I was so intrigued by Lee Strobel’s approach to talking to atheists at the Friendly Atheist, and so annoyed by a Facebook friend’s recent somewhat ill thought out Answers in Genesis inspired attack on the morality of atheists, that I decided to ask my atheist friends for advice on how they’d like to be talked to.
Christians, by nature of their belief in God, have an imperative to share the gospel with their atheist friends, and in fact any non-Christian friends. It would be unloving not to. Atheists have a low tolerance for evangelism – but they do tolerate it when they understand the motivation. Or so I have found, and generalised. The problem for atheists is that once you reject the notion of God any further assumptions about how God might or might act move further and further away from that point of distinction. For the Christian it is perfectly rational, because we believe in God, to then believe that he would intervene in things, provide the mechanism for a relationship and raise the dead. We work deductively from that point. The atheist would prefer to work inductively (it seems) from the point of something miraculous (other than our miraculously balanced continued existence) like a visible miracle or visible, physical, answered prayer.
That’s a rather long preamble. I asked my friends, who I will identify by their online nom de plumes (except for Benny) some questions. While there are some obvious problems with some of their answers from a Christian perspective, they answered honestly and gave a pretty good representation of a cross section of atheist thoughts on the matter.
What should the church do better, in your opinions, if it wants to grow?
Push its community spirit more. I think people today would appreciate being part of a social group as much as learning their chosen religion. I think the non-church opinion of churches is that they are becoming less of benefit to the community and more benefit to members and the religion. ie, there is a divide opening.
That’s an odd question for an atheist/agnostic to answer as they wouldn’t want the church to grow. I think Ben covered this though. The good churches do is with community building and support systems. I think it is important however to keep the religious aspect separate from support groups/charity they provide and instead let people naturally discover those aspects if they wish. The Salvation Army does this extremely well.
What arguments from Christians do you have the most problems addressing?
I don’t really find any subject difficult to address. I suppose when the Christian uses "read the bible" as some kind of proof then you fall into an argument about the legitimacy of the bible and considering all the different theories on it’s authorship, differences in translation, included and omitted texts most of which can not be historically proven from either side and likely never will be (with exception to translation issue, the original text isn’t an issue for debate as far as I’ve ever seen just the different translations can be confounding)
Problem is I don’t find any of it convincing, and when you start getting into prayer/resurrection it all just sounds ridiculous. If you want to understand the way I think about what you say, simply replace the words "Christian God" with "Santa", and then ask yourself which part of the argument you find the most compelling.
I think the meat of the argument you make is the argument for a god, any god. Or the likelihood of God as a starting point.
Assuming for a moment that Christianity is true, how should Christians do better at not annoying non-believers and people from other religions?
Who knows. Toning down the righteousness would be a good start. I think non-Christians are sick of having their views thwarted/not taken seriously because apparently they are morally and ideologically inferior.
Well your first point is something that I think encapsulates what I was going to say. Christianity is true… for you. What Christians need to recognise is that their religion is a personal truth and all other religions are as personally true for other people. Obviously for themselves Christianity it "True" but they need to recognise that they do not lay claim to any more evidence of truth than any other religion. You have faith that your religion is true but so does everyone else. The difference is with the Atheist who sees equality amongst all religions but has no faith in the evidence presented by any.
Christians (as with any other religion) can not expect their personal truth to be impactful to anyone not adhering to their dogma.