May 18, 2024

When Atheists Attack!

We are now witnessing the rise of a new religion.  No, it’s not Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Wicca.  This religion is relatively recent in its founding, and until present, content to remain calm in its demeanor.  Up until this present time they remained on the fringes, adhering to other people’s standards, and willing to live and let live, until now.

I’m sure you’ve seen it– atheist blogs that have sprouted up all over the place, willing to take on the high banner of belief in nothing but themselves and willing to not only preach the high calling of their religion, but to degrade anyone who would consider another.

The Wall Street Journal points out that the fact that atheists believed in nothing was once a cause for derision.  You could not trust them to follow through with an oath because what would bind them to it.  Now, the atheists are fighting back.  It’s not enough for them to live in peace with those that have faith in another religion– they must attack them.  Take away their symbols.  Accost them where they find them.  And now, ridicule their beliefs.

What is new about the new atheists? It’s not their arguments. Spend as much time as you like with a pile of the recent anti-religion books, but you won’t encounter a single point you didn’t hear in your freshman dormitory. It’s their tone that is novel. Belief, in their eyes, is not just misguided but contemptible, the product of provincial minds, the mark of people who need to be told how to think and how to vote–both of which, the new atheists assure us, they do in lockstep with the pope and Jerry Falwell.

For them, belief in God is beyond childish, it is unsuitable for children. Today’s atheists are particularly disgusted by the religious training of young people–which Dr. Dawkins calls “a form of child abuse.” He even floats the idea that the state should intervene to protect children from their parents’ religious beliefs.

For the new atheists, believing in God is a form of stupidity, which sets off their own intelligence. They write as if they were the first to discover that biblical miracles are improbable, that Parson Weems was a fabulist, that religion is full of superstition. They write as if great minds had never before wrestled with the big questions of creation, moral law and the contending versions of revealed truth. They argue as if these questions are easily answered by their own blunt materialism. Most of all, they assume that no intelligent, reflective person could ever defend religion rather than dismiss it. The reviewer of Dr. Dawkins’s volume in a recent New York Review of Books noted his unwillingness to take theology seriously, a starting point for any considered debate over religion.

The faith that the new atheists describe is a simple-minded parody. It is impossible to see within it what might have preoccupied great artists and thinkers like Homer, Milton, Michelangelo, Newton and Spinoza–let alone Aquinas, Dr. Johnson, Kierkegaard, Goya, Cardinal Newman, Reinhold Niebuhr or, for that matter, Albert Einstein. But to pass over this deeper faith–the kind that engaged the great minds of Western history–is to diminish the loss of faith too. The new atheists are separated from the old by their shallowness.

These new atheists have set themselves as superior, as someone that is evolutionarily ahead.  You cannot use reason, for the mere fact that you are a believer means that they don’t have to accept your arguments.  They claim to see through you, they see your “tactics”, they know the way that you operate.  These atheists are nothing more than the bullies of the modern world, and yet this fact escapes them, for they claim they’re on a mission to show you the truth!

The atheists say that they are addressing believers. Rationalists all, can they believe that believers would be swayed by such contumely and condescension? They seem instead to be preaching to people exactly like themselves–a remarkably incurious elite.

Indeed, they are.  And this, my friends, is the battle that we face.

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26 thoughts on “When Atheists Attack!

  1. A while back I went to an atheist church with a friend. As contradicting as that sounds, it was an interesting experience. From what I learned there and from the friends that go there, your blog about them is very incorrect. Atheists are no more the new bully on the block than Christians are the old one. If you find a true atheist (there is a distinction between a person who truly believes there is no God, and a teenager to young adult who is simply rebelling from their parents) they do not belittle you for your beliefs. If you make it a subject of conversation, they will try to convince you to believe otherwise using facts, but in no way do they call or treat you like a child because you believe different than them.

    Besides compare this to how most Christians act (Just because we are right does not mean we are not held to the same standards). When someone questions God around most Christians it is immediately apparent in their tone and actions that the person questioning is no better than a child in the Christians eyes. (I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to show them the existence of God, but we could take a cue from the atheist and treat others like they are real human beings)

    Hmmmm…..that’s all I can think of to address at the moment.

  2. Loc, thanks for sharing your experience in the atheist church. You’re right that we Christians need to treat everyone as real human beings–not that we ever should agree with their wrong beliefs! Some Christians have a real gift of being able to reason rationally with differing viewpoints, but often we tend to feel attacked or threatened. Realistically, atheists beliefs do attack and threaten the principles we stand for. Not that anything can affect God and His power, but in this world of relativity, atheists have a wide open door to bending the ears of people who would never have taken them seriously before.

