So, although I’m (possibly temporarily) retired from arguing with atheists, I’ve been nominated to present a little seminar at college on things not to say to atheists.
I reckon I’m pretty good at saying things they don’t like – some right, some wrong…
Here are some things I think you shouldn’t say:
- Don’t say anything about how Hitler was both an atheist and evil – as though atheism necessitates evil. I’ve broken Godwin’s law plenty of times – but mainly to suggest that atheists arguing from Christian extremities is about as consistent as Christians arguing using Hitler. This context is often lost. Hitler is like a red rag to a bull in these discussions.
- Don’t say anything about how atheists can’t possibly be moral or good as a result of rejecting God. This is silly, it’s not even Biblical. If we’re right and God exists, and he’s the God of the Bible, then atheists are capable of “moral” actions even if they reject him. They don’t put off imago dei just because they don’t believe in the second part of the Latin equation.
- Pretty much don’t say anything negative about science. Science is a good thing. Acknowledge that. Move on. Stick to the philosophical and reject “naturalism” that’s much sager ground because there’s no proof that it actually is how things work, just that it’s an observably feasible method of understanding things.
- Don’t suggest that atheists should be governed by laws set by Christians just because they’re in the minority. This again is pretty dumb. It’s like we expect people to live like they have the Holy Spirit when they don’t. This is mostly relevant when talking about politics, but also has some bearing on talking about personal choices. It’s fine to say that something is wrong if you’re a Christian, and fine to say that someone is doing the wrong thing according to God, but unless there’s a third party innocent victim to protect (like there is in abortion) I’d be keeping that powder dry.
- Don’t quote Psalm 14:1 out of context (“the fool says in their heart there’s no God”) unless you want to be lumped in with every other proof texting Bible bashing redneck who wants to beat up homosexuals while eating lobster. We need to make sure that we use the Bible well. In fact, don’t quote the Bible out of context at all. Ever.
But I’d love to hear from you, dear readers (especially any atheists hanging around) about what us Christians shouldn’t say to atheists (within reason – we’re allowed to say “you’re wrong, and it’s not very nice to call our beliefs a crazy delusion”).
Any pointers from your experience – otherwise I’m just going to be rehashing things from this post and this one (and the comments therein) – and possibly these ones from Pharyngula and the Friendly Atheist.