Dealing With Atheism: More Than One Way

Faith and Skepticism
Faith and Skepticism ‘I Doubt, Therefore I Am’by Melinda Selmys was an interesting article on insights into atheism.

One observation I completely agree with:

Atheists are, for the most part, inclined to reject God out of pride. They expect to be able to disdain any arguments given by a Christian, and they tend to believe that Christians are, on the whole, such gullible and credulous fools that they will bite at any pro-God argument, no matter how thread-bare or unconvincing.

The solution given is one for a particular gift and calling to employ,

“A show of humility on our part — and particularly a revelation that we understand the difficulties that they are experiencing in accepting our position — can be a tremendous help towards buying their respect.”

The conclusion might be for some, but I have approached it from another perspective.

It was:
“The answer, of course, is precisely the answer that every Christian gives, and that every atheist is sick to death of hearing: that God wants us to have faith.”

I think you have to do an awful lot of discussion work to leave a skeptic with that. Because of my own personality and makeup I have developed some of that discussion work at times. You have to be patient, determinedly logical, and thick skinned to pursue it this way, and not everyone, especially fellow Christians, approve of the process.

The other perspective one may take (which deals with that basic pride in the atheist, and the subsequent presumption that the Christian will quickly be defeated in argument) is to attack the walls that their presumptions construct. Not to attack the person, but to mercilessly attack the presumptions. Doing this one must keep in mind something the Francis Schaeffer pointed out: it must be done with a great deal of compassion for the person because you are proceeding to tear apart the fabric of something they have identified with and invested into. Forcing people to examine the basis for meaning is hard work on everyone’s part, and that is what is happening in a conversation of metaphysics once past the early expected questions.

I defend this approach on the basis that something needs to deal with the strongholds of the mind. This is certainly not the only way, but it is one way, if one comes with genuine care for the person and a general respect for their right to their way of thinking. A respectful and rational conversation goes a long way to building respect- but one must beware of thinking that it produces any real changes to one-up in an argument. That isn’t what is wanted. The goal is to open the thinking. So you have to learn to keep a lid on your ego. Or you damage your cause and waste your time.

I can’t say this wins souls. I do not believe it does, but then I don’t believe mere intellectual exercise produces salvation. We all must humbly recognize that it is by the foolishness of preaching, that “God wants us to have faith.” which is the agency of salvation. In whatever way we have conversation, we are simply preparing the way.

The whole point of this is that we do not know the heart, and cannot tell who is receptive to the Lord or what God’s intended interaction is with that person, we can only know that we should be faithful to give a reasoned answer for our hope and faith in Christ. Doubt can be a valuable friend if it leads to discovery, if one is honest enough to explore the possibilities. This is the desired end on topics of faith.

2 thoughts on “Dealing With Atheism: More Than One Way”

  1. Ilona, I tried to suggest my approach with this post. I am not sure that pride is the source of militant atheism. I think fear may be, because often science and religion comes up with the same answers.

    I encountered belief through first, as an agnostic, trying to follow the teachings of Jesus. Something about that attempt eroded some barrier within me. If I were a smarter, more eloquent person, I could perhaps describe that barrier, but I cannot. However, I don’t think it was rooted in pride, but in fear and a type of existential loneliness. After, through practice, I became more rooted in the habit of considering other people as at least as important in myself, I became able to accept grace, and later perhaps even to come to some understanding of it. I cannot characterize the whole process more accurately than that.

    I appreciate very greatly your willingness to deal with the tough questions of faith; so few persons of faith are willing to do this.

  2. I’m late in answering,apologies.

    I think we are both right for different reasons. There is not just one type of atheism, and certainly many reasons for the convictions of atheists. Although always some form of theist, it is odd/interesting that I took a similar pathway to faith. I think the dynamic of our path was the dual forces of fierce idealism meeting despairing futility. At least that is how I would begin to explain it.

    I believe the longer an atheist holds onto insistence that there is no God, the more a part pride plays in their thinking.

    You do raise a longtime quandary. Why is it that certain people are open to that grace you describe and others so closed? This is where the mystery lies for me.

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