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By Graham Veale
I’ll confess that I feel sorry for contemporary atheists. There was a time when “atheism” simply meant “rejecting belief in a God or gods.” Thanks to the rise of New Atheism, things are not so simple for the modern atheist. Today, the discerning skeptic can choose from a smorgasbord of brands, including antitheism, nontheism, friendly atheism, militant atheism, activist atheism, agnostic atheism, and plain old-fashioned atheism. Old-fashioned atheists are a straightforward bunch; they have rejected belief in God for emotional or intellectual reasons that they usually can articulate. Atheism is just something they happen to believe.
The newer atheists are a different kettle of fish: atheism is part of their identity, and they consider themselves part of a movement. They have arguments for atheism, but usually these have been copied and pasted from Dawkins and Hitchens and can be reduced to the length of a “tweet.” They often are passionate about their branch of “atheist movement” yet also will insist that atheism isn’t actually a belief system. In other words, their thinking tends to be a little addled, and this makes reasoning with them difficult.
So if it is difficult to be an atheist, witnessing to atheists is even more challenging. An atheist with a considered opinion can be reasoned with, but many members of the various movements have minds muddled by Internet memes and celebrity soundbites. These ideas must be untangled carefully to make progress. And, on top of all this, the atheist movement does not want for curmudgeons who simply wish to waste the Christian’s time with invective and insults. I assume that most readers of the Christian Research Journal are familiar with the best arguments for Christianity. So, in this short article, I will simply point out a method that will help you discern which atheists are open to conversation, and which are deliberately attempting to demoralize and distract you. If an atheist is genuinely open to conversation, no matter how combative that atheist is, I counsel patience and respect. Christians need to play the “long game” when witnessing to their skeptical friends. Don’t aim to win arguments; aim to sow seeds of doubt that their atheism is true, and let God give the increase…
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