Seven Steps Toward Clarifying Atheist Vocabulary
by Tom Gilson
People who stand in opposition to Christianity often have their own vocabulary for us Christians and our beliefs: magic, invisible friend, crutch, irrational, and the like.
If we have different meanings in mind, conversations are more likely to lead to confusion than conclusions. Therefore I offer these questions and thoughts, in hopes of clarifying atheist vocabulary.
1. Magic. Do you mean illusionists’ or wizards’ little tricks, or do you mean the eternal Creator God of the universe involving himself purposefully and lovingly in his creation? If the latter, then is “magic” really an appropriate label?
2. Invisible friend. Do you mean an imaginary boy, girl, or adult that we can “play with” as if he or she were a real human friend, or do you mean the powerful, sovereign, loving, self-sacrificing, omniscient, omnipresent, majestic, and partially hidden God of the universe? If the latter, then is “invisible friend” really an appropriate label?
3. Crutch. Do you mean something by which people hobble along when they’ve been injured due to their own inherent frailty—one that you are too good to be subject to yourself— or do you mean something that enables people to rise up
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and be more and do more than they could otherwise do? (Note: I speak that as one who has had chronic foot injuries because of a congenital condition. I know what crutches are good for.)
4. Irrational. Do you define “rational,” as most published New Atheists do (see True Reason ) in terms of agreeing with your conclusion that the world must always be interpreted on strictly empirical terms, or do you define it in terms of the ability to process thoughts from evidence and premises through to a conclusion with valid reasoning? If the former, then aren’t you begging the question quite irrationally?
5. Intolerant. Do you mean unwilling to agree with contemporary relaxed standards of truth and morality? If so, then we agree. Where’s the problem? And why are you so intolerant toward our position?