It seems that the New Year has begun the way that the Old Year ended….a flurry of angry and arrogant tweets and messages from what I term the NFA’s (New Fundamentalist Atheists). Anyone who has ever engaged with them will know exactly what I am talking about. It seems that the angriest (and most irrational) are those that come from the US. In some ways I feel sorry for my atheist friends here – many of who are pleasant rational people (despite their spiritual blindness), but some of their allies across the water are a sight to behold (and scary). Let me give you a couple of examples – and hopefully we can learn something.
Lets start with someone who calls himself ‘Vousovreason’. His tweets are classic NFA. Even the name tells you what he is going to be like. He IS the voice of reason and de facto anyone who disagrees with him must be unreasonable. In a series of exchanges in which he boasted about the superiority of atheistic secularism he was asked to name one atheist state which was tolerant. He tried Sweden (note – this is what most American atheists do, although to be fair I don’t know where V comes from, its just a familiar pattern – they know nothing of Sweden other than what they have discerned from their confirmation bias selective searching of the internet. This does not stop them citing any Internet meme as absolute fact. Most of them have no idea of Swedish history, the role of Christianity in Sweden, which up until 2000 had a state church, or indeed anything about Sweden…but that does not stop them speaking with all the authority of Wiki!).
Not being able to (or wanting to) name any atheist country he tried another tack (note again that most NFA’s are not remotely interested in answer to their questions – they are making accusations not seeking answers, and so if you give them answers they just shut down and move on to their next accusation). He tweeted ” Right, the question is ill-formed. Name a country that was intolerant because it was too rational.” And in one bound he was free! Not being able or willing to defend Christian countries he reverts to his dogma that atheism = rational. It is the ultimate in circular arguments. Like the atheist on the Dawkins website who came up this marvellous piece of ‘reasoning’ – ‘I would like to have an intelligent discussion with theists about God, but anyone who believes in God, cannot be intelligent, therefore it is impossible to discuss with them”. Avoidance, statements of blind faith and superior mocking of anyone who does not see ‘the light’ is the stock in trade of this NFA approach (if you want to see further examples just go any day to the Scottish Secular Society webpage – where despite being a supposedly non-anti-religious group, this type of ‘reasoning’ is prevalent.
Then V came up with another cracker in response to my observation that some atheists get very abusive and angry. “I have arguments with atheists all the time, that’s absurd. And suffer no “abuse”. Get a backbone if you want to engage in publc” Again note the arrogance here. Without knowing who I am or what I engage in he is quick to judge that I am someone who just does not like being argued with or receiving abuse. But it is the ‘logic’ (or lack thereof) that strikes me. V has received ‘no abuse’ from atheists. The very idea is absurd. Might this be something to do with the fact that he is himself is an atheist and shares the same presuppositions and views?! But no – his experience trumps all and so he feels free to negate any claim to the contrary, based solely on that experience.
And then his final classic (there were others but this does becomes somewhat tedious and repetitive). “You portray atheism as dogmatic, yet it is the opposite in every way. It promotes free thinking rather than restricting it.” Again anyone who has been on any of the NFA websites will recognise the pattern. First of all they make an unsubstantiated claim – ‘ we are the voice of reason’, ‘an oasis of clear thinking’ (from the Dawkins website) etc. Then anyone who dares to disagree with any atheist opinion, or to have different thoughts, is, in the name of ‘reason, tolerance and clear thinking’, subjected to mockery and abuse for being either too stupid or too evil not to see the obvious truth. They remind me of the Islamic fundamentalist holding up a poster declaring, “Behead those who say Islam is violent”!
But lets move on to example number two. Someone who calls himself Somanygods (again this is a dreadful attempt to be clever and witty by providing us with the age old argument that if there is more than one god then there cannot be any – a criteria that they don’t apply to politics, culture, geography or any other sphere of human society. And an argument that they themselves don’t understand. If they had read any philosophy, logic, history or theology they would have grasped that Christianity does not teach that there are thousands of gods and you get to choose Jesus as the best – but rather that there is only one omniscient, omnipotent, Creator of all things. By definition there cannot be two).
Anyway S is waiting patiently for my reply to an extended tweet he sent. Again you will notice often with the NFA’s, especially those who are keyboard warriors, that they get very upset if you do not respond immediately to their obviously brilliant, original arguments. They come up with unoriginal thoughts (most of which are derived from another atheist website, who picked it up from another atheist website who you can basically trace back to Bertrand Russell’s ‘Why I am not a Christian?”. I don’t think I have come across any NFA argument that I did not find there. But lets turn to this devastatingly brilliant tweet from S.
“I don’t claim your god doesnt exist. I dont need to. You do claim your god does exist, thus you need objective evidence. Faith aint objective.”
