This is me, Eccles

This is me, Eccles
This is me, Eccles

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

How to understand atheists

Broadly speaking, there are three kinds of atheists: trolls, obsessives, and ignorant people. Curiously, most of them use the same catchphrases when debating, so it is not always easy to tell them apart. Having encountered a few of them yesterday, I think I am ready to explain how we more intelligent and well-informed people can help them.

fairy

You believe in sky fairies!

Mentioning "sky fairies" or "invisible friends" is a sure sign of a troll who has made no attempt to understand what it is that Christians believe in. Other good terms of abuse are "men in dresses" (actually, having gatecrashed the Vatican changing-rooms, I can reveal that most priests wear trousers under their vestments) and the old favourite "all made up by bronze-age goatherds", as if it were not possible for philosophers and goatherds to live at the same time. Remember, that Richard Dawkins wrote a thesis on the behaviour of chickens, and may thus be described as a plastic-age chicken-herd. That's him sorted.

snake and mongoose

"You believe in talking snakes."

The "talking snake" refutation of all Christian thinking goes as follows: "Snakes can't talk. Therefore the Bible is fiction. So Jesus never existed. I win."

Either your atheist has read the Bible as far as the Garden of Eden story and then stopped, or else has lifted this argument straight from the works of Richard Dawkins. It doesn't occur to him or her that a God who made Heaven and Earth could easily endow a snake with the power of speech (or perform any other miracle, such as the Virgin Birth). That's what omnipotence is all about, you see. Nor does it occur to him that it is not necessary to believe in the literal truth of the Genesis story to realise that it has a meaning. You know, the Fall of Man, that sort of thing.

Worse than that, your atheist believes that Christians DO NOT KNOW that snakes can't talk. Not being trained scientists (although many are), Christians are not able to understand this simple fact. It must be true that Augustine and Aquinas - of whom your atheist probably hasn't even heard - went through life talking to snakes and wondering why they didn't reply.

Job

"Bad things happen. So God doesn't exist and I hate Him."

This is of course the "Stephen Fry" version of atheism. Stephen Fry is not entirely dim - a 2.1 from Cambridge must be nearly as good as a 2.1 from Oxford - but he does seem to be woefully ignorant. After a lifetime of reading quiz answers off little cards and getting an undeserved reputation for being the biggest genius who ever lived, Fry is apparently unable to deal with any concept that requires more than a little card to explain. Again, he thinks that nobody before him has ever worried about why God permits death and disease, or even about why He permits every single radio and television programme to be infested by a certain charmless bore who thinks bad language is funny.

walrus and carpenter

"You eat shellfish, and so it's perfectly OK for me to have sex with anyone I wish.

Yes, it's another poorly-informed atheist, or maybe just a troll or an obsessive. No, Christians aren't bound by the dietary laws of Leviticus, they've been explicitly superseded by the New Covenant. Yes, murder, adultery, theft, and the like are still considered to be wrong. I don't think I can face explaining this one again: come back when you've read some of the New Testament.

Richard Dawkins and laptop

An atheist (reading Eccles's blog, as it happens).

One final argument goes something like this: "All right, then. The Bible isn't historical, because all the people who contributed to it believed in God. Why don't we have some accounts of Jesus's life, death and resurrection written by eye-witnesses who were atheists? You suppressed those, didn't you?" Somehow, I think it's not really necessary to answer that one.

15 comments:

  1. I would like to add a fourth kind of atheist, not mentioned in your quite reasonable, but yet incomplete list. Brainwashers: the atheist parents who want to force their confused and ill-considered atheism on their children.

    My father - one of the angry young men of the postwar generation and script editor of Z Cars, the Onedin Line, Wings, and East Enders (among others) - insisted that he did not want his children indoctrinated with Christianity in school. Consequently we had to sit in an empty classroom during school assembly, missing out on social contact and then subject to abuse in the playground because we were different to everyone else.

    I became an Anglican Franciscan friar, before converting to the Catholic Church; my sister became an Anglican too; my brother became a Baptist. My father died in misery with cancer, raging against a God who would outlive him to eternity and had persuaded his children that He existed.

