Today I would like to direct your attention to a post from my all-time favorite Christian blogger Michael Spencer about atheism and evangelicalism’s interaction with it. In light of the fact that my church just finished up a sermon series entitled “Losing My Religion”, I feel that this post is very timely.
The gist is as follows: Those of us who have been around long enough remember Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her incessant crusade to get all public forms of religion eradicated from American life. To us, atheists were nothing more than angry, ranting old ladies with way too much time on their hands–and we didn’t want to be like that. We also remember hearing about the Frank Zinnser / William Lane Craig debate and other debates of a similar nature where some Christian scholar with multiple PHD’s gets up in front of a largely Christian audience and proceeds to beat the living shit out of some atheist who trots out old, tired, shopworn arguments against the Bible and against many points of Christian belief, and manages to make a complete idiot out of himself in the process.
Well folks, the game has changed.
Not that atheistic arguments against belief in a supernatural deity or the reliability of the Bible or other essentials of the Christian faith have changed. Not that Christian answers to these arguments have lost any of their truth or any of their power.
What it is, is that atheism has gained a tremendous amount of street cred in recent years. When you sign up to be an atheist nowadays, you aren’t signing up to be that angry old lady who has way too much time on her hands or that clown with bad hair who can’t string two ideas together, let alone articulate any reasonable semblance of a case for atheism. No, you are now signing up with a whole cadre of well-respected scientists and journalists. You’ve got guys out there like Dawkins, Hitchens, and the rest of the new atheist gang who can actually articulate the case for atheism in a coherent and compelling way. You may not agree with everything that they are all about when they start ranting about the threat of religion, but it is nevertheless much easier to be an atheist nowadays.
And it makes life a whole lot simpler too. Occam’s Razor is a wonderful thing. When trying to understand why suffering exists in our world, which is simpler? To say that there is a God who created us as free beings and that suffering is the result of a complex, convoluted mass of choices and consequences? Or to say that it is just the result of natural processes?
Not to mention the fact that we evangelicals have made atheism extremely appealing to our young people. I will give us the benefit of the doubt by saying that this is unintentional, but we still have a lot to answer for. What have we done? We have filled people up with a lot of outrageously false promises about happiness, health, wealth, assurance, intimacy with God, answered prayer, everything working out hunky-dory…you get the idea. Proving us to be liars is just like taking candy from a baby. And when the atheist voices come along saying, “It’s OK. You don’t have to knock yourself out trying to believe. Don’t torture yourself by trying to come up with ever-increasingly complicated arguments to try and prop up that faith of yours (which is probably not worth propping up in the first place if you have to go to so much trouble). Just give it up and go have a Coke.” We can answer Dawkins’s arguments, but how on earth are we going to answer that?
And for the young people in our midst who do have serious questions about God and about faith, where can they go to have their questions answered? Not a lot of places. We’re too busy squawking about Obamacare, abortion, gay rights, etc. We’re too busy having a grand old time grabbing our socks and spinning them around over our heads while some worship leader sings “You spin me right round Jesus right round like a record…JESUS MESS US UP!!!!!” (If you’re wondering what on earth I was talking about in that last sentence, here it is in all its glory.) Sure, there are plenty of books and other resources out there that can answer the questions, but by the time a young person with serious doubts gets there, it can easily seem that these resources are nothing more than the Faith ER where they are loaded up with all sorts of powerful anti-atheism drugs and then sent back out there to the Jesus bless-me crunkfest.
Well, I would love to say much more about this, but it’s not my post and there is nothing more I can say that Michael Spencer hasn’t already said much more eloquently in this post. So you need to get over there and read it, if you haven’t already done so.
And if you haven’t already found Michael Spencer’s blog and made it a regular stop for you in your reading journey, you need to go on and do that. You will find much there that is edifying; just start exploring the site and you will find that everything you touch is gold.