“Atheists are freethinkers unlike those subjected to religious dogma”: A reply
by James Bishop
I am almost certain that most Christians involved in apologetics who try to give a rational defence of their faith have come across a good few atheists saying similar if not identical things as this. I will draw out a response in a few points.
First off this is a highly problematic issue for the atheist as within the atheistic worldview where there is no God, nor transcendence, our thoughts and actions are wholly deterministic. In other words, “free-thinking” is completely illusory as our thoughts, actions, and dreams are solely determined by genetics, background, and environment, whereas on the other side of the coin theism provides rational grounds for freewill and “free-thinking” by being made in the image of a rational God of which in itself encourages us to explore, discover and to learn about the universe he created, the very reason science developed so successfully out of the Christian religion and worldview in the first place.
Secondly, it may be true (if we ignore determinism for a moment) that the atheist is indeed a freethinker in the precise sense of not being subjected to religious dogma, but it does not follow that he, or other atheists are freethinkers in general, or are not subjected to dogma. It is also not true that there are no religious freethinkers (whether subjected to dogma or not). In fact, there are many who become “religious” due to their freethinking, or who freely think about dogma and accept it in that way. For example, could the atheist charge Lee Strobel, a former self-described militant atheist himself, with not being a “free thinker”? According to Strobel “It was the evidence from science and history that prompted me to abandon my atheism and become a Christian.” (Strobel, Lee. ‘Case For Christ’)
What about the former atheist Alister McGrath? Is he no longer a free thinker after he said…
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