In the process of engaging skeptics with the evidence for Christian theism, I have met, spoken with, and learned from many wonderful people with whom I disagree with in a fundamental way.
The political atmosphere of the United States has created such a divided and polarized country, one wonders if there is any room for civil dialogue between disagreeing parties. If we take the current political dialogue as our cue, we may think it impossible for such fundamentally different positions as Christianity and Atheism to come together and speak civilly.
However, I have found the majority of my conversations with skeptics to be quite enjoyable and beneficial. For this reason, I find it appropriate to “give credit where credit is due” and list some attributes that I find admirable in my skeptical friends.
- Critical Thinking. My skeptical friends often poke holes in my own thinking and for this, I am grateful. I want to know where my thinking is flawed. For without this knowledge, how can anyone improve? Criticism is necessary. We can’t be content to stay within our “echo chambers” if we wish to advance in knowledge.
- Free Speech. My position on free speech has always been “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend your right to say it.” I have found that my skeptical friends also share this value. In fact, the world’s foremost atheist, Sam Harris, recently closed his Patreon account because he felt they were censoring more conservative voices. Sam himself is certainly no conservative, but he values free speech even for those he disagrees with. This honorable and worth commending.
- Honesty. It has been my observation that many Christians are functional atheists. If you hand them a survey, they’ll check the “Christian” box, but that’s about it. In other words, a lot of people in the Christian community are pretending. Perhaps, this is the result of the left-over cultural norm that being a Christian and going to church is the “good thing” to do. Even today, in more local communities, there is still societal pressure to be a “Good Christian” and go to church. I admire my skeptical friends for their honesty and refusal to “fake it”. I wish more Christians would be honest about their doubts, for I am fully convinced that addressing our doubts head-on will lead to answers, which in turn will lead to a stronger faith.
- Truth. The truth is that which corresponds to reality. For the atheist, the statement “God exists” does not correspond to reality. I admire the atheists commitment to follow the truth wherever it leads. I happen to think that the truth leads us to to the proposition “God does exist,” but nonetheless, I admire anyone who is honestly seeking after the truth. Living in falsehood, or at least in something we know to be false, is no way to live. This goes back to being honest.
- Fairness. While it would be easy to succumb to the temptation of treating Christianity as intellectually void, as some skeptics do, the majority of atheists I have engaged with take the Christian apologist at her word — she believes because of the evidence and reason. There is no reason to assume that someone we disagree with is irrational and only believes what they believe for purely emotional reasons. Some believers have said atheists believe what they do not because of the evidence (or lack of evidence), but because they want to be their own god and live however they’d like. On the flip side, some skeptics have said that Christians only believe what they believe not because of the evidence, but because they have a fear of death and religion helps them cope. Both positions are vacuous. You can’t prove them. They are just easy ways of dismissing your opponent’s position without dealing with any of their reasons or evidence.
In conclusion, I have thoroughly enjoyed my engagement with skeptics and am happy to confirm the five points above. Thank you to all of my skeptical friends, and I look forward to future dialogue.
13 thoughts on ““5 Reasons I Admire Atheists” by a Christian”
I would pretty heavily agree with this list, with number one being incredibly important. I view much of life with that sort of lens. How can we improve if we do not know where to start? Good read.
Excellent and honorable list. It’s a tragedy that so many Christians attack the people of “the other side,” and will not admit their excellent qualities of honesty and pursuit of truth.
I’m personally spoken with atheists and agnostics that have a far more Christian world view than many Christians. I think your points are excellent.
This post has been informative and I absolutely agree with your views. Looking forward to more from you.
Last week at Adult Forum I asked “But what does ‘die to sin’ mean?” The answers I got showed me that my co-religionists had never questioned the phrase and even had some very fuzzy ideas about it. I think you may be right about “faking it.”
Excuse my expression but Hell Yes Lol! I can say this as a Christian and not give a flip flop what others might feel about that!
Thank you for this post and for your statement here:
“If you hand them a survey, they’ll check the “Christian” box, but that’s about it. In other words, a lot of people in the Christian community are pretending.”
Lord have mercy, how true this is!
I know this topic all too well for I was “married” to it. My situation is all kinds of twisted but that’s a story that I’ll share on my own blog.
I totally agree with all 5 of your points. Respecting other people’s beliefs is a must. However, those beliefs should be absent of hate. If that’s the case, then we can be besties!
