The foolishness of our own atheism

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'” — Psalm 14:1 (NIV)

I believe that atheism is foolish. I read statements by the prominent “new atheists” like Hitchens and Dawkins and think, “how silly.” Whether their arguments are philosophical, historical, or ethical, I find them to be far from sufficient to explain away the necessity of God. I’m not saying I have an easy answer for each and every argument they bring up, but I’m not too concerned about that at the moment.

What I am more concerned about is the practical atheism that pops up in my own soul. I am a convinced Christian and  I can do a decent job of defending the existence of God, the truthfulness of Scriptures, and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. But when I neglect prayer, am I not living on a practical level as if there were no God? When I live in fear—whether it be fear of continuing unemployment or fear of what others think of me—am I not living as if there were no God? When I deliberately choose my own way rather than God’s way, am I not living as if there were no God?

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!'” — Mark 9:24 (NIV)

Grace and Peace

I have been thinking about this concept of the practical atheism of Christians for some time, and was prompted to write about it by this article in Christianity Today: Where to Find the Real Atheists by Mark Galli.

7 thoughts on “The foolishness of our own atheism

  1. scaryreasoner

    You do not do a decent job of defending Christianity.

    No Christian does.

    There does not exist any argument for Christianity which is not completely, utterly idiotic. Christianity is idiotic to the core.

    I mean come on. The basic tenets of Christianity are obvious crap. There can’t be any argument for what are essentially faith positions, and faith is, in and of itself, an idiotic concept, being in its essence a conscious decision to be more certain of something than the evidence warrants. In employing the concept of faith, Christianity automatically precludes the possibility of a rational defense, and automatically assumes the mantle of idiocy.

    You’re sunk. Accept it, and revel in the idiocy.


  2. geochristian

    I knew I would get vitriolic comments (“idiotic”, “crap”, and the overall tone of the comment). That doesn’t make a very good case for atheism, but it is what I have come to expect. But thanks for commenting anyways.

    1. I didn’t “do a decent job of defending Christianity” because I didn’t even attempt to defend Christianity in my post.

    2. I do view the arguments of atheists like Dawkins to be silly, but I’m not the only one. Here are some things the prominent non-Christian philosopher of science Michael Ruse has to say about Dawkins:

    “Dawkins is brazen in his ignorance of philosophy and theology (not to mention the history of science).”

    “Dawkins is a man truly out of his depth.”

    “I would like to see Dawkins take Christianity as seriously as he undoubtedly expects Christianity to take Darwinism. I would also like to see him spell out fully the arguments as to the incompatibility of science (Darwinism especially) and religion (Christianity especially). So long as his understanding of Christianity remains at the sophomoric level, Dawkins does not deserve full attention.”

    3. There is more than one meaning of the word “faith.” You define it as a decision to believe something without evidence. That is not what Christians mean by faith, so your argument is a straw man argument.

    Faith can also mean confidence. One can say, “I have faith in Barack Obama.” By this, one would mean something like “I think Barack Obama can solve the country’s problems.” The key isn’t the strength of one’s faith, but the object of one’s faith. I can say that I have faith in a certain chair to hold me up. I sit in it, and it holds me up. It is not my faith that holds me up, but the chair.

    So the question isn’t whether or not I have faith (we all have faith in something) but whether the object of my faith can do what my faith says it can do.

    4. There are plenty of rational arguments for theism and Christianity, and they are not on the level of stupidity, crap, and so forth. I’ll give a couple I like in brief:

    –The cosmological argument: Why does the universe exist? There are only three possible answers: 1. It has always existed, 2. It created itself, 3. It was created by an uncaused cause outside of itself (God). Science teaches us that the universe has not always existed. It is absurd to think that it created itself (and positing a multi-verse only puts the question off). It is perfectly rational, therefore, to say that there is something else (God) that caused the universe to exist. You may or may not accept the cosmological argument, but you cannot say that it is “crap” or “idiotic.”

    –The problem of evil. Usually this is stated as a reason to not believe in God, but in reality it is a good argument against atheism (part of the moral argument for Christianity). The reasoning goes something like this. Questions: Was the holocaust evil? Is rape evil? Is letting people starve in a world with enough food evil? My answer is that yes, these are all evil. Why? Because we live in a moral universe, with laws given by God not only through divine revelation (Scriptures) but in our consciences. The atheist can only argue that these are evil through some sort of social contract theory that may or not apply in various situations. I find this very disturbing. Have Christians solved the question of the problem of evil? Not entirely, but that doesn’t bother me, because at least we admit that evil is a real problem rather than one of definition.

