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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Atheism on the Rise?

Have you taken a look at the NY Times or Amazon Bestseller List over the last year or two? If you have, then you've no doubt noticed an influx of nonfiction titles promoting Atheism. Letter to a Christian Nation, The God Delusion, The God Who Wasn't There--just to name a few.

I'm wondering about the recent influx, and I suspect that this is nothing more than the cyclical nature of pop culture. After all Bertrand Russell and others attempted to do this years ago. His ideas came and went. And now, here we go again.

I don't have the slightest problem with people writing about Atheism. They have as much a right to write about their faith as we do ours. The interesting thing to me is how many people are buying up this propaganda, and, as an extension, how much the press is promoting it. What does this mean? Are people fed up with Religion? Or are they looking for excuses for evil behavior? I'm not sure the answer is that simple. And I'm not sure the answer is the same for every atheist.

Nonetheless, Christians need to be ready with answers--and answers shared in love. Yes, be direct. Do not tolerate the lack of logic. But do not fight fire with fire. Fight with love. Understand that beneath the brash, contentious tone of an atheist may be a hurting heart: someone who's been wronged--even by Bible-toting Christians.

Respect a well-reasoned argument. Consider the time and heart invested in the atheist's claims, but reason with him and show the faults in his logic. Present the truth and show why the truth makes sense.

All this thinking came about when I "accidentally" stumbled onto a woman's blog the other day. I was searching the Web for something completely different, and I found her blog. On her sidebar, I noticed a curious title. It was something about Christmas Carols, Atheism, and *Agnosticism.

At first, I thought the post was going to be a Christian message. The author spoke lovingly about weeping whenever she heard certain Christmas carols and of fond memories. But then, she revealed that she has left the faith and considers herself to be agnostic. It sounded like the turning point for her came from reading one of Joseph Campbell's books on world myths, specifically Campbell's argument that Christianity is just one myth among many--and a copycat myth at that. This blogger's conclusions saddened me. She reasoned with Campbell that Christianity simply cannot be true because it SEEMS to borrow from other world myths. That is one conclusion that can be drawn. But it is NOT the only conclusion.

What follows is my reply to this blogger. Take it for what it's worth. Maybe you know someone who is struggling with belief/unbelief. Maybe you've had doubts yourself.

Never alone.

-WtB

Please forgive my intrusion on your blog, but I found it by accident as I was looking for exercises for my students about strong/weak verbs. Loved your idea about thinking like a screenwriter, ie: how am I going to show this to the folks who watch my move? Great tip.

Long story short, I saw the mysterious bridge graphic and thought I'd come to homepage of Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy, who use the very same graphic. Then I looked in the sidebar and saw the Atheist/Agnostic Article here and gave it a read.

All I can say is wow. What you wrote is very beautiful. You clearly have the heart of a poet. And while I am in total harmony with your sentiment, I disagree with your conclusions.

I've studied mythology extensively (taught it for eight years) and have read Joseph Campbell's work including The Masks of God. It is indeed amazing that so many ancient cultures had stories closely associated with those recorded in the Christian Bible. And certainly one conclusion could be that all religions and God-notions are myth built out of mankind's hope for goodness and light.

But as C.S. Lewis points out, mankind would never have known to look for goodness and light if there had never been a source of goodness and light. What I'm driving at is a very different conclusion. World myths that predate the Old Testament (or New Testament, for that matter) are amazingly similar for two reasons: 1. the acts these early myths suggest, actually DID happen --or-- 2. God, Himself being outside of time, imprinted His own impact on the world in the hearts of all people.

Concerning 1: Take Noah's flood which is mirrored in many cultural tales. It seems likely that such a catastrophic flood did occur. Geologists the world over have confirmed that certain recent discoveries do indicate a flood on a massive scale.

Evolutionist Richard Carrington, in The Story of Our Earth, a secular publication, admitted,

"Of the many kinds of animals inhabiting the earth at the time vast numbers were swept completely away. Not only individuals, but whole races were destroyed. Extermination overtook the animals of the land, sea and air with equal indifference. When the holocaust was over the whole aspect of life on earth had changed."180/155

Concerning 2: Take the common mythological archetype of the coming chosen one or coming savior. If prior to the beginning of time, God intended to save all people of the world by letting His son come to earth, wouldn't He have given people a desire to look for such a one? Certainly this is not beyond the ability of an all powerful God. So the handful of myth/cultural stories concerning events/people similar to Christianity are eternal echos of God's plan.

