Atheism and Freedom

by Bill Muehlenberg

Jean-Paul Sartre the famous French atheist and novelist wrote a lot about freedom. As an existentialist philosopher, he celebrated raw freedom, and the ability to choose, regardless of what is chosen. Indeed, he once wrote that we are “condemned to be free”.

My intention is not to write about Sartre here, but about a 21-year-old girl. And even with her, she simply serves as a foil to my larger concerns about the issue of atheism and freedom. And the only reason this young woman is being highlighted here is because another person asked me for my thoughts on her.

I will not spend much time on the gal – I know nothing about her except for her confessional piece about her rejection of her Christian upbringing and her embrace of atheism. The article makes it all rather sensational: “The Atheist Daughter of a Notable Christian Apologist Shares Her Story”.

Well, to be honest, I am not sure if I ever heard of this noted apologist. And her story is not particularly notable either. My first response was: “So what?” Kids rejecting the faith of their fathers is nothing new. And just as many kids could likely be found rejecting their parent’s atheism and embracing Christianity. Happens all the time.

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So let me briefly speak to Rachael Slick and her story, and then move on to the bigger picture. She grew up in a strong Christian family, but eventually turned on that upbringing. She rounds off her story with these words of defiance:

“Eventually I worked up the courage to announce my choice on Facebook — which generated its own share of controversy. I’m fairly certain I broke my mother’s heart. Many people accused me of simply going through a rebellious stage and that I would come around soon. Countless people prayed for me. I don’t know how my dad reacted to my deconversion; I haven’t spoken to him since I left home.

“There was no miracle to cure me of the fear and pain, no God to turn to for comfort. But it did heal. Eventually. I only barely fear Hell now, and my instinct to pray only turns up on rare occasions. For a while now, I’ve been educating myself in science, a world far more uncertain than the one I left, but also far more honest…

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