    A post entitled "How to understand atheists" is a confusing idea for a rabit.

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    1. Thank you for this most moving comment. I found it very interesting...compelling, even.

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    2. I would really like to hear your story - you know, your "Journey Home"! As you know, keep praying for your father's soul.

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  2. Julie Burchill is quoted as saying that Stephen Fry is "the stupid person's idea of an intellectual".

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  3. I seem to remember subscribing to many of the views outlined by Bruvver, above. When I was in my early teens particularly, it was ever so daring and exciting to use phrases like "sky fairy", particularly in the back row of the RE class. I grew out of it, as adolescents often do; the trouble is, that those who don't, are so noisy about it. The spectacle of a nearly elderly man (Fry) ranting and raving at God as if he (Fry)'s the first one ever to have thought of the problem of pain, is not edifying. God send him more common sense (and a smidin of humility).

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  4. I am glad you posted this. My problem is, with supposedly intelligent people espousing atheism. Scientists presumably have to exhibit some understanding of theories of logic to attain a degree.

    I question the whole concept of intelligence, our education system and the awarding of degrees if scientists like Dawson are pressenting feeble non substantial arguments for atheism. Atheism in intelligent people could probably be some kind of mental disorder.This is a possible and a likely explanation unless they are inauthentic and have another agenda.

    As I understand it atheism is the denial of a superior being or force outside of our universe. Even the brilliant Einstein conceded that there is possibility of God. Stephen Fry is not intelligent. Remembering facts and figures does not determine real intelligence.He is embarrassingly unintelligent as witnessed in that ridiculous interview that is doing the rounds on the net at the moment.

    I have never understand why God is held responsible by atheists for all the woes and diseases of the world.( most of which are man made )And if he is not responsible ,why does he not behave like a benevolent autocrat and then we could live in a disease free ,war free wonderful world. Where does this profile of God come from? A glossy magazine ?

    I can barely comment on these assumptions made by the mindless All the answers are in the NT.We are not nice creatures.Evil lurks amongst us. It does not have little horns and a tail or is a serpent hissing at us from under the kitchen sink. It is far more effective and clever than that and takes many forms,... yes even the form of an obese poof or swivel eyed loon scientist.Thus the reason Jesus sought to show us a better way
    to live and in fact resist and fight impending evil by a brilliant philosophy of resistance contained in the NT.No one has come up with a better way to live .Even if you were not a practising Christian ...surely you would understand that your best bet at survival would be in a place which operated on Christian ethics. That is common sense. Dawkins and Fry should try living in an Islamic country for a while. They never will of course because both would be found strung up by their feet in the town square.
    They know that!

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    1. What on earth does all this mean?

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    2. Try google translator if English is not your native language.

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    3. Google translator is even completely dumbfounded on this lot. Must be off the list.

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  5. Oops... apologies.... I meant Dawkins as in Richard Dawkins not Dawson.

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  6. The paragraph on Fry is incisive (especially about Cambridge degrees).

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  7. A theist is someone who is an expert on the definite article and its plurality - the...the....the...the - theism is one of the most definite studies in contemporary lexicography.

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  8. Had the same kind of father as Rabit. Must have been a lot of it about. But like Rabit I escaped via Anglicanism . Father still doesn't understand the World. Materialism isn't a good god is it? So all arguments fall flat

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  9. This is most DEFINITELY a resource which I will save! Love your humor and knowledge. Keep the good fight brother! <3

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  10. Yep, as a proud member of the mammals, who got to populate the earth because previous species were wiped out by cataclisms, I too strongly criticize God for not using miracles to save those nice T-Rex. We all know for a fact that this is the only life we got, and our suffering won't be compensated somehow later, so we have to suffer because God won't make an exception for our feelings. We also know that there is no possibility for eventual justice, justice must be always enforced, so the only just universe is empty, because differences of positions are already unjust, why particle A is near particle B and not C? Instead this God choose a terrorist attack, the big bang, to kickstart this madness. It needs to stop.
    *promptly disappears in a puff of logic*

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