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Interacting with “Angry Atheists”



One interesting, spiritual/sociological phenomenon I have witnessed over the years is that different groups often respond with herd-like predictably when witnessed to. 

Mormons tend to be very nice no matter how assertive one becomes in exposing the follies of Mormonism.

Jehovah's Witnesses inevitably see any interchange with orthodox believers as intellectual combat. They seldom keep their composure when seriously challenged (see my side of a lengthy, email conversation with a Jehovah's Witness).

Conservative Evangelicals can find true dialog with radical emergents almost impossible. The emergents will steadfastly misrepresent Evangelical views and will temporarily misrepresent their own -- all in a seeming attempt to feel momentarily victorious (see my article on emergent culture. This article has links to two other articles of mine on the emerging church movement).

The new atheists are not called "angry atheists" without reason. I have found that they do not engage in serious dialog. Instead, they tend to go for one's emotional jugular. They will blaspheme Christ and insult Christians in the most demeaning manner possible. Below is a list of the kind of tactics one can expect from them:

  • Name calling and mockery – Like schoolchildren on the playground they seem to think calling names is a smart and mature thing to do. The name-calling is usually coupled with mindless mockery designed only to inflame Christians. This defect in mature thought reveals much about the inner condition that leads to the state in which one is "certain" there is no God.

    "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" (Psalm 53:1 NASB)

  • Hatred for biblical concepts – They hate the concept of hell, for example, and believe their hatred of it is the last word on the subject. This is also true of their dislike of biblical, moral standards.
  • Poorly researched criticisms of the Bible – Rather than read the Bible to understand its message, they go to websites that desperately grasp at straws in an effort to discredit Scripture. These criticisms are inevitably very weak and easy to refute.
  • Guilt by association – If anyone such as the KKK uses a Bible quote or falsely claims to be a Christian, atheists will saddle all Christians with the evil of such people. They also use the crusades as supposed evidence that all Christians are bad. Ironically, when Christians respond that by their reasoning Stalin and Mao's atheism makes all atheists guilty of atrocities, they cry that we are using red herrings.
  • Ignorant critiques of creationism – I have yet to interact with one atheist who has read creationist literature but they all seem to "know" that creationists are completely wrong. Consequently, their criticisms often reveal an ignorance of creationist and intelligent design arguments which causes them to just beat a straw man of their own making.
  • Fallacy clusters – This phenomenon is usually found in connection with some combination of the above. Most atheist arguments use circular reasoning ("why should I believe in the nonexistent?"), straw man arguments ("faith means believing with no reason"), ad hominems ("Christians are all stupid") andbeg the question ("since the Bible is just a fairy tale book..."). Other fallacies abound, but these four are the most common and they are often used in clusters.
  • I find it worth noting that the angry atheists seem to only be angry with Christianity's God and Christianity's saving message. They almost never attack other religions or cults. This unavoidably causes me to question just what spirit is inspiring their hatred. Now just what spirit might hate God and the gospel message to such a degree?

    For more information on the debate over God's existence see the following:

    arrow The existence of God

    arrow Existence of God

    arrow The Case for the Existence of God

    Research resources on atheism


    Follow-Up

    When the above was posted in another format, an atheist responded in a typical way, saying it is Christians who are the mean-spirited bullies. He said that Christians did this by calling atheists immoral Satanists, and he cited my use of Psalm 53:1 as an example of Christian name calling. He went on to echo the atheist refrain that Christianity is proved false by the Crusades as well as by the occasional, ignorant remark that contemporary Christians can be heard to make. My response to this atheist included the material below. -- David

    Folly is a real phenomenon. The Hebrew word for wisdom connotes the idea of skillful living. Christians are far from alone in thinking a common sense look at creation leads one to deduce a sufficient source or cause. Many anti-Christian philosophers have been nominal theists for this very reason.

    The mention of folly is meant to steer people in the right direction. Nothing mean is intended. The kind of name-calling I have encountered from angry atheists is nothing but childish bullying, clearly thrown out to intimidate and offend.

    As for atheistic vitriol, I suggest you spend an evening in the religion section of Yahoo Answers. It will blow your mind. One interesting phenomenon that occurs with great frequency on that site is that atheist trolls disguise themselves as "Christians" in order to say things deserving of ridicule. After a long enough time, these trolls will give themselves away and finally fess up. It is easy enough to cite a few examples of "Christian" rudeness but it is difficult to say just how many of these people are sincere Christians rather than trolls hostile to the faith, who seek to discredit it in a devious manner.

    I have never heard a Christian assert that atheists were immoral. In fact, Kai Neilson's Ethics Without God was required reading in a philosophy class I took years ago at a Christian university. I would say, however, that I consider ethics without God to lack a true foundation for absolutes; leaving the ethicist with tremendous, relativistic difficulties. It would be hard going to convince me otherwise.

    You don't cite just who confuses atheism with Satanism. I have been a Christian for over 36 years and have never met another believer who did not know that difference. Implying, as I did, that Satan (as the god of this world) inspires people to various positions, is not the same as labeling those who are so inspired Satanists. Paul talks about this in his epistles, as do other NT authors; all the while making a distinction between being ignorantly influenced by a spirit and openly worshiping that spirit.

    You make a legitimate point in asserting a difference in the Crusades. Those people were using the same book we are today and it cannot be asserted that today's atheists follow Mao's little red book, for example. Still, a thoughtful analysis will show that the Crusaders did not possess individual copies of Scripture that they interpreted for themselves. No Evangelical Christian that I know defends the corrupt Vatican for its non-Christian conduct in things such as the Crusades or the Inquisition.

    Many Christians do say ignorant things. To reject Christianity for that reason is to fall prey to the genetic fallacy in which someone rejects an argument because of a perceived defect in the person making it. Even If Pol Pot or Osama bin Laden were to say the Earth is a sphere, it would not negate the veracity of that statement. Christians have no monopoly on ignorant statements, by the way. Ignorance seems to be a culture-wide problem. Watch Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" sometime.


    Copyright
    © Copyright 2012, David Kowalski. All Rights Reserved. Do not republish. Published at Apologetics Index by permission.

    Written by David Kowalski

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    This post was last updated: Jan. 23, 2013