I do believe that all people are searching for light. I believe that is because we all realize there's something missing from our lives, a longing we sometimes call melancholy. This is the hunger for God and for heaven. I don't think this hunger for light can be argued against--as you say, too much history supports it. But the question then becomes, WHO is the source of the light we long for?

It would have to be someone beyond ourselves, beyond humanity. We ourselves recognize our own self destructive tendencies and the fickle nature of our feelings. People are prone to letting us down. Emotions and behavior are affected by such subtle things as seasons, weather, workload, nutrition, and such. So the light must be beyond us.

God, a supernatural being, fits the bill. But which God? The answer is the most important answer anyone on earth will ever discover. But how to find it? Vishnu? Mohommad? Budha? Jesus? Who?

There we MUST NOT depart from our ordinary means of making judgments. Most of us decide what to wear based on the preponderance of evidence. Hmmm, weatherman said it's going to be forty degrees. I open the window. It looks cold. It feels cold. The evidence suggests that I will therefore wear a sweater. Imagine you were driving on a one lane road and then stopped at the entrance to a narrow bridge. People explained that if you drive across the bridge, you will be given forty million dollars. I suspect that you would want to get out and inspect the bridge. If there was time, I imagine you'd look it up on the internet or hire an expert on bridges before you ever drove across. It makes sense to examine the evidence.

However, we must avoid making the kind of judgment we make when we choose who we will vote for or what team to like. These judgments are colored, filtered way too much by our history, our upbringing, and our personal preferences. We might vote democratic because a certain issue is important to us. We might pick a favorite team because the quarterback is handsome. If God is real, then He is real whether we prefer him to be or not.

I am a believer in Jesus. But I'm not an easy believer. Unlike the original childlike faith that you had, I scrutinized everything about Christianity. After all, how could there be only one God, one right way to heaven?

I spent years, taking courses in school, studying history, archeology, and even science. I read countless testimonials, considered the experiences of uncountable people of a variety of faiths, and my conclusion was clear: the God of the Bible is real.

The problem is, either people don't want to do the research because it steals time from their lifestyle --or-- they don't want to believe their findings because it impacts their lifestyle. I didn't want to believe in God if that meant there was only one way to heaven. I love people. I want them all to go to heaven whatever they believe. But that's just preference speaking --or wishful thinking. It has nothing to do with the preponderance of evidence for Christianity. Choosing not to believe in God in this way is akin to being starving but refusing to eat because you feel sure someone else in the world might also starve.

In closing, (name of blogger), I am convinced that the reason you cry when you hear Oh Holy Night or Do You Hear What I Hear is that your soul longs for God still. I suspect that your childlike faith in Jesus when you were young made you a Christian. And even though you have abandoned God, HE has not abandoned you. He's hinting, suggesting, and waiting…because He is the Light of the world. And he loves you.

-WtB

*Agnosticism is a little different than atheism in that agnostics do not deny that there could be a god. They just don't know for sure and won't put a name to this god if there is one.

26 comments:

fire phoenix said...

Wow.
Very cool post.

everlastingscribe said...

You're right, m'lord, it does seem that way doesn't it? That Atheism is progressing and deism and Agnosticism are popping up all around.

I remember well a young gentleman who came into the store where I work several years ago, looking for a fight because his girlfriend had wanted to come in and poke around. She was a nominal Christian and he was what I call a 'militant' atheist. Just like Christians there are all kinds of atheists I've found, some kind and loving and accepting of other people's beliefs, other at least tolerant of another point of view, some educated, others not so educated, and then there are the hostile ones that seem to have a real issue with Christians. This young man fell into the latter category. He ranted, pointed his finger, gestured lewdly at first and wanted to know why we could love Someone who was so cruel and bigoted.

It was not easy listening to him insulting Christ, it wasn't easy to stand there and be insulted either when he said that Christianity was something only the weak and women needed. In fact if my coworker hadn't been calm and collected I probably would have told him to leave before I threw something at his smug little head.

