I’ve mentioned before how I shared an article from The Poached Egg (one of my top recommended resources) on my Facebook and Twitter accounts entitled 5 Uncomfortable Facts Atheists Need To Hear by Barak Lurie, a former atheist. I had actually shared this article several times before. And the reason I’ve shared it several times is that I think that it’s pretty spot on. Only this time, the village internet atheists on Twitter got a hold of it and responded like wildfire. In 2 days time, I had 163 responses, which is pretty crazy for a small fry apologist like me. (Typically I have 0 to 1 response on Twitter.) I also explained my personal rules for Twitter and Facebook debates, and why I’m choosing to respond on my blog instead.

The 5 points are:

1. Atheism is responsible for more deaths than Judaism or Christianity
2. Hitler was not a Christian
3. Atheism is an ideology – whether you realise it or not
4. People of faith are responsible for a huge amount of good in our society
5. Judaism and Christianity created civilisation

I’ve already addressed point #1: Atheism is responsible for more deaths than Judaism or Christianity and point #2: Hitler was not a Christian. These 2 points got most of the responses, but also had most of the data to back them up. The other 3 points are much simpler.

Let’s continue, shall we?

3. Atheism is an ideology – whether you realise it or not

Expanding on something referred to in point #1, Barak says:

The most common argument is that atheism is not an ideology; it merely reflects the absence of faith in religion. They just don’t believe in God. Why can’t we please leave them alone?

But it turns out they don’t want to leave you alone. On social media most atheists are bizarrely vocal about their contempt for Christianity and, to a lesser extent, Judaism, for their beliefs. They believe these religions frustrate progress. They argue with great passion that we’d be better off if we just eradicated God once and for all. Godless regimes have always sought the eradication of God with passionate zeal, deadly efficiency on a mass scale, and unspeakable cruelty.

Such thinking is an ideology. Such “non-belief” has devastating consequences. Not believing in God is like not believing in seat belts. Or better yet: it’s like not believing in the police, the judiciary, medicine or fire stations. You don’t have to believe in them, but living in a world without them has consequences.

Whether they realize it or not, the responses that I got to sharing this article followed the playbook that Barak laid out. They claimed that atheism was not an ideology. They claimed that atheism was an absence of belief in God. And then they proceeded to give me more replies than I have ever gotten before.

The Google definition of ideology is as follows:

a system of ideas and ideals, especially one which forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.

Their lack of belief in God (or belief that God does not exist, or absence of belief in God) forms the basis of their economic and political theories and policies, as well as the basis of their responses. That is an ideology.

Or just re-read Barak’s definition of ideology above.

Atheism is the basis of several philosophies such as Marx’s Communism and Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, among others. As Marc Lambert says:

While its true that people who hold “atheism” can then have a widely diverse beliefs on other issues…the largest most vocal block of atheists do represent a worldview that looks very much like a religion.

Which goes back to Barak’s definition above.

4. People of faith are responsible for a huge amount of good in our society

Atheists don’t give credit for what the Church and Judaism have done for civilisation: the creation of our notions of justice, the hospital system, the university, public schools, charity, progress, truth and freedom itself.

Who fought against and ultimately destroyed the evils of slavery? The Christians and Jews. Who were the only ones who fought against the horrors of eugenics (forced sterilisation of those the state deemed inferior), and China’s horrific “one child” policy? The Christians and Jews.

I’ve written more about this in my article Ways Jesus Changed the World for You! which further elaborates on the topics of art, medicine, research, science, the right to freedom and expression, modern justice, psychology, and the status of women.

This point was mostly uncontested in the replies I received.

The 5th point, Judaism and Christianity created civilization, wasn’t one of the reasons why I liked the article and shared it. Maybe he wasn’t talking about civilization in general but modern civilization. I haven’t done much reading or studying on it, so am not prepared to fully defend it. I even recently finished reading Barak’s book (which I wouldn’t have even thought about reading if not for the responses I got to the article (I read to undersand the article better)), and I’m not sure where he was going with this point.