So many unevidenced presuppositions in there. And so much illogicality and irrationality. Firstly an atheist is someone who does claim/believe that there is no God. Secondly they claim that they have the ability to discern whether evidence is objective and that they can absolutely determine that. They don’t recognise that they too have ‘faith’ – one of the key parts of which is that they have faith they don’t have faith! They have faith they are the rational ones who only believe things they can prove.
“I dont “believe” there is no god. Thats a misunderstanding of disbelief. Atheism is not a belief. Maybe gods exist? I simply dont know because I dont have evidence to support that. I do not hold a “belief” that there is a god. That is quite different. Words are very important in both theology and philosophy.”
With this latter sentence I totally agree. But most atheists treat words in a post-modern ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ style. A classic example of this is the largely successful attempt by the NFA’s to get ‘faith’ redefined as ‘belief without or contrary to evidence’. This is not a definition you will find in any mainstream Christian theology, it is not a biblical one, and it is not one you will find in dictionaries before the end of the 20th Century.
Note again what happens here – atheists end up arguing against themselves. They regularly set up strawmen that, amazingly, they are able to knock down. This is even easier to do when they can hide behind their keyboards and dwell in their ‘safe’ internet spaces, where they do not have to venture out of their bedrooms and meet real people. This is why they get so annoyed and angry when people like me fail to recognise their obvious superiority, brilliance and rationality, and dare to publicly challenge them. Even now I could write the tweets, e-mails and messages that this article will receive.
Lets just take this point above. Atheism is not a belief – so we are told. But even if we accept that somewhat semantic point, we need to point out that atheism is based upon a series of beliefs – most of which are unevidenced. I can’t list them all but for example every atheist I have met is a naturalist. Its not just that they have evidence that everything is material, they believe that everything is material.
They also have great faith in their own cognitive abilities and reasoning (indeed this is an item of faith which if you challenge it, you will find yourself facing the equivalent wrath as if you had gone on an ISIS website and questioned the morality of Mohammed!)…
They also believe that there is no, and can be no, evidence for God. The simple way to deal with this is just to ask what evidence they would actually accept. Dawkins recently admitted that there was probably not anything that he would not explain away. I did a debate once with an atheist society in which the atheist protagonists were so badly defeated (not so much by me but by my colleague who was a brilliant Christian doctor with an intellect and ability to reason reasonably that still takes my breath away) that the president of the Atheist society lost his temper and stood up at the end to vehemently declare ‘even if you could prove God to me, I would not worship him’. Most atheism is not a problem of the intellect but a problem of the heart. In fact ‘faith’ of the blind unthinking sort is so deeply ingrained in the NFA that when you argue with them, remember you are arguing with the philosophical equivalent of a conspiracy theorist – no matter what you say, its all part of the conspiracy! Ps 14:1 is apposite at this point.
Morality without religious belief can have a foundation. Us. Now I know you’re going to hate this one. Theology is built on the premise that humans are flawed and need saving etc. etc. But your morality is simply built on the premise that a) the bible is true b) if god communicates to you, its moral. Essentially, you folks are robots.
This is another classic example of unthinking, unevidenced NFA faith. I don’t dispute that morality without religious belief can have a foundation. It’s just that it is a very shaky one – especially if the foundation is ‘us’! Who are ‘us’? The powerful elites? In the twitter discussion one of our atheist friends suggested that ‘parliament’ should decide morality. This betrays a dangerous if somewhat touching naivety and faith in the governments of this world. It is a Disneyesque faith, contrary to the evidence of history, psychology and philosophy. They don’t consider questions such as what if you are not ‘Us’? They also don’t understand the biblical teaching about morality and humanity (but typically of course that does not bother them, because again they are not seeking truth – just arguing against their own inventions!). We believe that all human beings are ‘moral’ because we are made in the image of God. What the Bible does is tell us the story of what went wrong, and how God has come to fix it in Christ. It is not a moral textbook – except that it is a mirror which shows us our faults, and a light to guide us on our way because of our darkened consciences.
The irony is that most NFA’s don’t understand that their own naturalistic philosophy is what leads to human beings being regarded as robots. Naturalistic determinism (we are solely what we are made of) does lead to the negation of free will and human responsibility (and again that is why Dawkins struggles so much with the free will question – he does not believe that it exists). On the other hand Christianity teaches the highest doctrine of the freedom of humanity that has ever been taught.
“There’s no meaning in life. C’mon on – that similar to the above in 2. I’m sure you expect to get fired on for this corker. WE define meaning/purpose to life. You’re slightly correct – as a naturalist, I only have evidence of the material world. There may be gods, I just havent got the data yet. This does not mean that I cannot propose a definition of meaning and purpose or morality. You may think why should my opinion matter then someone else’s? Well, standards can be discussed and debated. If I propose to reduce suffering and maximise contentment, your model would ignore these principles in favour of being a robot and following some old piece of text.”
