Surveys show that atheism and agnosticism are on the rise in the United States. Christianity is ascendant in other parts of the world, particularly Latin America and Africa, but not in Western countries. I don’t know why. But I decided to try to understand better how atheists see the world and view Christianity.
A lot of books have been written lately by atheists–evangelistic atheists, I should say, intent on converting people away from whatever religion they belong to. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are probably the best-known writers, but comments on Amazon told me that they tend to be obnoxiously condescending and combative.
Instead, I ended up with “Atheist Universe,” by David Mills, and “Letter to a Christian Nation,” by Samuel Harris. Both were excellent books. Yes, they attacked Christianity strongly, but that was the point.
Mills, who at one time was an on-fire evangelistic Christian, devoted a chapter to a lot of different subjects. I appreciated his understanding of how Christians think and what we believe, even if he has rejected all of it personally. The Harris book–a short little thing, more like an extended essay–was like a highly condensed version of “Atheist Universe,” hitting many of the same areas in a compact–and very compelling–manner.
Let me say right now: these books didn’t shake my faith at all. I’ve seen and experienced way too much of God and His Word to doubt him. Those books would be devastatingly effective with someone who was questioning his faith, but not with me.
Both spent a lot of time disputing Creationism and Intelligent Design. Many of their arguments made great sense to me. But I’m a total non-scientist, and we’re talking about very complicated issues which require a depth of knowledge which I fully lack. Creationists and ID folks could rebut Mills and Harris, I’m sure. I can’t, and don’t intend to immerse myself in these subjects to get up to speed.
However, I admit that Mills and Harris raised serious questions in various areas beyond science–questions which I cannot answer. They pointed out things in Scripture (usually fairly) that are inconsistencies or dilemmas we Christians, perhaps lamely, prefer to ignore. I realized how commonly we fling around pat answers. And pat answers don’t fly with people like Mills and Harris, nor with other skeptics or with people honestly searching out Christianity.
I’m not afraid of truth. By pointing out things in Scripture which appeared to be inconsistencies in my beliefs, they pointed out real truths about Scripture. It’s there, written right in God’s Word, and inspired by God Himself. No sense denying it, unless I want to take Thomas Jefferson’s approach and scissor out parts I don’t like. Mills and (to a lesser extent) Harris revealed to me new mysteries about God, things that require answers. I find that invigorating, rather than faith-quenching.
While I don’t have the answers, I, Steve Dennie, know that answers exist. Because I know God, and don’t doubt him. THAT kind of answer would drive Mills and Harris nuts. But sometimes, pat answers are valid. Especially if that’s all we’ve got for the moment, and maybe until we enter eternity.
I emerged from those books appreciating their intellectual honesty and why they have rejected Christianity. And I realize there are new mysteries surrounding God, the universe, and the Bible that I need to probe.
I also, now, realize the threat these compelling atheist writers pose to the souls of men. They are a potent weapon in Satan’s arsenal.