    When I was a 7th grader, I answered the phone one night in our parsonage and that phone call catapulted me into about a three month phone debate with a perfect stranger who’d called supposedly to ask about posting something on our bulletin board (at church) and he ended up trying to convince me that my Christianity was a crutch, a false belief, that in reality I was my own god, etc, etc. Naively, I kept taking this “Jeff’s” phone calls thinking I could help him get back on the right path, but the result was he left me with way too many unsettled feelings about life’s big questions. Ultimately, when he wanted to meet in real life, I ended our talks and went on with life. I still wonder if he ever found the truth. He was sure of his facts, but underneath it all, even the jr. high imbecile that I was, I could tell he’d been hurt a lot in his life and was reaching for anything to fill the void. Thankfully, I’d had enough grounding to stand firm in my faith, but how many 7th graders would?

    Anyway, atheists may appear harmless, but they’re currently fighting hard to get God out of not only the schools, but the national anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance and off the currency. We already know how this has affected the nation’s education and all the generations since the 60’s.

    MIn, thanks for this reminder to always be on the alert. Who knows who may be calling our homes, and trying to sway our children to wrong beliefs. We need to be vigilant in making sure our children can defend their faith in the face of attack.

  3. I would like to point you all to something that is new to me, but I believe in it very strong – presupositional apologetics, always, in all circumstances, and especially when talking to atheists about God.
    Why? Because Bible is our only, infallible and ultimate authority, and we cannot step aside to talking about nature, stars and DNA. Our goal is to present Gospel to the unbelievers -and to do it with love for their wretched condition – they are dead in tresspasses and sins, and only God may grant them His Grace to faith in Him.
    In other words – unless God does it, we should not expect them to believe our arguments – either using our interpretation of nature, universe and genetics, or our understanding of the Bible. It is not our task to make them believe – it is up to God.
    The fact that they attack us is understandable and quite natural – they hate God because such is their nature. And remember – many of us were also like them…


  4. Loc makes a good point about the way Christians sometimes behave too. Alister McGrath, who wrote a very good refutation of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” called “The Dawkins Delusion” speaks of “fundamentalist atheists”.

    By this he takes the modern definition of fundamentalism, which he notes in his book “Evangelicalism and the Future of Christianity”, is defined by its oppositionalism.

    That is to say, there are people who would classically consider themselves fundamentalists because of their beliefs, but if they do not oppose everything that is contrary to their view, then they will not be perceived as fundamentalists by those on the outside.

    The new broader definition, however, may be applied to Christians, Muslims, Jews and any other group that acts in a like manner.

    Thus Dawkins rather vacuously claims that religion is a kind of child abuse, and without so much as a shred of justification or an ounce of knowledge, suggests (or at least approves of the suggestion) that such children should be removed from their parents by the state.

    This kind of anti-intellectual intolerance is fundamentalism as surely as any I have heard.

    All fundamentalism should be handled with in the same way, I think. However, I do not necessarily know exactly how it *should* be handled.

    We could ignore it, but some people might be taken in. We could attack it, but that could be oppositionalism pitted against oppositionalism.

    But if we try and understand it and then reason against it, my hope is that we can moderate the views of people to the point where they may begin to listen to others, and realise that none of us (not even Christians) have a monopoly on the truth.

    But whether meeting unreasonableness with reason really works, or whether there is a better way, I do not know. Tell someone something he knows and he will love you for it. Tell him something he does not know and he will hate you for it.

    But maybe the more reasonable person can then have a happy discourse with another Christian.

  5. Ann,

    You are right in your emphasis here (although you will see in my comment above that I think there is benefit in attempting to meet the oppositionalism of “fundamentalist atheists” with reason, to show them the unreasonableness of their position).

    If we want someone to become a Christian, then the cross is the only thing we should or could preach. That was Paul’s determination – to preach nothing but the cross of Christ.

    But what if we are defending something particularly unreasonable? What can we hope for if someone is not ready to hear of the cross? Paul began his sermon in Athens with a look at the unknown God. Greek religion had even the gods as subject to greater forces – the fates and the furies, and the Athenians seemed to have some concept that at the core of everything else there was an unknown God. Paul learned about this belief, understood it, and then used it to teach the Athenians of the true God, creator of the world. And when he had finished understanding their beliefs and speaking to them, then he was ready to preach Christ crucified.