This is largely a repetition of his previous point (NFA’s are very good at repetition. Like atheist monks they have their chants!). And again the ignorance of philosophy and history is spectacular. “We define meaning/purpose to life’ and they are worked out by discussion and debate. Again this is almost sweet in its Disneyesque approach to human life, society and history. But it is dangerous as well, because it has never, and will never, work. Why? Because it takes no account of human sin. Without an appeal to a higher authority, there cannot be an absolute morality. Without an absolute morality there cannot be a consistent subjective morality. In other words ‘S’s faith leaves the field open to Hitler, Stalin, Obama, Cameron, Putin or whoever happens to have the might, money and power to determine what is right and wrong within any particular society. It is a recipe for an unchecked authoritarianism.
The irony here is that ‘somanygods’ does not seem to grasp that without the One God, there will be ‘somanymoralities’ – and if we ‘define our own purpose’ then very quickly the rich and powerful will define it for us. Brave New World and 1984 will be combined in this atheistic nirvana.
Here is one of the big lessons I have learned from debating with atheists. We don’t need to be afraid. I think that there are some Christians who have bought into the cultural narrative that Christianity is about having a kind of blind faith and atheism is the intelligent, rationalist position. They then make the mistake of thinking that the way to ‘win’ atheists is to be extra nice, whilst conceding the ‘rationality’ part. I disagree. The atheist position is intellectually vacuous. I once did a debate with professor of philosophy in a Southern US college. He was a popular professor who had once been a Baptist, and the debate was on his turf so I was somewhat apprehensive as we began. Like the defenders of Helm’s Deep in The Lord of the Rings, I was waiting for the big bomb to come. ‘Is that all you’ve got’?’ was my thought. And then it dawned – it was all he had. There was no big bomb. There was no real rational or intellectual superiority to the Gospel. It was an ‘emperor’s clothes’ revelation for me. We don’t need to be afraid of the ‘rationale’ of the NFA. It really is quite empty and cannot stand before the rationale of the Gospel.
Some Christians suggest that arguing with such atheists is a waste of time – because they are so filled with prejudice and hatred, as well as a sense of their own superiority that we are just wasting our time. I don’t agree. The Bible tells us that we were all ‘dead in sins and trespasses’, that all of us need our minds ‘renewed’ and our spirits ‘re-born’. Of course no argument could do that. Nor can any worship service, prayer meeting or act of mercy. It is only the Holy Spirit – and he can, and has, used discussions and questions like this. So why engage with atheists? Not primarily to defend the bible (as Spurgeon said, I would as soon defend a lion!), but rather to proclaim the glory and beauty of Christ – that some may be saved. In other words we argue with atheists, not to win the argument, but to have Christ win them! Is there any better reason?
If you want any further help with this topic, I would like to suggest three books – all of which you can get from the Solas office, Amazon (or preferably your local bookshops – whether Christian or otherwise).
The Atheist who doesn’t exist by Andy Bannister
Why I am Not An Atheist – ed David Randall
Engaging with Atheists – David Robertson
As I posted this I just got another long message from V above…I’ll have a look and perhaps do a follow up to this next week….
And already the responses are flooding in….one is particularly helpful because it gives us an insight into another truth – NFA’s are very sensitive and also love to justify their hurt feelings by taking things out of context – witness this from SS –
This is outrageous
“They remind me of the Islamic fundamentalist holding up a poster declaring, “Behead those who say Islam is violent”!
DAR on atheists.
This is typical of how the NFA’s work. Indeed it would be outrageous if that is what I was saying….but they missed out the previous sentence – ” Then anyone who dares to disagree with any atheist opinion, or to have different thoughts, is, in the name of ‘reason, tolerance and clear thinking’, subjected to mockery and abuse for being either too stupid or too evil not to see the obvious truth.” They remind me of the Islamic fundamentalist holding up a poster declaring, “Behead those who say Islam is violent”!
The point was not to say that atheists were equal to Islamic fundamentalists. The point was that it is as contrary to reason, tolerance and clear thinking to mock and abuse those who think different to you, as it is for Islamists to claim that their religion is a religion of peace and they will kill anyone who disagrees. Apparently once you cease to believe in God, you also cease to believe in rationality and logic!
The rest of SS posts also show the kind of ‘clear rational thinking’ that NFA’s use….a few gems for your delight…
I needn,t read this; I looked at the length and realised it was just another diatribe of pure shite from a rationally blind poor soul. If DAR would only just accept his atheism he would be a much happier person. And he would be able to shake off his bitterness.
We should all treat this as hilarious. Scotland’s most persecuted Christian speaks, and it’s idiotic. What a bellend. Just the latest in his regular outpouring of Calvinist fire & brimstone.
Such sweet rational people!
Arguing with Atheists – Part 2