Let me begin by restating something I mentioned in the overview to this article. Many of my great friends are Atheists. Through their passion and energy to continue to defend their position, I am challenged to grow further in my knowledge and understanding of my own faith. So, thank you.
This is not an article to try to convince any Atheist that their position is wrong, but rather to point out one thing that I have never understood about Atheists. Perhaps, I will learn something through the comments that may follow this writing.
Most Christians continue their study of spiritual issues, theology, or Christian growth because they believe in a God greater than themselves whom they will one day stand before to give an account of their lives. Despite the wretchedness of the account, those who have put their faith in Christ will not be punished for their sin, as the atonement was made long ago with the death of Jesus on the cross. In short, there is an ultimate purpose behind the intellectual quest of Christians.
It is interesting to me, however, that many Christians do not study their faith as nearly as much as Atheists. Let me present the idea in the form of a question. If an Atheist has reached their conclusion on the existence of God (that conclusion being that God doesn’t exist), then to what benefit is it to continue reading about, writing about, or even discussing the topic? What is gained by the Atheist who continues to read books by those who agree with the assumption that there is no God? If there is no God, then that settles it and hearing another person’s argument against God’s existence seems to beat a dead horse.
It would be similar to this scenario.
I do not believe that the Loch Ness Monster exists in a lake in Scotland. I have watched a few shows about it, but have never seen the creature, nor have I seen enough clear evidence through historical writings, or personal experiences that would indicate that the monster exists. I do believe, however, that George Washington exists. I have never seen him, but through historical accounts, I believe that there is enough evidence to suggest that he once existed and that most of what is said of him and his work is true.
I have a very mild interest in reading about George Washington, because I believe he has played an integral part of our development as a nation and that our society can learn from his decisions, actions, and words as many of them have relevance to our predicaments today. However, I don’t go to the library once a month to read books about him just because I want to further be convinced of his existence. In the same sense, I definitely don’t read books about the Loch Ness monster, because I have made my decision on that topic until stronger evidence says otherwise. If anything, I would choose to read a book by someone who does believe, so that I might see that evidence and be able to evaluate it myself.
And this is the Atheist dilemma. If something does not exist, why are Atheists so interested in continuing to prove it wrong?
Answer 1: Perhaps the Atheist simply enjoys the fact that someone is in agreement with them. This is common in politics. The Conservatives watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and others and nod their heads at every word with very little thought of their own. Liberals are the same. When Michael Moore presents a new documentary, he makes money because the majority of his viewers are those that agree with him. Conservatives, in large part, don’t go to films by Moore, because they do not want to support his agenda.
Answer 2: The Atheist may realize the importance of the topic and be slightly concerned with the consequence in the event that they are wrong. Therefor, they continue reading to make them feel better about their position in the argument. Still, they seldom really feel settled about the idea, and therefor, they continue reading in the event that they may stumble upon the next great argument that tries to take down Christianity.
Answer 1 certainly applies to Christians as well, however, there is a meaningful and eternal growth potential that comes from reading spiritually challenging books. It deepens the Christians faith, which is necessary in their spiritual journey. The atheist does not have such a journey and has no need to deepen a faith in something that doesn’t exist.
Answer 2 can also apply to Christians. Christians definitely experience times of doubt, be it through the charges of their Atheists friends, or simply due to challenging life circumstances. In those times, Christians further their study so they can be comforted through the promises of God, and to arm themselves to defend their faith — a faith that matters to them. The Atheist faith doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t exist – an atheist who never reads tries to deepen their intellectual knowledge will be the same as one that has no interest in doing so. There is nothing to hold the Atheist accountable and nothing for the Atheist to grow towards.
Maybe there is a third answer. One that suggests that “book-studying” Atheists are a part of God’s plan and help provide another reason for the Christian to know how to defend their faith. Better yet, perhaps God will eventually reveal Himself to the Atheist.
Hard-core Atheists would make great Christians.