Filtering through the personal attacks (of which there quite a number) and Twitter filtering out other replies (because of my Twitter settings), some of the responses that I got break down into the following categories:

  • Didn’t address the article at all
  • Claimed that atheism is just a lack of belief in God – which I’ve already responded to here.
  • “forgot to address about the existence of God, any of them” – This wasn’t the point of the article. Still, it’s pretty obvious that this reader has not heard of the many arguments for the existence of God, including the cosmological, fine-tuning, moral, and more. These arguments from science and philosophy are for a monotheist God, which excludes polytheism, thus leaving us with only 3 options: Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. From there, the evidence for the historicity of the resurrection (including non-biblical evidence as well as evidence that only atheist New Testament scholars accept) narrows it down to Christianity itself.
  • “When a hit-piece against principled atheism starts with some version of “Atheism kills…”, the reader can immediately surmise that the piece’s author is not a serious thinker, wishing to elevate the debate by providing thoughtful arguments in favor of her position.” – So when a hit-piece (or even a Twitter response) starts with some version of “Christianity kills…”, “the reader can immediately surmise that the piece’s author is not a serious thinker, wishing to elevate the debate by providing thoughtful arguments in favor of her position.” The only difference is that for Christianity, there is actually a standard to appeal to, to show when someone says that they are a Christian but kills, then they are actually acting against the standards of Christianity. With atheism, there is no moral standard, it is just personal prefernce. But in reality, a response like that refuses to address the claim and is a cop-out.
  • “‘Barak Lurie is a former atheist’ Yeah, him and everyone else. We were all born atheists. We had to be indoctrinated into religion.” – This is a common atheist battle cry. Glenn Peoples has a great response to this on Christian Apologetics Alliance, where he says:

Now, there’s at least some truth here. Newborns don’t have a lot by way of beliefs. They’re an ignorant sort, you could say, so the fact that they don’t overtly believe in God, or stars, or carrots, or causation, or planets etc, really isn’t very interesting. However, when people call themselves atheists, they don’t usually mean to convey their ignorance. It’s hardly fair game to point out what babies don’t know as grounds for any claims about what’s natural for intellectually developed adults to believe. To simply talk about what babies actually know is one thing – and something pretty uninteresting at that. What is more interesting is to talk about the kind of beliefs that babies – unaided by religious education – naturally form as their minds develop. It is here that comments like those above are quickly culled from the pool of those that can now make it to the level of scientific respectability. They are wrong – children are not natural atheists after all.

This was driven home for me again when I picked up a recent issue of New Scientist (March 17-23 2012), titled “The God Issue: The Surprising New Science of Religion” (surprising for who, I wonder). It was intriguing to see the editorial called “Know your Enemy” (whose enemy?), which read along the lines of “we need a new battle plan!” It nonetheless quite candidly accepted that “Children are born primed to see god at work all around them and don’t need to be indoctrinated to believe in him.” It concludes:

Religious claims still wither under rational scrutiny and deserve no special place in public life. But it is a call for those who aspire to a secular society to approach it rationally – which means making more effort to understand what they are dealing with. Religion is deeply etched in human nature and cannot be dismissed as a product of ignorance, indoctrination or stupidity. Until secularists recognise that. They are fighting a losing battle.

Just which claims and what scrutiny the writer has in mind is never really disclosed, but once we read further through this issue it becomes clear why this “call” is one that can’t be ignored.

Drawing on the findings of developmental psychology, cognitive anthropology and the cognitive science of religion, Justin Barrett writes in this issue about the way that children naturally come to believe in teleology and agency in the universe. On the whole, the evidence shows that

The vast majority of humans are “born believers”, naturally inclined to find religious claims and explanations attractive and easily acquired, and to attain fluency in using them. This attraction to religion is an evolutionary by-product of our ordinary cognitive equipment, and while it tells us nothing about the truth or otherwise of religious claims it does help us see religion in an interesting new light.

Justin L. Barrett, “Born Believers,” New Scientist March 17-23 2012, 39.

Now what, if anything, does all of this show? That theism is true? No. If nothing else, it simply falsifies the rhetoric that people are naturally atheists by default until they get indoctrination by religion. We can now close the door on that claim and relegate it to the long list of claims that have been shown to be untrue. That’s something at least.

  • Finally, after posting the 2nd post of this series, Was Hitler a Christian?, I received a response where it appeared that the responder was only responding to the 5 points without actually reading either the original article or either of my blogs on points 1 and 2. I was tempted to reply with, “Do you even read, bro?” but then thought, why bother if they weren’t going to read what was originally written.

All in all, it was definitely an interesting experience, reading through the responses. I do occasionally get responses to things I share, but it was the flury of responses that prompted this 3 part blog series.

There are 2 other replies that I got that were each links to an article, which I will respond to in a separate future posts.