Donna however was cool and collected and she listened to him. She listened and because she listened he calmed down (Donna grew up as a pastor's kid then became a nurse and a school teacher so she has way more patience than I do).

She started challenging his position, pointing out errors he had made and even offering some of the theories that he'd spouted off to her back to him in greater detail. This got him curious and his body language changed. Before he had been leaning backward on his heels with his arms crossed over his chest or his hands shoved in the pockets of his baggy jeans. Now he uncrossed his arms, leaned foreword, and began dialogging with her.

He said after a while that it was sad that you couldn't just believe whatever you wanted to and go to heaven--that if his dying would accomplish that for everyone on earth he'd gladly die. It was then I was able to say just the right thing. "Ah" I said "Now, you sound like Jesus. You see, He did just that so everyone, absolutely everyone could be in heaven with Him. You just have to take Him at His word." I will never forget the look of shock on his face. I don't think that anyone had ever compared him to Christ. Other customers started coming in at that point (until then believe it or not it was just Donna and him, and me) and we had to use that as our closing argument. We gave him a copy of "More Than A Carpenter" by Josh McDowell (excellent book) and he said he'd read it.

I don't know what happened to him, Donna and I both prayed hard that his heart would be soften to what he would find in Josh's writing, but I suppose I will never know what happened to him. Not on this side of eternity.

What I learned that day is that when you *listen* to someone object to Christ, you can share Him all the better. Hmm, sounds familiar a little bit? AHA here's why!

1 Peter 3:14-15 The Message

"Through thick and thin, keep your hearts at attention, in adoration before Christ, your Master. Be ready to speak up and tell anyone who asks why you're living the way you are, and always with the utmost courtesy."

Paris said...

That's so sad. In my science book it has all evalution stuff and it would be so easy to believe there wasn't a God if I didn't know the truth.

The lion hearted said...

Awesome post! I pray that the blogger will come back to God because you posted that...or maybe by some other means.

the lion hearted said...

By the way, great story, Scribe! Phew, that was heavy.

Justin B. said...

You could not have answered her better.. the way you said it really displayed the love you have for others. It seems when some Christians approach nonbelievers, we seem to take upon a nasty elitistic tone and verbally attack the person, instead of embracing and showing love. I understand this person's afflictions very much since I have been in her position many times and so have other christians. We all have wondered about certain aspects of Christianity and its sometimes hard to completely understand aspects of it, everyday we still try to find ourselves and face new challenges. God gifted you with a way of treating people with love and not hate. Your books help others to see the light, my agnostic (the one who makes a perfect Antionette) read and loved all your books and even took an interest in Christianity, though me and her both are thinking of attending a Quaker meeting (giving clues about my denomination... I have none.. but I have many Quaker beliefs..) mostly because I love the way they try and work with people and show kindness towards all walks of life, instead of focusing on hate and politics. Keep Writing!!!! Like you, everyday I see so many people I ache for to be in heaven and one of them is one of my best friends who is gay (yes.. I have a gay friend who loves video games and Doctor Who) and everyday I wish he could join me in heaven. I defend him everyday from taunts and I show him true kindness. I have friends with many other people from different groups, a Buddhist friend from Japan, and a boy who has down syndrome (who is one of the kindest people I have ever met.. and seeing him makes me even more frustrated with abortion for many want to use abortion to kill off babies who have such mental disabilities..) Many Christians continually criticize me for my liberal beliefs, the people I hang out with, and my love for Harry Potter and anime. I tend to respect them and never criticize them in return. For I love showing love to all people, since I used to be harassed during all nine years of my schooling and even a ton at church.. where my gothic attire made me the odd one out, I understand being the one who is pushed around. Keep Writing, oh.. and the leader of my reading group sent you an email about any possible visits in the summer. I hope we are not being too bothersome in our requests, for I know how busy you are and understand if any of them are turned down. Yeah I know long comment, sometimes I ramble. Anyways, can't wait to read another wonderful blog post, God Bless!
Justin B.

Robert said...

The cheering section has had its say, so perhaps a word from the opposing team is in order. :)

You wrote,I'm wondering about the recent influx, and I suspect that this is nothing more than the cyclical nature of pop culture.

Maybe, except for the fact that pollsters have noted a rising trend toward disbelief and away from traditional religions like Christianity. This has long been underway in Europe and has lately become more pronounced in America.

