I’m sure you’ve heard this classic tale countless times. An always well-dressed emperor employed two “weavers” to manufacture a new suite of clothing. These “weavers”, or should I say swindlers, pompously proclaimed that the cloth they would weave would be invisible to stupid people. Such a capital idea. Of course, the emperor only wanted brilliant people in his service, now he could tell apart the stupid from the brilliant.
As the swindlers “wove” the new cloth, everyone, including the emperor, came to see the cloth. Each did not see anything and each, not wanting to be thought of as stupid, gushed over the beauty of the cloth, that actually was not there. After the swindlers “cut” and “sewed” the emperor’s new “apparel”, the emperor had the privilege to put on his new outfit. Everyone praised the emperor’s beautiful new “clothing.” Everyone noted how his new “clothing” fit so well, maybe I should say it fit too well.
A large fanfare was made of his new clothing, and off the emperor went, down the street with a parade of servants in tow. The emperor was stripped naked, and all he had on was his new “clothing”. No one in the crowd wanted to be seen as stupid, so everyone gushed over his majesty’s new apparel. A young boy, who must never have received the memo about what he was supposed to see, said this in a tiny voice: “But he hasn’t got anything on.” As the child’s comment got shared from one person to the next, the drone of voices got louder and louder. The water was over the dam, everyone became bold and everyone started to cry, “But he hasn’t got anything on!”
The emperor suspected that the crowd was right. However, he kept his head up high with pride, and kept parading down the road. All the emperor’s nobleman marched in tow, their heads held up high too in pride, celebrating the emperor’s new clothes.
Of course, this story brings back childhood memories, and, like many such classics, they give us very important lessons. In this situation, it is an illustration of the naked belief of neo-atheism. (For our purposes here, I’m speaking of a certain type, many who would identify as secular humanists and hold to a materialistic worldview.) Atheism is one of those naked religions; it parades down the road with pomp and pride, sounding so rational and reasonable, and acting so scientific and sensible. However, those within the parade are blinded by its foolish claims of beautiful freedom and ideas that don’t actually match reality. They are blind to their blind faith, they are irrationally unreasonable and the beauty that they see turns out to be ashes.
Their foundation is empty, groundless and baseless. They do the greatest miracles of all. Jesus walked on water; they dance upon nothing.
Is Atheism Even Reasonable and Rational?
Many atheists make two competing claims. First, they obviously claim to be the reasonable type. Second, they claim they don’t bear the responsibility to supply reasons for the claim that atheism is true. Here’s the problem, if you claim to be reasonable but you can’t or don’t want to supply reasons, you are not reasonable.
The question, however, is why do they claim to not have this responsibility? Well, they claim they “lack a belief in a deity,” not that they claim that God does not exist. Since they lack a belief, they assume they are off the hook to give reasons for their views. This is pure bunk, and here’s why.
These people are equivocating on the word atheists; they are departing from it’s classical definition. According to philosopher Dr. Paul Draper at Stanford University, atheism is “the proposition that God does not exist (or, more broadly, the proposition that there are no gods).” In other words, if you hold to a proposition, you need do bear responsibility for reasons. Dr. Draper explains atheism this way. The meaning of “atheist” has to be framed in the definition of the word “theist.” A “theist” is one who believes that God exists. “Theos” means god, particularly a god with “theistic” attributes, usually found within theistic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, in general vernacular, it usually means a god of any type. Atheism, on the other hand, means the opposite. It means “no God”. “A” in this case, means no or not.
This equivocation-irresponsibility move may make you scratch your head. Like I said before, don’t atheists claim to be the reasonable and rational ones in the room? Yes. But, when push comes to shove, they can’t, or at least will not, give evidence for their worldview! They just claim it’s the default position.
I want to point out that this move actually shows the weak underbelly of atheism. What they are really telling you is not only do they not want to give reasons for their atheistic worldview, but they can’t. Thus, they are now tracking into the zone of non-reason; they are being unreasonable and irrational. In other words, they are in the world of blind faith, a word they use to mislabel Christians. Actually, the Christian worldview does not advocate blind, unreasonable or simple faith. This is the reason why the Christian worldview was the primary force for the scientific revolution. Atheistic assumptions could never have brought about the scientific revolution.
Let me put it this way: why would I want to believe something that is so astounding absurd without credible and solid evidence? Why would I want to believe in something that does not match reality? Why would I want to believe in something that has such poor explanatory power? Why would I believe something that flies in the face of both the obvious and the evidence? Sure, everyone has the freedom to believe irrational ideas, but I don’t know why I must take those views seriously.
Providing evidence for your position should be common sense in today’s day and age. A philosophically-minded agnostic friend of mine, Steve McRae, also has been seeing this irrationality in many atheists. As I share some of this skeptic’s thoughts, I want to be clear that I did edit some of his typos because it was a Facebook post and thread. However, I also want to be clear that I did not change his thoughts either. Here are some of his thoughts.
“If one cannot give those reasons, then are they really justified to believe God does not exist, or even justified not to accept or reject God exists?” He says no, it can’t be justified. “Holding to a position, even not believing God exists *IS* irrational if not justified.” He then doubles down later and says this with even more firmness, “…not believing God exists is irrational if unjustified…If you hold a position that is not justified that is called an irrational belief. Rational beliefs or positions are justified. So if you can’t justify your position why you don’t believe God exist…that is unjustified and thus irrational.”