    Will people then believe? Not if they don’t want to. Not if they remain unregenerate, and so it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict. But faith comes through hearing – and people will not hear as long as their oppositionalism prevents them from likstening.

  6. Stephen, I do not disagree with you. I just want to point out the absolute authority of the Scriptures, and that we NEVER step down from it, even when an atheist asks us to do it for the sake of “objectivity”.

  7. I’m doing this in response to Mary’s assertion that atheists are actually harmfull because they are trying to remove God from certain places in public life. The places mentioned are places that are funded by our tax dollars and therefore subject to the law.

    People in general need to stop calling the United States a Christian nation. It may be a Christian majority nation, but we need to respect people’s rights in relation to whatever creed they choose to subscribe to. Why is it such a bad thing that people want the government to remain secular in these areas? What if the majority shifts to atheism and they try to impose law that would restrict people’s right to believe? Ultimately the government needs to not have a position on any religion or we risk taking away the liberty of certain groups.

  8. kb17431, America is not a Christian nation because of its population as much as to the foundation of the government. A quick glance at the historical foundation of this country will show that a lot of our country’s original laws found their root in the Christian religion. Everything from the difference between man slaughter to murder has a root in the Bible.

    You see, America is founded on an ethical and moral code derived from the Bible. If you remove that mooring, then even the Declaration of Independence doesn’t carry the weight it once did– in that it states that we had the right to separate from England because all were created with certain inalienable rights.

    Therefore, it is important for a country to understand where its laws derive from in context, if not to understand the broader philosophical ideas connected to our laws and where the government’s authority derives from.

    That does not mean that the government has the right to be obnoxious about it, but they should not be prohibited from recognizing the roots of their founding.

    And lastly, it is that very Christian mooring that allows for the freedom of religion– since the Christian religion believes that an individual has to accept Christ freely, not coerced. They preach that all must be saved, they beg and plead and they want to see all people saved, but they recognize that it’s a heart issue. If you look at the other religions– even atheism to a point– there isn’t as much moral questioning allowed. Oh, there’s things said that they do, but there’s also been a lot of disparaging remarks toward people who believe.

  9. KB– “What if the majority shifts to atheism and they try to impose law that would restrict people’s right to believe?”

    I think that is EXACTLY what is happening, and why it is so important that Christian ideals and important historic sites (which are Christian in nature) do not be messed with. I feel it messes with our freedom of speech. It encourages anti-Christian thought in general, and in practice ends up tearing down the basis of this country.

    Why do Americans even HAVE freedom? like freedom of religion or speech?? Because the founders believed that they were inalienable rights, given us by GOD HIMSELF. You cannot take that out of the Constitution and still have a free society. Freedom comes from God alone, all other things are bondage and slavery.

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  10. Be careful, Meg, not to confuse the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution does not have a reference to God/Inalienable rights. The Declaration does.

    While it is true to say that the founders used Christian principles for morality and justice in the Constitution, it would be incorrect to say that the document has references to God.

  11. I’d also like to say that those two documents go hand in hand. The reason we have the rights expressed in the Constitution is because the founders believed them (rightly) to be God given rights, not man made privileges, as they expressed in the Declaration. There can be no man-made “right” for “what man makes, man can change” -Mike Farris (Chairman of HSLDA).

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  12. The Declaration of Indepence references God as nature’s God and the Creator. Is it possible that something besides the Christian god is meant by these words? The terms used in the Declaration do in fact have no correlation with the Christian God. Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Thomas Cooper explaining that “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.” In essence Jefferson is saying that the common law does not include Christianity. The founding would then have more to do with English common law than with Christianity. With or without Christianity the Declaration of Independence would still have power because the document was not a testament to faith but a Declaration against the King of England.

    If the United States was in fact found on Christian principles and morals wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect that at least the commandments and laws that do not mention God be present in our system. The only ones that are tend to be common sense such as no murder and no stealing. We however, do not see adultery being a crime in this country (I’m not making a case that it is moral). Would we expect to see this sin illegal if the country were founded on Christian morals?

    Actually our government specifically tells us where their power is derived from. “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” –Declaration of Independence. I thought God was where the government derived its authority. Why does this then say that the government derives its authority from the people?

  13. Just to clarify, I was agreeing with Ann… kb17431’s post seems to have been inserted between Ann’s post and my reply!

  14. And to muddy the waters a little bit. If it is really self evident that we are endowed with inalienable rights and among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, then why did these rights only accrue to owners of property in 1776?

