of proof when confronted with Christian apologetics. That is what his culture teaches. He is also taught that religion and logic are incompatible. I recently heard someone say, “One can’t put the words logic and religion in the same sentence.” Of course, that statement contains a serious flaw: It uses the words logic and religion in the same sentence.
Regardless of what others say, we are commanded as Christians to provide a ready defense for our beliefs. And that calls for the use of logic and reason and evidence. We are obligated to polish our arguments. It is a part of our obligation to hold out a candle and light up the world.