Recently, I listed 5 Mistakes that Christians make when conversing with Atheists. My goal was to persuade the Christian to rethink the way he or she conducts their dialogues. Now, I want to challenge my atheist friends to rethink the way they converse with Christians. I mean these in the most Charitable way possible.
1. Straw-man argumentation – Often Atheists will refer to God as the belief in the “Magical Man in the Sky.” This is not what Christians believe. Christians believe that God is a “Spirit” as taught in the Bible and became a man at the incarnation. These are theological issues that are worth discussing. I think it is better for the Atheist to draw out (by asking thought-provoking questions) from the Christian what it means to believe in God etc, If the goal of the atheist is understanding. Correctly representing the other person’s view (whether you agree with it or not) is just polite.
2. Stacking the deck in favor of the atheist – What I mean by this is asking the Christian to prove the existence of God only within the boundaries of Science. The atheist knows that this is an unreasonable request because God cannot be put inside a test tube. Here is an alternative: Ask the theist to lay out the reason(s) / evidence(s) that they have for the existence of God (no matter what it is) and then weigh it, refute it, point out flaws in it, ponder it etc. to keep the conversation going.
3. Judging Christianity by its abuse – I am REPULSED by the people of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. What they have said, written, yelled, screamed about the homosexual community is unacceptable. I condemn all of their tactics. Remember this: Not everyone who calls themselves Christians actually are. Jesus gave commands to his followers to do 2 things: (1)Love God and (2) Love others. The people of WBC do NOT love others. Please do not paint all Christians with the WBC paint brush. I genuinely try to be cordial to all especially those who disagree with me and it angers me to see what people say and do in the name of Christianity. So, Atheists, please give us the benefit of the doubt where possible.
4. Mockery and Insults – I have a good sense of humor. I try not to take myself too seriously, and am not easily offended. I agree that there are instances where Christians just open themselves up for mockery. The late night comedians make a killing off of mocking religion, I get it. However, when conversing 1-on-1, remember that mockery and insults are not arguments. They are barriers in the way of mutual respect and understanding. It is better (for both sides) to take the high road. Stick to the arguments! If it is truth and understanding that you are after, logic, reason and argument are the paths to follow.
5. “If God exists, then he would strike me down right now!” – Fortunately, thoughtful and well-versed atheists do not use this argument. This argument rests in the arsenal of the untrained atheist. I want to point out that what the atheist is saying is, “If you don’t do exactly what I tell you to do God, then I will not believe in you.” We witness this type of behavior in the grocery store when a mom will not buy the toy for the toddler, so they throw a tantrum in the aisle. God’s existence is not dependent on him answering our frivolous demands. There are much better counter-arguments to theism. Learn those and then challenge your theist friends.
This list is not exhaustive and some could apply to the theistic side, too. I want every encounter that I have to lead to a deeper understanding of the other person’s view. I want them to “want” the conversation to continue, don’t you? So, atheists, continue to challenge us, but do it in away that causes us to think about our view. I seek truth wherever that may lead.