    Hmmm… I think I should go away and hide now 😉

  15. Stephen the words before they were edited wher ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of property’. It was only edited so it would be easier to tax people. Just a factoid to give you insight.

  16. While it’s certainly possible that the DOI could be referencing a Hindu god or one of some other religion, it definitely recognizes a Creator. Is it highly unlikely, however. A quick study of the Founders finds that the Constitutional Conventions were opened with a prayer to the Christian God, that a majority of the first states had a Christian sect as an established religion for the state (although one could make an argument about Quakerism, I guess), and further things that the first Congress did to ensure the Christian religion was the preferred one.

    I could go into a series of posts on this, if this interests anyone.

    Although a particular founder (Jefferson) may not believe that common law does not include Christianity, he cannot refute the historical grounds of common law in works like the code of Hammurabi and the Mosaic code. The whole differentiation between premeditation, accidental, and murder for protection is laid out in the Mosaic law (one of the first accounts of this differentiation, if I remember my classes correctly).

    Furthermore, the law book of the time (Black’s is it?) makes the link between Christianity, the Mosaic law and common law.

    The DOI needed to have a statement in there about the Creator giving rights to people because of where they came from. England (Stephen, correct me if I’m wrong) had a monarchy system that believed in the Divine right of Kings– basically, God made me king by heritage, you need to obey. So, the concept that God created all people with rights and they gave those rights to the government to serve them was a unique concept and was needed to justify why the colonists thought they had the right to separate from England.

    In essence, the DOI is a theological document as well as a political one. It was a statement that “we don’t have to be a part of England, because we can choose because we have God-given rights.”

    Please do not confuse the Old Testament law and New Testament principals. If this country were Jewish, then we would expect to have the commandments and the rest of the law. With a Christian government, you have an emphasis on religious liberty, with respect of persons, and as little government interference as possible since Christians would see government’s purpose in the lens of Romans 13– there to protect but not to meddle.

    In fact, if you look at the state laws (and some, like Michigan still have it) you see laws from the founding including not working on Sunday, no adultery, witchcraft, etc. However, Christians also recognize that all are sinners, and so all sin is not illegal since not only is it impractical/unenforceable, but does not allow for repentance and grace.

    Again, I can go further into any of this if there’s interest.

  17. I would love to hear more on this! I’ve enjoyed just reading all the comments from those that express themselves much better than I do!

    Yes, my understanding has always been that we referred to ourselves in the United States as a ‘Christian’ nation because we were founded on Christian principles. One of the reasons the Pilgrims came was to have freedom of religion. My limited understanding of the Revolutionary War says that another reason the colonists fought was to maintain freedom of religion among many other things. Taxation, property, aristocracy were some other issues. Up until maybe 50 years ago, it seemed that everyone in the United States understood this and those that didn’t were pretty quiet about it! Even our history books in the public school system are starting to reflect this!

  18. Chiming in to say, Yes…do a series of posts on this! I’d love it.

    When our oldest was only 4 years old, we watched a video about the Christian heritage of our country…and that movie was one of the BIGGEST influencers of dh and I to homeschool! We couldn’t believe the public schools were rewriting history to suit their purposes…Our country couldn’t have had a more godly heritage! So many so-called historians like to pull quotes from the air from the less-religious founding fathers. Or worse, they try to strip great men like George Washington of their faith!

    Neat Christian historical site to check out:

  19. I brought Jefferson to say that he did not believe in the Christian God. Since Jefferson had a fairly large hand in drafting the document of the Declaration I don’t see how it is possible to write his ideas off completely. It would seem that the document would be fairly inclusive of all people because it was written by people with different ideas of God. Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson I think were the writers. I think Adams was Christian, not sure about Franklin, and Jefferson was a deist. It just then seems by nature that the document would be inclusive rather than calling out to one particular God.

    I brought the case up about American Law being devoid of sins present in the Ten Commandments. This is because English Law at the time prohibited witchcraft, adultery, sodomy, and blasphemy. England was a Christian nation at that point in time and included those as capital crimes. That pretty much goes against the assertion that religious liberty was part of a Christian nation. To say otherwise would be to ignore historical evidence of the hostility of earlier Christians.

    I don’t see how you can tell me that I can’t bring up laws given in the Old Testament. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” –Matt. 5,17. I really only meant the Ten Commandments anyway. If we were to put all of them into law it wouldn’t promote religious liberty. Sin in certain cases is actually enforceable, remember murder and stealing. I’m going to have to disagree that sin is not illegal because it is impractical to enforce. England and especially early Catholic nations had sin on the books. The only way you could get around this is to say that neither is Christian but then it would have to be asserted that America is not Christian.