As an atheist I would add that I have known many Christians who act like Christians. They attempt to live a decent life. The problem as I see it, with Christianity or any religion. Actually any organization. Too often those at the “top” of the pyramid exploit the good intentions of the true believers for their own purposes. This is true not only of Christians, Jews, Muslims, but also atheists as well. Look at how some of the leaders of a certain political party claim to be “Christian” yet pass laws regarding the poor and needy that would cause Jesus to weep. And another political party whose leaders claim “tolerance” yet jump on any bandwagon based on accusations and not facts.
Good post. Keep calm and preach on. Although we won’t share all the same views, I feel like we could at least have a conversation. Many Christians are like you, but some get a bad wrap by codemming all not beleivers straight to hell.
I never have a problem with people believing what they believe provided no one is harmed by their beliefs. But I am sure on one certainty, which was shared in the movie, Rudy: There is a god, and I am not him. If we’re going to wax intellectual, atheism, in my view, can only be for one who has not really considered life, but is reacting to something from his or her own past, emotionally. I have a friend who was very active as a Christian, helping many others. However, at some point, after many physical problems, became an atheist.
But an atheist is a contradiction in terms. You can’t be an atheist. To be an atheist is to affirm there is a god. You think you’re god. Because only a god could know everything to know there is no god.
If I can be so bold as to suggest, that I have also found atheists to be people of ‘Great Faith!’, believing that so many things in this world keep going as they do without a designer behind it all causing these things to function in order as they do!
I was a Christian for 40 years (Preacher’s Kid). While volunteering as a SS teacher, SS Superintendent, worship service song leader and member of a traveling Gospel Trio, I was slapped awake to the reality that bigotry and hate could exist in an Evangelical Pentecostal Christian church, my church. As SS super, two teachers and I reported the physical, mental and sexual abuse of a 3-year-old Native girl to the senior Pastor. My wife had her in her preschool class and she and another teacher observed burns and bruises on her, bandages as well as frequent trips to the restroom. The pastor assured us he would speak to the girl’s white foster mother and resolve the issue. The pastor didn’t contact the appropriate agencies or law enforcement but must have mentioned it to one of the dear saints in the congregation. I began to receive threatening phone calls from congregants threatening me and my children for accusing a wonderful Christian woman of child abuse. Long story-short, we moved out of state for a better job opportunity but returned to spend Christmas with Grandma. Upon our arrival, Grandma informed us that the little Native girl was in the hospital and her foster monster had been arrested for extreme child abuse. The little girl died the next day. This upset me so much that I lost my faith! Faith is the anticipation of an event that most likely will not happen. But I was given the opportunity to discover hope, the anticipation of an event that has happened in the past and most likely will happen again! Along with hope, came altruism, love, ethics, logic and truth! I was also given the gift of discernment: I can recognize nonsense, falsehood, wrong thinking, impossibilities and fiction more readily. The bible is full of all the above, but is still the greatest literary masterpiece of all time. I have enjoyed reading the Bible again as literature, philosophy, wisdom and poetry. I have learned history and historical fiction as well as metaphor, analogy and inspirational psychology. Hebrew Mythology is a fascinating subject; more down-to-Earth than Greek or Egyptian Mythology. I have written a book about my experiences as a PK, “Preachers’ Kids Are Angels And Other Alternative Facts” (Available on Amazon Kindle) and am writing my next book, “Honest to God.” Now I have my own church called, “The Church of Brother Leroy of What’s Happening Now!”
Interesting read… Got me thinking a bit but I agree with your first point regarding how many Christians do not critically think through what they believe in. Particularly, those who grew up in the church and were indoctrinated since birth.
And an important piece that is missing is that perspective matters. No matter which flip side of the coin you believe in (Christian worldview vs Atheistic worldview), the bias in which you draw your conclusions and look for information is innately human. However, that does not mean as Christians, we should not be able to hold an intellectual conversation. Salvation does not come from being intellectual but rather God’s mercy.
For the Triumphal Entry commenter, atheism is not a world view. It’s not that complex.
I also don’t agree with your #5. I do not see belief as rational or based upon reason. I know believers like to say that, but when asked it usually comes down to faith (or comfort or family tradition). For most believers that I know, not believing in a god is a difficult concept to understand. That makes discussion and communication very difficult. I like your reasoning. Well done.