I would propose based off my faith crisis and some of the material I have read that there are 3 differing kinds of atheists at least. I explain all three in my post today. If you are an atheist where are you? Or is there another category that I have missed? Hoping this will lead to a discussion.
“I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours“
“Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man — living in the sky — who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do.. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time! ..But He loves you.”
“He that will not reason is a bigot; he that cannot reason is a fool; he that dares not reason is a slave.”
“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
Colossians 2:8 ESV
I would like to explore and write a lot about atheism and doubt in this blog. This may be uncomfortable for some people I hope you will come along for the ride. Today’s post is based off of what I have read online and what I have come across when I pushed back from Christianity for years. I decided to throw up a video of Seth Andrews on Disbelief Discourse with atheists in Oklahoma. Seth Andrews who has a Youtube channel is known as The Thinking Atheist. In the course of time this Christian plans on throwing up a lot of atheist videos, and articles for discussion. I honestly hope we can have discussions. For this post Seth Andrews I would classify as an evangelical atheist. So with that said let me get into this post today.
Based off my journey in interacting, reading, and just in reflecting upon atheism I would like to propose that there are at least 3 different kinds of atheists. People are atheists for different reasons. Some because of bad church experiences, others because of intellectual reasons and just how they think. Others are just born and living outside the church and just living their life. I wish many evangelicals would show much more love, grace, and mercy to atheists than they do. While many evangelical Christians can act with arrogance, pride and become condescending to those on the outside, many evangelicals are less than kind to atheists. That said here are what I would propose as three different kind of atheists.
1. The atheist who wants to keep to himself and live his life. He is not an evangelical atheist, he knows why he doesn’t believe in God – but he keeps it to himself. He’s focused on his life, career, family, etc… He doesn’t go out of his way to have faith discussions, but he really keeps to himself and doesn’t care about faith. I would propose this is the majority of the atheists who exist. I also propose that these kind of individuals both came from the church who moved on from their faith in walking away. Some people are in this position by choice, others went through a horrific faith crisis and lost their faith. And I would also propose that others have lived outside the church for the existence of their life and are content where they are. Do you need God to be happy? At the risk of stirring the pot….in my faith crisis I learned that you do not need God to be happy.
2. The evangelical atheist who used to be in faith and instead becomes an evangelist for unbelief. I think this would describe someone like Bart Ehman, Seth Andrews or many atheists who blog who had a past in Christianity or another religion in some manner, shape or form. There are multiple reasons why this kind of atheist holds to their beliefs. They could have been hurt by the church or created by having some issue like literal creationism rammed down their throat and in the process realized they were intentionally mislead. This leads some to walk away from everything. Others could have dealt with serious spiritual abuse or manipulation. These kinds of people could have been shunned by a church, or had a person in ministry sexually abuse them, or maybe they reported it and the church went after them. It may not be the person involved but a relative of a family member who watched this play out in horror. Others had good questions and through their intellectual thought process could not find an answer in the channels which they operated. Others have questions and many people have misunderstand them. I would propose that many of these kind of individuals came from within the church.
3. The third type of atheist is the person who would like to believe in Christianity but for some shape, manner or form cannot. These kinds of people are serious in trying to get questions answered. They see folks like Lee Strobbel promoting “pop” apologetics with an agenda. These individuals are suspicious of such people and/or simple and easy answers that grew out of black and white thinking. Many of these people are highly intelligent and have advanced education which affects their thinking. They are intellectual in nature and are truly stumped by issues such as the roblem of evil, legitimacy of the Bible, and wondering if they can have a faith while pursuing a career in science. I think this would describe a lot of people in medicine, academia, engineering, etc…
Each atheist and agnostic is different. And while I am discussing it I think the terms atheist and agnostic are used interchangeably. Each person is going to be different and each person is going to have their issue that makes them tick. For example for me, and I don’t know why, but for me the entire issue of evolution and creationism never bothered me. I don’t know why and have spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on it. Now if someone told me that I had to believe in a literal 7 day creation to be a Christian than yes I would have a major problem on my hands. But what drove me the most in my faith crisis was the Problem of Evil. That one issue alone so overwhelmed, broke, and crushed me – that it became my own personal tipping point. Given my evangelical past and knowledge of both the Bible and evangelicalism based off what I wrote above I would say that I personally fell between the Evangelical atheist and the atheist who wanted to be a Christian but just couldn’t believe. Since I was full of rage and anger which was fueled by past evangelical and church experiences I guess in many ways I became kind of a mini Bart Ehman or Christopher Hitchens so to say. And during this stage I was eager and willing to burn bridges, embarrass or question others. I also remembered how I pushed back from Mormonism and did the same thing from Christianity. And like Bart Ehrman I often used the knowledge I had to become an evangelist for unbelief. Likewise as time went on my thoughts shifted and I also wanted to believe in God but there were serious obstacles that prevented me from believing. And that made me both angry, jealous, etc… I hope this offers more insight into my thinking at the time.
If you are atheist do you agree with what I have said? Am I off base? If you are an atheist would you like to explain where you fall? I want to go on record as stating that if you believe me to be wrong, I am open to correction. Honestly if I am wrong I would like to know that. In closing this post I want to close with a video from the Center for Inquiry that was part of a marketing campaign on why you do not need religion. If you want to watch both videos and leave your comments you are. I watched a good portion of Seth Andrews. Its funny but if you don’t have thick skin and are sensitive to language you are going to have issues. In my life I actually I have listened to Seth Andrews on my way to church. (That’s probably a first in evangelical Christianity!) Have a good day guys!