  20. The scope of who to consider in the text of the Founding documents goes beyond the writers to the signatories. You would have to consider the people who were involved and who put their names to it and what they had to say about government. I’ll cover this in a post in short order.

    The hard part about “Christian Nation” and “religious liberty” is the ideas behind the beliefs. If you look at the Biblical text, you see Jesus talking about making a choice– nowhere do you see Him command His disciples to force people to believe only a certain way or force their belief on others. Persuade? Pray? Give the message? Sure.

    So, how do we reconcile it? The question comes down to definitions and intent. Was the intent of the First Amendment to the Constitution to protect the rights of different sects primarily or different religions. Taken in context with the history it would appear that they were more concerned about protecting different sect’s (Baptist, Catholic, Congregational, etc.) ability to worship than they were about protecting Buddhists, Muslim and even Mormon (since Mormons came after that time). This would follow from the the persecution that certain Christian sects got from the Church of England. The benefit to other religions was a side benefit that, while is valid in interpretation, is invalid to be the original intent.

    You quote from Matthew is a good one. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law because we could not. Reading through Romans, Paul has an interesting discussion in chapters 5 and 6 talking about the law and whether those that are believers are still under the law. Chapter 5 culminates with the fact that we are no longer under the law, but under grace, that where sin abounded grace abounded more, but that we should not sin so that grace may abound.

    While I agree with you that certain sins are enforceable, there are many that are not– either because of the sheer man power necessary or because of the abilities required. Jesus said in Matthew 6 that it wasn’t enough to just not commit adultery, but the man who looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart. How do we enforce that? Sin can be in the mind as well as in actions.

  21. (Stephen, correct me if I’m wrong) had a monarchy system that believed in the Divine right of Kings.

    Technically this is true, but actually the doctrine of the divine right of kings was dealt a fatal blow in the English civil war over a century earlier. In the civil war, Cromwell’s parliamentarians defeated the royalists, killed the king (Charles I) who had asserted this doctrine, and instigated Cromwell’s commonwealth ( and later “the protectorate” ).

    Following Cromwell’s death, a new Lord protector was chosen, but no-one of Cromwell’s stature was really able to take on the burden of the Lord Protector, so in 1660 Charles II was returned to the throne in the Restoration. But the balance of power (and importantly, power of the purse) had already strongly shifted from King to Parliament, and with the Glorious Revolution of 1688, essentially the absolute sovereignty of the monarch transferred to parliament.

    Since the Glorious Revolution (which ushered in the reign of William of Orange), the doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings has not really held much sway.

    However, at the time of the glorious revolution, a certain philosopher of the name John Locke wrote a pragmatic philosophy, which legitimated both the continuance of monarchy through William and Mary as well as the interregnum. He wrote a treatise on government in which he argued that the legitimacy of government depended not upon the divine right of the monarch to rule but upon the natural rights of man and the consent of the governed.

    The US declaration of independence, and indeed much of the constitutional structure of the US is derived from Locke’s philosophy. Not Locke alone, but anyone who has read Locke will not fail to see the parallels. For instance, Locke speaks of a law of nature that people may discover through reason. He concluded that humans were “by nature free, equal and independent.” Furthermore, natural law obligated that “no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions.”

    (Sound familiar? As Loc (pun intended??) above said, the original thought for the DOI was to mention possessions in that clause).

    So the seeds of the legitimation of the DOI are found in the Glorious Revolution (in which no civil war ensued, because generals simply refused to take up arms to defend the Catholic James).

    I don’t think this really helps discern whether the US was meant to be a Christian country. It was specifically constituted not to have a state church, but Christianity was the religion of the people, and “tolerance” really meant tolerance of varieties of Christianity.

    Locke was a Christian. He wrote a treatise “The Reasonableness of Christianity”, but he was a strong believer in tolerance amongst Christians and he argues for this at length. This is perhaps one reason why the separation of Church and State was instigated. There would be none of the wars based on the religion of the head of state, as had happened in the last century or two in England.

    But being constituted by Christians is not the same as being constituted as a Christian country. And some would argue that the act of revolution was itself sufficient reason to say that the US was not a Christian country (and these people often had to flee to Canada as a result). So to me it is a grey area!

  22. PS, the smiley in the piece above should really be a close bracket.

    And I received a wrong protection code on the last post and this one.

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