New Atheism: A Survival Guide
Interview by Fred Zaspel
This book has been out for just under a year now, but I just learned of it recently and was very impressed. Veale is not the only one to answer the new atheists, of course, but he answers with an uncommon simplicity and clarity. His book is an easy and enjoyable read, and his argument is compelling. We’re glad to have him with us today to talk about his subject and his book.
Let’s begin on a personal note. Could you tell us about your work and how your interest in this subject come about?
At university I became friendly with David Glass (author of Atheism’s New Clothes); we’d a mutual interest in apologetics and evangelism, and this has formed the basis of a friendship which has lasted over 20 years. In 2012 we launched the website www.saintsandsceptics.org to promote apologetics in Northern Ireland and to challenge atheism and secularism.
After graduating in theology from Queen’s University (Belfast) I trained as a teacher of Religious Education. I’ve been teaching teenagers for 16 years – so I’ve earned every one of my grey hairs! When my students started referring to atheist “memes” like the Flying Spaghetti Monster my interest was piqued. I was also fascinated by the clumsy misunderstandings and crude misrepresentations of Christianity advanced by well-educated sceptics on blogs and chat-rooms.
Obviously, this sort of nonsense needs to be challenged by Christians. But why have atheists become so hostile? What presuppositions and prejudices lead intelligent, literate individuals to be duped by childish polemics and sloppy scholarship? These questions, and my concern that the evangelical churches are not really interested in addressing aggressive secularism, led to my book.
What is your target audience with this book?
The book is primarily for young people who are interested in New Atheism. Some of these young people will be what the atheist movement calls “a-curious”: they’re examining atheism and considering its truth claims. It is likely that they have heard the claims of the New Atheists and wonder if there is any substance behind the bluster. Other readers will be young Christians who are intimidated by the memes and arguments that they encounter online or in class.
But I also hope that the book will be read by Pastors and evangelists – especially youth pastors. I don’t think the church appreciates that young people are now primarily educated by websites like YouTube and Facebook. Style trumps substance on these forums- quirky humor and shocking statements gather more attention than sermons or lectures. The atheist movement has effectively captured this ground; you cannot avoid their presence online. So we need to teach all our young people (not just college students!) rational, persuasive Christian theology…
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