So, the popularity of these atheist books is merely reflective of this fundamental shift.

You wrote,Consider the time and heart invested in the atheist's claims, but reason with him and show the faults in his logic.
I'm always interested in uncovering faults in the atheist's logic, so if you would, I would like your take on "The Logical Problem of Evil proves that God does not exist".

You wrote,Concerning 1: Take Noah's flood which is mirrored in many cultural tales. It seems likely that such a catastrophic flood did occur. Geologists the world over have confirmed that certain recent discoveries do indicate a flood on a massive scale.

I can find no substantiation of such a claim. Would you mind providing a link or reference?

You wrote,Evolutionist Richard Carrington, in The Story of Our Earth, a secular publication, admitted...

I've learned that when Christians quote non-Christians it's best to do a little digging because often the quotes are taken out of context, come from a very dated or obscure source, or refer to something else entirely.

I can find almost nothing about who Richard Carrington was. The book cited was published in 1967--not exactly a contemporary reference. It's likely Carrington was referring to the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event, which happened about 65 million years ago (not 4,000, as Young Earth Creationists claim the flood took place), and was likely caused by a comet or increased volcanic activity, not a global flood.

You wrote,I spent years, taking courses in school, studying history, archeology, and even science. I read countless testimonials, considered the experiences of uncountable people of a variety of faiths, and my conclusion was clear: the God of the Bible is real.

Appeals to one's authority are not very convincing. There are others, many perhaps with deeper credentials, who take a different view.

You wrote,The problem is, either people don't want to do the research because it steals time from their lifestyle --or-- they don't want to believe their findings because it impacts their lifestyle.

This is a false dichotomy and is firmly debunked by the many, many individuals who were Christians and became atheists or something else. A number of these former Christians were highly educated apologists who studied the theology for years before deciding it just wasn't true.

You wrote,Choosing not to believe in God in this way is akin to being starving but refusing to eat because you feel sure someone else in the world might also starve.

One hears this argument frequently from Christians, but would it convince you if "God" was replaced with "Allah" or "Zeus"?

You wrote,*Agnosticism is a little different than atheism in that agnostics do not deny that there could be a god. They just don't know for sure and won't put a name to this god if there is one.

Actually, this describes atheism. The agnostic position is more akin to "I just don't know."

Sapphira Adi said...

Yes, it makes me wonder why people believe in atheism. I have a friend who has a friend that has had her share of troubles in life and blames it on God. I think people just don't want to accept that there is a loving God out there. They probably have their reasons not to believe. Interesting post, Wayne!

Sapphira

servant4jesus said...

What you posted was awsome!

***Flinn-fan-of-the-Twins*** said...

Very good Mr. Batson. And so very true. Has anyone watched The Truth Project? Can be VERY slow, but some of the things are very interesting.

***Flinn-fan-of-the-Twins*** said...

It talks about different world-views and some of the things people really think about God or Creationism, or Intelligent Design.

dCF said...

incredible AGAIN!

Hannah.S said...

Mr. Batson, I loved your letter to that woman! It was so well-written--clear with the point, but also very kind. Thanks for sharing it with us! I hope that it makes her think and softens her heart to the Lord.
Oh, and yes I have seen the Truth Project! I loved them! To anyone on this site who is interested in learning about Biblical worldview in vairous arenas of life, this is a great source.
~Hannah

The_Steve said...

Very interesting...
You know, I do consider my self agnostic. However, the more I look at the Atheists and the way they act, especially thier illogical way of thinking, I personally am tilting more towards Christianity.

I am trying harder to become closer to my beliefs, but hey, nobody lets you believe anything anymore...

WayneThomasBatson said...

Robert, Welcome to EtDW. I've read your post and am thinking over a reply. Stay tuned.

And, The Steve, I am so impressed by your candor. I'm also glad to hear you're leaning toward Christianity. But you said "no one lets you believe anything these days," and, in a way, that's true. These are complicated times where everything, even the most obvious truths, are being questioned.

On one hand, that's not a totally bad thing. We all should know what we believe and why we believe it. However, it is possible to absorb so many conflicting points of view that you drive yourself crazy. I have such a friend who has read himself into a mire of indecision. He's torn between dozens of philosophies and has clouded his mind so that the simple truth that Jesus loves him has fallen out of his mind.