    I’ll stop at that, as it is approaching midnight. These are arguments for theism, not specifically for Christianity. But I think one can make a strong case for the truth of Christianity over other theistic systems as well.


  3. Shamelessly Atheist

    “You define it as a decision to believe something without evidence. That is not what Christians mean by faith, so your argument is a straw man argument.” Okay. Let’s change it to this – Faith is a decision to believe something on the basis of bad evidence like the not-so-eyewitness testimony (as if that would be even enough if it really were eyewitness testimony) written decades after the fact contained in the bible. Such evidence wouldn’t be admissible in a civil suit. This is even worse than basing faith on no evidence.

    Cosmological argument: your argument is that since we don’t know how the universe started that it must be due to god. This is specious. If we don’t know, we DON’T KNOW. That’s as far as we can get. I have little doubt that once quantum mechanics and relativity are melded together that the answers will come. Why? Because science has an unparalleled track record for explaining nature, often shoving aside explanations given by religion. Now THAT’S faith. If you can not say how a deity created the universe, you can not say that it did. Such an ‘explanation’ is epistemologically empty.

    And, no, morality can be explained by evolved behavior based on the principle of reciprocation. We do not live in a moral universe, but an indifferent one. And how do you differentiate between ‘divine revelation’ and the rantings of a schizophrenic? I would put it to you that you can’t. It is unverifiable and therefor again epistemologically empty. The only reason anyone can give is that it is contained in the bible. This is hardly compelling. And if there was such a thing as absolute morality (there isn’t, but let’s just say for argument’s sake it is), then why have our morals changed with time? Even the definition of murder has changed. Back 2 millennia ago it meant ‘don’t kill another Jew’. Gentiles were fair game. There were even rules whereby if you accidentally killed a fellow Jew while in the act of killing a bunch of heathens you were still okay. We don’t accept this any more. Why?


  4. i have thought often of the “practical atheism” within so-called orthodoxy. the application here to the atheism within ourselves is also thought-provoking.

    if i believe, i will obey.


  5. geochristian

    Shamelessly Atheist:

    Thanks for your comments.

    I believe that Christianity is rational (that is not all it is, but it is part of what it is).

    1. The historical reliability of the New Testament (NT) is much more widely accepted today than it was a half century ago. There is plenty of evidence that the entire NT was written in the lifetime of the apostles (those who were witnesses of Christ’s resurrection). Can I rationally prove that the NT is 100% accurate in everything it says? No. But it can be demonstrated that it has a high degree of accuracy, and that the gospels portray an accurate picture of the life and teachings of Jesus. The only reason to reject the NT writings, in my mind, would be anti-supernatural presuppositions. In this case, the NT is rejected not because of evidence, but because of one’s presuppositions.

    2. I think that atheists dismiss the cosmological argument far too easily. Within philosophy, even atheists like Jean-Paul Sartre admit that the basic question is “Why is there something rather than nothing?” To say that “we don’t know is as far as we can get” is a cop out.

    Look back at the three options. Has the universe existed forever? No. Did the universe create itself? No. So what are your options, other than just shrugging your shoulders?

    3. The details of morality might change somewhat, and we all violate those standards to one degree or another, but the point stands: we do live in a moral universe. You cannot say that the only reason I can give for morality is the Bible, for all cultures have standards of right and wrong, even those which have not been influenced by the Bible.

    I’m not sure where you get your statements about Jews killing Gentiles being acceptable. Someone has done some selective reading of the Old Testament and history for you, as there were very clear commandments that protected aliens (i.e. Gentiles) who lived in the nation of Israel.

    Perhaps you are referring to the wartime commands given to Israel at the time of their re-entry into the Promised Land. I don’t completely understand this, but I’ll make two points about it: 1) These commands were limited in time and space. 2) This was a picture of God’s wrath against nations that were involved in serious violation of universal moral laws (for example, child sacrifice). We too should be wary of what we do.

    Reciprocation may be able to explain some aspects of moral behavior, but it is very unsatisfactory as an ultimate foundation for ethics. Are these acts morally wrong or should we not do them because it could work out badly for us if we do: genocide, rape, lying, stealing, torturing puppies.

    I would say that all of these are sin (violations of God’s law). Are you willing to say that there is nothing inherently wrong about them? (And I am not saying that you or any other skeptic is advocating them). Many (most?) skeptics cannot get themselves to say, “There is nothing inherently wrong with genocide, rape, lying, stealing, torturing puppies.” Perhaps there is something to the moral argument for God’s existence after all.


  6. Matt Strid

    Kevin, I was disturbed by the language of “Practical Atheism” but I like being disturbed. It is uncomfortable food for thought.


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