What follows is an actual conversation I had with an atheist friend. While my friend’s name has been changed and some details have been modified, the conversation presented below faithfully represents the arguments and points of reason that were made during the course of this exchange.
The conversation began with Hal’s typical lambasting of Christians and Christianity but soon became more substantial as it transitioned to a very illustrative contrast between the atheistic view of morality versus that of Christianity.
Hal: “Hey John. I’m glad you could make it because I have something I really want to show you.”
Me: “Cool, Hal. Whatcha got?”
At that, Hal reached into his leather satchel and handed me a rather wrinkled sheet of paper. At the top of the sheet was the title: “Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things!” Below the title was a list of bullet points disparaging atheism:
— Atheism makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
— Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
— Atheists are mentally ill, that’s why they have no faith.
— Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Mao & other terrible mass murder leaders.
— Atheists try to convert people over internet because they feel “safer” behind closet.
— Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don’t believe in God and argue with religious people.
Hal: “I have always wondered why people have a problem with non-believers but now I know the answer. The most interesting point here is that the author or authors say that nobody can really be a non-believer. Why bother fighting a battle that’s already been won? On another note, it’s so gratifying to know there are people who know me better than I know myself. The very idea they can peer into my brain is positively God-like. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many mini-Gods.”
Me: “I hope you’re not implying that this represents mainstream theistic thought. Do you even know who wrote this? It could have been an atheist just trying to make Christians look bad.”
Hal: “No, I don’t John, but there sure are a lot of folks out there who subscribe to parts of this list. Just two weeks ago I was told that I believe in God whether or not I know it! You should realize that every one of you Christians are atheists whether you know it or not. I suspect you are unrepentant atheists when it comes to Thor, Zeus, Jupiter, and a thousand other gods worshiped around the world. Why? Because there is no evidence for them. So I’m just skeptical of one more God than you.”
Me: “Your reasoning is confused here, Hal. The Christian theistic God is not just another god in a collection of pagan deities that extend from the naturalistic properties of the universe. The Christian God created the universe and the properties that in turn have been deified by pagans. God is not derived from the universe but instead the universe derives from Him.”
Hal: “Look, I don’t disbelieve in God, per se, it just depends on how God is defined. If God is everything that exists, count me a believer. If God is love, I’m a believer. If God is an unviable mind who spies on every thought in my head and will condemn me to hell if I have the audacity to question His existence, then I find no evidence to support that. Indeed, if that God were to exist, I certainly wouldn’t be praising Him. In fact, I would call Him a sociopathic voyeur with a narcissistic personality disorder who is in some serious need for intensive therapy in a residential treatment facility. And if God is all powerful and all good, He deserves our condemnation for turning a blind eye to suffering, disease, natural disasters and so on.”
Me: “Wow! Have you been reading Richard Dawkins again? You seem to imply that the presence of evil/suffering negates the possibility of a theistic God of the Bible. You know that argument has been pretty much abandoned by virtually all philosophers, atheistic ones included, right? They have correctly concluded that our comprehension is so limited in time and scope that we can’t argue that some present evil does not bring about a greater good later beyond our current ability to perceive it. And of course as I have told you before, you can’t say something is either good or evil without a transcendent objective standard to judge the events by.”
Hal: “Wait a minute! Some actions or non-actions may be judged wrong whether they bring about a later greater good or not, no? Would you like to argue that torturing random children to death for pleasure is not evil?
To find out how I respond to this challenge, tune in for part 2 of my conversation with an atheist.