5 Ways to Be a Better Atheist
by C Michael Patton
Modern atheism is suffering a great deal. This is due to the growth of a new, evangelical type of atheism. Many have labeled its adherents the “New Atheists”. They’re new only in the sense of mission, drive, purpose, and appeal. There’s nothing new in their arguments. Nothing has been discovered that should increase their enthusiasm.
Nevertheless, here they are. And despite my claim that they’re suffering, their impact is far-reaching. Their appearance on the cultural center stage is truly affecting people’s beliefs: confirming some in their atheism and causing many theists to tremble.
In spite of this, I believe that this movement is in desperate need of help. While they’re having an effect, its intellectual weaknesses will cut it short.
The New Atheists – A Movement In Need of Help
The New Atheists are filled with emotional rage, relying on their personalities for inspiration. I have some advice to help shape them during this volatile time in their history. Ironically, I truly want them to listen and improve. Why? Because I want every worldview to have good representation. It does me no good in my pursuit of truth to have my worldview challenged by an impotent and weakly opponent. Modern atheism can improve in five key areas which I’ll lay out in detail below.
1. Make More Concessions.
After listening to and reading many of the most popular atheists today, I’ve found that (generally speaking) there’s an incredible lack of intellectual honesty. These volumes are filled with claims that smack of propaganda:
- Christianity has no evidence.
- Theism is completely irrational.
- People believe in God because they are uneducated.
- To be a Christian is to commit intellectual suicide.
I wish this was the exception and that most public atheists didn’t speak in such a way, but it’s not, and, they do.
Don’t get me wrong… I understand the atheist who says that the case for theism is not compelling enough or, for them, does not make a sufficient case. But to say that there is no evidence for God or that Christianity requires a lack of education is not only an incredible overstatement it’s intellectually uninformed at best and dishonest at worst.
Every atheist knows that there is evidence for God. There are reasons to believe in the resurrection of Christ. There’s much strength in the traditional arguments for theism. The atheist needs to make such concessions. This does not mean that they believe that this evidence warrants belief, it simply recognizes that a case can be made for God that doesn’t require a frontal lobotomy.
Concessions do nothing but help you in the marketplace of ideas. Dismissive overstatements are for manipulation of the populace and as “red meat” for the already initiated. If you truly don’t believe their is any evidence for theism or Christianity and that both are completely irrational, I’d be forced to suppose that you’ve been blinded by your emotions and your prejudices have disqualified you from real intellectual engagement.
Bart Erhman (who is not technically an atheist) is the only one that I have seen on center stage who is wise enough to make such concessions.
2. Kill the “Flying Spaghetti Monster”
The “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” as I am sure you are well aware, is an illustrative tool that has become rather popular in your circles. The basic idea is that there is as much warrant for my belief in God as is your belief (were it present) in a “flying spaghetti monster”. The moment you use this, I think one of two things:
- You know better, yet you use this hoping the emotional propaganda will be enough to do the job.
- You really think it’s a good illustration.
In the latter case, I’d say you have not studied this issue properly and you need to research that hiatus. The “Flying Spaghetti Monster” routine doesn’t even engage the theism issue. Let me explain…
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