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.
But holding out a candle cannot help others to see the sun. If things have become dark enough for them our candle might even obscure their view of the stars. At some point they must be willing to look beyond isolated arguments. They must open their eyes and contemplate their surroundings. And they must look beyond concepts like “luck” and “random variation” to find a more complex and refined view of the universe.
I love my unbelieving atheist friends and I enjoy the conversations we have on many weighty issues. Even when they seem stubborn, they seldom seem unreasonable. The fact that many of them are politically conservative gives me great hope.
But the evangelistic atheist is a different breed altogether. One atheist evangelist sits in his office with piles of anti-religious books as he prepares his next lecture for his Sociology of Religion class. He curses more than he uses words like “a” and “the.” And he posts the headlines of the latest church scandal on his office door. He takes more pride in the failure of others than in his own personal achievements.
Another evangelistic atheist writes books distorting the history of Christianity and the life and words of Jesus – all the while calling it scholarship. He develops courses on “Atheism and Unbelief.” He even posts “Godless!” (Compete with the exclamation point!) in the “religious views” portion of his Facebook profile. Yet he claims emotional detachment on issues of faith and religion.
In short, the evangelistic atheist is characterized less by the absence of belief than by a zeal for destroying the beliefs of others. He is seldom politically conservative and almost always “very liberal.” Just take a few minutes to examine his Facebook profile.
The politically conservative unbelieving atheist must wake up and connect the dots between religion and politics and between social and fiscal conservatism. He must realize that the evangelistic atheist is on a political rather than religious crusade. His evangelism targets religion because he seeks to destroy the family. And he seeks to destroy the family because he seeks to replace it with the welfare state.
Our individual liberties are in jeopardy. But they may only be taken away by men if it is presumed that they are granted by men. We need fair-minded unbelieving atheists to reconsider the underpinnings of their beliefs. A godless conservatism is only one election away from extinction.