Robert Treskillard said...

Thanks, Wayne, for tackling this with love and truth. Great post.

dCF said...

i have one name for the most prrof you can and will ever find for the bible...Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr.

look him up!

C

Robert said...

"Robert, Welcome to EtDW. I've read your post and am thinking over a reply. Stay tuned."

Thank you, Wayne. I'm looking forward to it.

"i have one name for the most prrof you can and will ever find for the bible...Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr.

look him up!"

I looked him up as you suggested, but didn't find much. Is there some specific work by Dr. Baucham that I should reference?

dCF said...

there is a video / dvd thing he put out a couple of years ago....its really great...did google give a website...if it did definately check it out and see what he has on there...my dad is a pstor and was given his cd / dvd set from a friend in the ministry....but he has things that i havent even thought about showing litterary and historical truth that supports the bible...not one specific thing in the bible, but the bible in whole

dCF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dCF said...

i just realized that i actually wrote a paper based of the dvd set we have freshman yr....i have posted it on my blog for those who care to read...now remember i was in 9th grade when i wrote this...it could have a little more depth, but i lists the facts and gives backing refernces for them

May the King watch over you,
C

dCF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dCF said...

ohh and Mr. Robert, i was reading over your original post to wayne...and i noticed the million years wording...the reason that people (Christian / creationists mainly) say the earth is young is because if you start in the book of genesis and add the years from Adam to Jesus we are talking somewhere ABOUT (not 100% accurate) 4,000 years ( in peoples ages mind-you, not a literal calandary system, just adding peoples ages from when they were born to when they had the child which is counted in the biblical census)then add the 2,000 yrs that we have had since we began counting time in A.D. (another proof for some kind of relativity to the bible...in the year of our lord) that makes a total of 6,000 years, so using that train of thought we see that the earth is only 6,000 years old...just food for thought

Robert said...

I found several sites with links to Dr. Bauchman's videos explaining why he believes the Bible, but the videos are no longer available. My guess is that Dr. Bauchman had them removed so people would purchase his DVDs. Hey, a man's gotta make a living :)

In any case, I did find a statement from him which describes the basis of his belief:

"I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents, written by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies, and they claim to be divine rather than human in origin. "

The first sentence is patently untrue. Besides being decisively refuted by a variety of Biblical experts, even the most conservative Christians only go so far as claiming eyewitnesses wrote "the bulk of" the Bible.

The claim of divine fulfillment of prophecy is an old one, but I think when examined neutrally, there is nothing really to substantiate it. They're all very or extremely vague, allowing later Biblical authors to say they were fulfilled in their later fictional stories.

dCF said...

question...lol...i sound so like professional

when you say the bulk of the bible is written by eyewitnesses...what exactly do you mean...southern understanding here ;-)

because, the old testament /Torah/ whatever you want to call it was written by people who would have had to be somewhere around the event that happened or it would not be one of the primary sources for Jewish history and beliefs (religious and personal) and then the new testament...whether you believe it to be fictional or factual...is set up as people who saw these things...with the exception of pauls letters...luke was a physician not one of the 12 but yes he mentions things as if he was either told them or saw them himself...now the other 3 gospels all present themselves as a eye-witness account...so my question is, what specific, "eye-witness written", books are you talking about

and second...as i posted in the last post i put on my personal blog Psalms Chapter 22 these words are written:

"they have pierced my hands and my feet."

we have proof that the Crucification was a prominent death instrument during the Roman times, this was written before Rome was as important as it became

"They divide my garments among them
and cast lots for my clothing."

This could be seen like you mentioned as a way that future writers could bend a story...but if you go to Jerusalem there is an actual place where soldiers would bet lots for the clothing of those being executed...its there in the middle of the town

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

David wrote this many, awww heck hundreds, of years before Christ would utter the same words...this can be viewed in the mentality of future authors using this to satisfy their need...but if we remember what the Psalms were, which is songs for the Jewish nation to sing during a Temple service, It would make sense that people would be able to use this in their own time of need...im a singer and i sing songs out to God when i feel down, so why couldnt Jesus, who Christians believe was fully man and fully God, do that also??

i would love you to read the post on my blog, its very much so more in depth than i can fit into a comment square!!

nick said...

very cool