He also slams another idea that some atheists have. He says the claim that some are “… atheist because they don’t have sufficient reason to believe God exist or they don’t have enough evidence to convince them…” is “vacuous” and he adds later, “Those INHERENTLY are not justifications.” In other words, if you are an atheist, and you want to be rational and reasonable, you do carry a “burden of proof”.
Do Atheists Also Carry The “Burden of Proof”?
I think it should be quite obvious that our atheist friends actually do carry a “burden of proof” in this discussion. In fact, they may be carrying the largest “burden of proof”.
Why do I say this?
Well, atheism denies the obvious. It seems to me that the atheist claim is so far removed from rationality that it could easily be placed in the same category as holocaust deniers and flat earthers. Think of it this way: the obviousness of the necessity of a personal being needed to manufacture a fine-tuned universe is the most rational and reasonable view. We don’t see fine-tuned mechanisms arise without personal causes. The obviousness of the necessity of a personal being needed to manufacture all life on earth is the most reasonable and rational view. We don’t see the greatest novel near-life advancements coming from natural causes. Artificial intelligence, robotics and artificial life are always being spearheaded by personal beings. The obviousness of the necessity of a personal being needed to manufacture information-bearing structures is the most reasonable and rational view. The only source of complex, meaningful and functional information is always personal beings. Languages, codes and algorithms always come from intelligent beings. The obviousness of the necessity of a personal being needed to manufacture molecular machines is the most reasonable and rational view. Mechanisms and machine designs always come from personal beings, as is the obvious case in technology, engineering and manufacturing.
Think of it this way: it would be like saying that past people did not build the pyramids, or Alexander the Great never lived, or claiming that pigs have wings and fly. The problem with the atheistic worldview is that they are too serious and not skeptical enough. Their skepticism stops too early, they need to be more skeptical of their own skepticism.
Many atheists pivot into agnosticism when pressed for reasons for God’s existence; they say they don’t know if God exists or not. According to philosopher Dr. Paul Draper at Stanford University, “an agnostic is a person who has entertained the proposition that there is a God but believes neither that it is true nor that it is false.” If one really doesn’t know what to believe, that is fair. Being ignorant is not necessarily always a bad thing. As Don Wood says, “Stupid is forever, ignorance can be fixed.” Let me put it this way. I’m not into baseball. I don’t know for sure if the Chicago Cubs are better than the St. Louis Cardinals. I don’t know for sure if the Chicago White Sox are better than the New York Yankees. Now, I’m quite agnostic about this topic (maybe even apathetic). But either way, I’ve grown up in the United States, so these teams are talked about by everyone around me. But I just don’t know which to believe.
But our atheist friends are usually are quick to wobble back again. While they say they don’t know (so to remove their “burden of proof”), they are also militantly opposed to the idea that God exists. If someone really desires truth, why would one not look hard and frankly at the evidence for and against God’s existence? Instead, they are militantly opposing God’s existence while saying they don’t know if God exists or not.
When To Walk Away From Unreasonable Atheists?
The type of people I’ve talked about above are beyond atheistic or agnostic, and for sure they are not apathetic. Rather, they are usually militantly opposed to the idea that God exists. They are not really ignorant; actually they seem to be willingly ignorant. Conversations with such people leave me wondering how far I should continue the discussion. How long should I try to persuade them and when should I terminate dialogue?
Obviously, we are called to give answers and try to persuade. It’s a really good thing to engage others in discussion. However, some discussions can cease being effective, and I wonder if we enter the unwise time-wasting territory. Paul, in Colossians 4:5-6, gives us a little wisdom on this issue. He says this, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” At least two nuggets of wisdom stand out to me here. First, we need to be wise with our time. If the apathetic and antagonistic person doesn’t want truth, move to someone who is interested. Jesus did just this with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. He answered his questions and loved him, but he didn’t go chase him down. The second item that stands out is that we need to be wise as we converse with unbelievers. If someone is really seeking answers, answer that person with grace and knowledge. We need to be “salty”, not in the negative connotation, but with tasteful flavor, wit and sharpness.
We need to continue to remember that while we are called to have answers, we are also called not to quarrel and have “arguments” (arguments in the colloquial sense). Paul, in Titus 3:10-11, gives a good rule of thumb for the number of times to give someone who is being antagonistic. While the context for this passage is aimed for those within the church, it seems to be a good general rule of thumb. Paul says, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Now, if Paul seems extreme, Jesus seems to take this a step further! In Mark 6:11, Jesus says this, “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
To wrap up, here are some points that I’ve been thinking about relating to when to continue or to cease interacting with a person. Now, I know there may be exceptions, but as a rule of thumb, I think this is a fair list.
- Does the person just seem to be antagonistic or trolling?
- Does the person seem to be searching for truth?
- Does the person assume they don’t need to give reasons for their claims?
- Does the person just wave away the mountains of evidence for God?
- Does the person seem to be unreasonable or ridiculing?
- Does the person use vulgarity and blasphemy in the place arguments?
In other words, if the person really is seeking for truth and seems to be raising real questions that they would like to have answered, answer them with grace. However, those who are apathetic or antagonistic, give them a few attempts. If no headway is made, bow out of the discussion and then focus your time and energy on someone who really is authentically seeking truth.
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