Dear Christian: Five Things to Know About Atheism
Contemporary atheism is not simply a denial of all religions; it’s really an ideology. Conversations between atheism and Christian faith usually get frustrating for both, because the former’s ideology is restricted from considering what the latter claims. Christians should be more informed and not allow a cultural narrative of science vs faith to blindside them, and dampen their confidence. Here are five essential points to enrich a Christian’s knowledge, and to realize that atheism is not so open-minded to evidence as it claims.
1) Devoted to materialism
The material universe, and our world in it, is all that we have, or ever will be. Atheism thinks strictly within these parameters. In its world-view, science must have a tangible point of reference. Accordingly, modern scientific observations of the fine-tuning of the Universe and specified complexity in micro-biology, that suggest compelling inferences to a Designer, are dismissed by default. Now of course these telescopic and microscopic observations do not directly prove that God exists. For a Christian, however, it’s part of a cumulative case which strongly adds support to the personal experience of faith that correlates to Biblical revelation. It thus contributes to the reasonableness of Christian faith. In light of modern scientific knowledge, however, a few atheists have begun to demonstrate intellectual humility by submitting that theories of material/chance creating complexity are failing (See, Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False). Nevertheless, atheism insists on methodological naturalism and refuses to budge, believing that a natural explanation will one day account for fine-tuning and biological complexity. Modern science is pushing that expectation further away as it continues to suggest increasingly that the information in our human constitution was not a fluke, but the intentional act of Mind. Also, the laws of science cannot explain the cause of the Universe, because they were brought into existence when the Universe began. The laws were absent prior to the Universe’s birth and so could not have been the cause. Regardless, atheism barrels along with its non-negotiable ideology.
2) Counter-perspectives are not seriously considered
For decades now, I have had countless conversations with atheists, over coffee, at events, online, and in the class room with students and professors. I have found a few things that are consistently prevalent: they are always quick to refer me to skeptical literature about Christianity, and they enjoy being a gadfly far more than being genuinely open-minded to the possibility of God. When I reveal to them that I read those authors they are usually surprised, because most atheists think that Christians are blind followers of faith, though that’s beginning to change a bit. In the badinage, I recommend contemporary theistic literature but it’s usually disdained, or they claim to have read it but when questioned they clearly can’t evince much. Somehow, they are apprehensive of discovering the Truth. Atheists claim to be free-thinkers but what is really meant is free from thinking about anything to do with God. In my doctoral program, I took a course with an atheist professor, a free-thinker. Years later, I ran into him at an academic event. We exchanged pleasantries, and conversed about philosophical theology. I suggested he read some of the latest literature on theism that had emerged in noteworthy philosophical circles. He waved his hand and said, “No, I don’t read that stuff.”
3) Christian faith is misunderstood
If an atheist claims to be open-minded, an educated understanding of Paul’s Letter to the Romans should be demonstrated. That doesn’t mean that an atheist should read Romans as the Word of God, but at least as an iconic literary piece of history that has influenced Western Civilization. An atheist should be educated on what was intended by the author of Romans, though not necessarily agreeing. I have found that atheists prefer secondary literature about Christianity wherein the authors are already skeptical. Generally, atheism is under the impression that Christian faith means having to listen to indoctrinating and boring sermons, observing ancient rituals, reciting dry prayers, and giving up all the fun stuff in life. Most of all, it believes that an acceptance of Christian faith implies surrendering one’s mind and freedom. It doesn’t get that Christian faith is a personal and liberating relationship with Christ that provides abundant intellectual and existential fulfillment, with a wonderful realization of ultimate reality.
4) It seeks to replace God
Yet atheists live as though God were true. They exercise neighborliness, engage in benevolence, and believe in right and wrong moral actions. Like anyone else, they also expect justice when wronged. Now they appeal to the evolutionary processes as responsible for developing contemporary society. That is to say, a mindless and blind process assembled our minds by natural means and when we became cognizant of our rational minds, we proceeded to establish the required societal norms. This is an ideological belief, and I agree that “the materialist neo-Darwinian conception of nature is almost certainly false.” What about the necessary nutrients for life found in apples, oranges, bananas, etc.? Well, they naturally sprung from the earth – what’s the problem?! However, it seems that some scientists are realizing the shortcomings of material/chance theories to account for fine-tuning, complexity and consciousness, and in desperation are positing some wild hypotheses. Recently, and seriously, scientists have published on the possibility that an alien civilization may send us a message that could help elucidate our existence. Sure, anything but God!
5) Atheism strains reason
Atheism claims to be based on evidence and rationality. The problem is that its interpretation of evidence strains reason. If we began as matter, and evolved by a mindless, blind, natural process, then how is it that we can converse and understand one another? Matter plus matter cannot produce consciousness. It’s a non-sequitur. Neither can matter reason with other matter and solve problems, as humans do. Humans rationalize, observe, comprehend, solve, and create, because of the magnificent mind, ears, eyes, and larynx God gave us. An atheist reading this would probably insist that we don’t know certain things, and in the future science may provide answers. This convolutes rationality and even suspends it from interpreting evidence. Knowledge is based on what science does know. We observe that matter is inanimate and human beings are complexly conscious in a perfectly fine-tuned planet. It’s reasonable to believe that the rationality and consciousness of humans are best explained by an inference to God. Atheism can deny this all day long, but its denial doesn’t make the inference irrational, or go away. Thus, mainstream science is beginning to consider extra-terrestrial influences, as strictly natural explanations seem to strain reason.
A genuine free-thinker should rigorously question the ideology of atheism, and be open-minded to the possibility that Christian faith is not a kill-joy, a science stopper, a mind-closer, or an irrational world-view. With independent thinking, an atheist should read the Letter to the Romans and draw one’s own conclusions. That’s what free-thinking should be all about.
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