Let’s Talk About the Scary Atheists


(Some) American Christians are well know for their fear of various boogeymen. Muslims, feminists, the anti-Christ, abortion rights supporters, black thugs, homosexuals, evolutionists, liberals, atheists, President Obama. (Some) American Christians have been faithfully loud and predictable in their incessant warnings, condemnations and obsessive fear of all these terrible, frightful boogeymen.

It is rather odd, given that Jesus said his followers would be known by their good deeds and Paul said that perfect love casts out fear. But we’re a work in progress. And apparently you can make a lot of money and gain a lot of followers by fighting boogeymen. So it goes on.

At any rate, today I’d like to put in a good word for atheist boogeymen. Yes, yes, I know; a fool says in his heart there is no God. Dawkins and other “new-atheist” types are obnoxious tools. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get it.

But here’s the thing; I have been engaging in discussions regarding religion on the internet for over 15 years now. And although they are still relatively rare (2-7% of Americans), atheists have played a disproportionate role in growing my faith through those conversations.

I have always worked from the assumption that if my faith is true, then it holds the answers to even the most difficult challenges. So when I have encountered atheists asking honest questions and pointing to real challenges, rather than vilifying them for not believing in God, I would dig in to figure out what my faith had to answer in response.

We Christians argue with each other over all sorts of things, but atheists, because they have no loyalty to the “cause” see and point out the sorts of contradictions, fallacies and illogical conclusions that we Christians generally avoid. And, as is so often the case, those difficult questions which we’d rather gloss over or ignore are exactly where some of the best gems are found.

Of course, the answers I have found to the questions and challenges posed by atheists have not often satisfied the atheists. Although my willingness to take my faith seriously enough to allow it to be challenged has frequently impressed the atheists I have dealt with enough that it changed their understanding of what being religious means. So that’s not nothing. But the answers I have found while in discussion with certain atheists have made my faith deeper, more solid and more real than it otherwise would be.

It is for this reason that I have long viewed atheists as God’s quality control department. Without them, it would be all too easy for us to stick to shallow, unsatisfying answers and remain spiritually immature. I am grateful for my faith and would that all people would know God in a way that is life-giving and healing. But seeing as we’re a work in progress, I am quite grateful to those who have forgone the benefits of a living faith in order to serve in quality control positions. 😉

9 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About the Scary Atheists

  1. As usual, my friend, right on point. you know that I am not particularly “faithful” in fact, somebody recently described me as a “hopeful agnostic” (which I loved by the way!). I can’t stand angry atheists. That being said though, one of my very best “blogosphere friends” is a “card-carrying” atheist and we have always been able to conduct great conversations, some even that are challenging to me at times, so yes. You are absolutely right!

  2. There is this one particular verse that came to my mind as read this post. “…..but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect….”

    The emphasis is that, we should always be ready to make defend of our faith with all gentleness and respect.

    Thanks for sharing this..

  3. There are definitely lots of Christians who are frightened of atheists because these Christians simply cannot articulate why they believe. 🙁
    On the other hand, I’ve had many encounters with atheists who are so militant they will twist themselves into pretzels to maintain the tenets of their faith.

    1. Frank, I have heard tell of these people, but I’m a total snob about who I will deal with. I won’t bother with militant atheists any more than I’ll bother with someone who tries to tell me that the KJV is the only acceptable bible. I just tune them out. It makes my life much more pleasant. I figure it’s just me being obedient to Phillipians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” 😉

  4. Hi Rebecca,
    Just wanted to thank you for this and all of your posts. You may not realize it but you have had such a profound effect on myself and my family.

    For example, my oldest son, who is particularly well-read and would characterize himself as an intellectual, is often dissatisfied with the discussion he has with his Christian friends and also with the Church”s stance on certain issues. As an adult I understand that we are all in different places in our walk with God and that the church is made up of fallible human beings and like you i have had a few spiritual encounters that have strengthened my faith but for a teenager who is grappling and questioning it is extremely challenging to figure out who holds the truth ( is it the catholics …the Baptists…I know it’s the Presbyterians…! 🙂 or hold on maybe it’s the Buddhists or sigh maybe its been the atheists all along…

    After we read your blog your words resonate so much and for my son,who like you, is intelligent you have provided a life -line between him and his faith. At times he has hit somepretty low terrain and he’s convinced there is no God he has literally read your posts and been brought back from despair to hope. As his mother I can’t thank you enough. Keep up the excellent work you’re doing and please know that you are in our prayers

    With love from a fellow traveller.

  5. Reblogged this on Flee from Christian Fundamentalism and commented:
    We are followers of Jesus Christ here at the Flee from Christian Fundamentalism blog. Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals claim that they hate no one—not even the LGBTQ people they have a seething hatred for right now. What else but hatred could you call it: “Yes, I know you are gay, but I love you. That is why I am firing you here at work today?” That’s love?

    Another category of people Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals claim to love—but really hate—is the atheist. They feign loving them when they are trying to witness to them on behalf of Jesus, but after experiencing a few rounds of rejection from a committed atheist—the fundies usually let go on the person with a firestorm of openly expressed hatred the likes of which only Satan himself might rival.

    My Christian sister on the worldwide web, Ms. Rebecca Trotter, at The Upside Down World blog has a very different and very useful Christian perspective on the actual value of the atheist to the Christian faith. I would kindly ask you to read about it by going to Rebecca’s blog. This reading is a preparation for my next post on this blog, so study up!!!

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