Re: [asa] Responding to Atheists, Agnostics & Apatheists

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Wed Oct 29 2008 - 18:21:37 EDT

Greetings all, and thanks for the responses!

For myself, my main concern is less one on one correspondence (important as
that is) and more an issue of broader evangelism. Websites, mailing lists,
books, and such - I really consider those to be invaluable, particularly
nowadays. Part of this is just due to my personality - I'm very much a
computer-creature, so while I think about the importance of these things in
day to day life or in my neighborhood, the internet is something I'm
particularly concerned with. Especially in a day where, frankly, many people
are online more than they're involved with their communities besides.

Towards that end, I'll throw out some things I'd like to see more - maybe
others will chime in on this as well.

* I would love to see a more generally aggressive, rather than merely
defensive, attitude coming from specifically TEs when it comes to questions
of science. Let me be clear on something: I'm pretty much what you could
call a TE. I accept common descent and evolution. While I think evidence
points at something singular and special happening with human development, I
don't expect science to entertain thoughts of miracles in history (though I
believe not only in the resurrection, but that believing in the resurrection
is itself largely a reasonable position to hold.) I'm very skeptical of
'scientific' ways of determining or ruling out design in nature (though I
think natural theology/philosophy has power behind it.) But the fact is,
whenever I read about someone talking about how nature is a brilliant
design, or see the fact that engineers take so many cues from nature, or
attacks on atheistic overreaches with regards to scientific questions
(neurology and the soul, etc), I can almost guarantee that I'm on an ID
site. Just now I finished reading an article by Michael Egnor hitting PZ
Myers hard on the subject of neurology as it relates to mind, self, and
soul. The ID sites in general routinely approach science in a thoughtful,
provocative way that points out the validity of seeing (whether scientific
or not, mind you) design in nature, whether on Mike Gene's cautious
inferment side of the spectrum, or Dembski's bold (and to me, overreaching)
declarations of obvious design. I tried finding TE equivalents online or in
book form - and I turn up next to nothing. The closest non-ID alternative
I've found is Reasons To Believe. This, I think, should be seen as a

* I would also love to see a more aggressive attitude towards atheism
(particularly the scientism-prone New Atheism) itself, as well as the
conclusions one is forced to confront in a worldview where atheism is not
merely a possibility, but a certainty. John Lennox, William Lane Craig, and
others do this to great effect - but frankly, I think it needs to be done
more. Let me qualify that when I say 'aggressive', I don't mean insulting or
dismissive. I mean assertive - a willingness to point out contradictions,
points of ignorance, and otherwise that are, frankly, many times glossed
over. Lennox and Craig, for example, are more than willing to cede that AAAs
are capable of leading moral lives - but they also stress that what
constitutes a 'moral life' only makes sense within an ultimately
theistic/teleological framework, and that sacrificing the objective
morality, measures, and standards that consistent atheism cannot accomodate
has wide-reaching implications that are so often ignored.

* I'd love to see AAAs targetted in particular, rather than written off as
lost causes or worse. While it would be a new area to explore, I think a
balance between taking skeptical questions seriously, addressing concerns
about the compatibility between Christianity and science, stressing the
value of Christianity's truth and hope, and more. In fact, there's a
category I would hope people give some thought to - that of the agnostic
theist. I think for a decent number of AAAs, their position is taken in part
because they see Christianity as a faith you're either direly certain of, or
you simply are not a Christian. They see no room for entertaining doubt,
therefore no room for overcoming doubt - and ultimately, no room for hope.
So towards the AAAs, I would see two points of importance - stressing that
the Christian message is one worthy of hope, and at the same time that there
is a strong foundation upon which to ground that hope.

On Wed, Oct 29, 2008 at 12:26 PM, John Burgeson (ASA member) <> wrote:

> On 10/28/08, Schwarzwald <> wrote:
> "* How would you approach an atheist, agnostic, or apatheist about
> christianity? Would the approach differ from how you would approach
> someone of another faith, or a lapsed member of your own faith?"
> This is always a good question. My own approach is to listen a lot to
> what the other person has to say, and respond about Xtianity ONLY when
> the opportunity appears. I have one person in mind right now -- a
> professed atheist, although she probably has never thought things
> through very much. She is the owner/editor of a publication I write
> for -- always open to my writing on Xtian issues as they pertain to
> the subject -- and was quick to offer my wife, pastor of the local
> church, a half page to write whatever she wanted to. I keep tossing
> this good lady "teasers," so far (3 + years) she has not (yet) pursued
> any of them. Maybe she never will (with me). But I try to "plant
> seeds."
> I have another person in mind -- a long time (60+ years) friend, who
> WAS a frervent Xtian when I was not anything, witnessed to us while we
> were in high school, etc. At college he totally lost his faith and
> embraced atheism. To this day he simply avoids the subject. With him,
> I try to be a little more forceful, but so far no success at all. He
> has decided that Xtianity is simply not credible, and that's that.
> I have a few others -- each one, as I think of it, a different
> situation. There is no "silver bullet." So I try to listen a lot,
> speak less, for I'm not likely to be heard if I start preaching! <G>
> * Do you see science, or an understanding of science, as having a role
> to play in such a conversation?"
> If that's of interest to the other person, yes. Generally, it is not.
> * What common misconceptions or misunderstandings do you think exist
> among AAAs about Christianity?"
> They see the Ken Hams, the Hagees, the sorry excuses for Xtianity
> represented by many televangelists, and think they represent Xtianity.
> Maybe they try a church -- a dull of sloppy sermon turns them away.
> Friend wife and I went to a different church a month or so ago -- the
> minister mumbled and it was next to impossible to understand him. We
> left early and that place will not see us again.
> * Have you seen any effective targetting of AAAs by any particular
> person, ministry, or even faith?"
> I wish the answer could be "yes." The ASA is the best around; we are
> not doing a good job. But we try, and, I think, have some influence
> in the science community.
> Welcome to the list.
> Burgy

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Received on Wed Oct 29 18:22:03 2008

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