Conversing with An Atheist

Over this past three-day weekend, I had the pleasure of conversing with a “New Atheist,” if there’s so a category.

Until I met this gentleman, I had read a few of them and converse in passing with a few, but this was different:

He told me I should give Richard Dawkins’ God Delusion a read.  I would be somewhat surprised at what I would discover!

He even got into biblical contradictions here and there: from the absurdity of the story of Noah and the Ark to the contradiction of Luke’s census report, which he says goes squarely against Roman legal codes.

For this atheist, this life is all there is.  He is purely driven by a naturalistic worldview and not afraid to avow such.

When it came to the matter of morality, he speaks of knowing right from wrong purely on a naturalistic level, no need for some cosmic puppet master (of course, he acquiesced to relativism on this score.)

When I asked him how long he has been an atheist, I was somewhat taken aback when he told me “Since he was 8!”  And what led to this?  His father at the time, a historian and WWII vet, told him, at the age of 8, about the killing of 6 million Jews.

My atheist friend asks, “Where we God when his chosen people needed him?  Where were the miracles?”

As an adult he said he has since asked many Christians about where God was to protect his chosen people and no one has been able to give him an answer.

When I told him it took more faith to be an atheist than a non-atheist, he confidently, with a grin on his face, said, “Yes, I know that!  I have faith that there is no such thing as a Judeo-Christian God.”

And when I told him, there is still hope for him, he retorted, “And there is hope for you too! You would quicker become an atheist than I a Christian!”

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14 Responses to Conversing with An Atheist

  1. raddestnerd says:

    About the question of where was God in the Holocaust, I think your “New Atheist” friend is asking the question from a flawed perspective (by “flawed,” meaning, “not seeing the question through a biblical lens”).

    Throughout the OT there were many times when God did not “save” his people. Such as the exile to Babylon.

    And applying Romans 8:28 that God uses all things to work together for the good, we can draw a loose parallel between Jesus on the cross and what happened during the Holocaust.

    Jesus suffered greatly and died. He was mocked by the Jewish leadership (those of them who were corrupt) saying if you are the Son of God where is God now? Why isn’t he saving you?

    But Jesus had the last laugh when he was raise from the dead.

    In a parallel, perhaps many people mocked the Jews during the Holocaust, saying “Where is your God now?”

    But the tragedy of that terrible time, contributed to bringing the world’s attention to the suffering of the Jewish people. The horrors of WWII led to the birth of the UN. Which in turn contributed to the rebirth of the Jewish State.

    We live in a fallen world. Nothing is perfect. Many things are not as they ought to be. Yet, God in his infinite wisdom uses human tragedy for his greater glory and our greater good.

  2. T.C. R says:

    Raddestnerd,

    But “New Atheist” friend says that there has never been anything like the Holocaust, even with the OT exiles and so on.

    Of course, he’s coming from a purely naturalistic viewpoint. There is simply no room for the supernatural in his worldview.

    Romans 8:28 and its implications mean nothing to him.

    • raddestnerd says:

      Which is my point exactly. It’s an issue of point-of-view or worldview, to use that term.

      But, if he is going engage in the question of “Where was God?” shouldn’t he be open to (at least as a theoretical mental exercise) the possibility of the supernatural and the Bible as being the Word of God in exploring that question? Because otherwise he’s being irrational. It’s like saying, I want to discuss with you the origins of the Mickey Mouse character but, don’t bring up Walt Disney, I don’t think he was a real person.

  3. Colin says:

    “No room for the Supernatural”
    “Romans 8.28 means nothing to him”

    I guess this only emphasises that if you are Calvinistically biased, unless your contact is destined to salvation, there is little we can do, and if he is, then only when the time comes. For the Arminian, he is either not under preveniant grace or is now resisting saving grace. either way I guess we love him , keep doors open, and see what God will do.

  4. T.C. R says:

    Colin,

    Whether Calvinist or Arminian, we’re both in agreement: “Either way I guess we love him, keep doors open, and see what God will do.” 😉

  5. Eric Gregory says:

    The thing that gets me about “New Atheists” is that there’s nothing “new” about them. All of their criticism of Christianity have been around for at least 1,000 years (aside from the purely scientific ones which couldn’t have arisen before the science upon which they are based). Christians used to be called atheists (hah!), cannibals, immoral, unfriendly or dangerous to society, etc. My ire is stoked in the same way when attempting to converse with many “New Atheists” as it is when I attempt to talk to someone who believes “God’s word” or has an infallibility approach to Scripture.

    Fundamentalists on all sides make my hackles rise. As the late Rabbi Emmanuel Rackman says: “[We] dare not live with absolute certainty not only because certainty is the hallmark of the fanatic and [we] abhor fanaticism, but also because doubt is good for the human soul, its humility, and consequently its greater potential ultimately to discover its Creator.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/05/nyregion/05rackman.html?_r=1)

    Also, Dr. David Bentley Hart (Orthodox theologian and writer) has a scathing criticism of “New Atheism” in which he claims that Neitzsche was the last true atheist with anything legitimate to say.

  6. T.C. R says:

    Eric,

    Yeah, I always smile when I read that Christians were once called “atheists.”

    Perhaps the only thing “new” is the militancy behind this new crop of atheists.

  7. Craig Benno says:

    I wonder if the new atheism is really a protest against the status quo of Christianity and its insistence on bad science.

    From my perspective, a well balanced charismatic hands on approach in praying with that person within a scientific basis for God to answer their needs is often a great / risky starting point to truly engage in an area they cannot truly explain.

    I remember a time when I prayed for a Atheist work colleque who had burnt the top of his foot badly through a gas torch hot coal dropping down his gumboot… over the period of a week and daily praying the Lord healed his foot and he became a believer.

  8. Ferg says:

    All I know is that the ‘new’ militant Atheism is a non-prophet organisation.

    Lame joke I know but I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.

  9. T.C. R says:

    Craig,

    That story is so encouraging.

    I don’t know about protesting the status quo of Christianity, but I’m thinking that it’s one of those cyclical trajectory, if you will.

    Ferg,

    I got it. 🙂

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