Recently a fellow college student who engages with my work recommended that I give a response to one Facebook status he read. The person in question also attends my college although he is one year above me.
I don’t wish to come over as demeaning to my fellow college student (we shall call him “P,” since that is the first letter of his name) but this is incredibly muddled up thinking. I shall explain.
“The Bible inspires atheism” is immediately problematic. I understand what P is trying to say without him actually saying it. He can correct me if I am wrong but I sense he is saying that the Bible inspires unbelief because there are very questionable chapters in it. Sure, we could grant him that much and, as an apologist myself, I would actually agree with him. He probably has the genocidal texts from the book of Joshua or historical blunders and pre-scientific myths in mind. However, this logic just does not follow for the simple reason that these things are a question of biblical inerrancy and inspiration. Inspiration and inerrancy mean different things to different Christian thinkers. None of these Christian thinkers believe that Christianity is false because there are biblical problems and blunders. So I don’t think the logic follows for I think, from a theological rationalist perspective, we have good reasons for placing our faith in Christianity.
Secondly, the claim that “the Bible inspires atheism” is just wholly unwarranted. P espouses a sort of dualism, an either-or mentality. Either it’s belief in the Bible or it is belief in atheism. I don’t at all think that it is remotely like that. If we grant P that the Bible is a false teaching, and that Christianity is a false religion, it still would not follow that it inspires atheism in the same way it doesn’t inspire Islam or Sikhism. Atheism is not a default position. I think that atheist philosopher Kai Nielsen would agree with me; he explains that “All the proofs of God’s existence may fail, but it still may be the case that God exists. In short, to show that the proofs do not work is not enough by itself. It may still be the case that God exists” (1). Translation: atheism is not a default position and atheists need to have good evidence to support their belief system.
And, at most,, for the sake or P, I would argue that agnosticism would be the better position to adopt if one rejects Christianity and the Bible, as the atheist Scot Shalkowski pens, “if there were no evidence at all for belief in God, this would [at best] legitimize merely agnosticism unless there is evidence against the existence of God” (2). From the vantage point of agnosticism one could still consider alternative religions and beliefs, and one of those beliefs would be atheism.
Then P says that the Bible “advocates atheism” which is horrendously mistaken. How can a book that is so preoccupied with the one and only God of Israel in any way whatsoever advocate atheism? Does P even know what atheism is? The Bible affirms the supernatural from Genesis to Revelation; it affirms angels, demons, a supernatural realm, heaven, hell, miracles, exorcism, dramatic wonders and God’s existence! In what world does this at all advocate atheism? It advocates the entire opposite of atheism.
Then we have the following bombshell, “therefore God himself is [an] atheist.” At this juncture I am completely convinced that P hasn’t the faintest clue what atheism or belief in the supernatural actually is. How can God be an atheist if his very own existence refutes atheism! I am at a loss for words really. Atheism, simply put, is the belief that God does not exist… so if God actually exists (which P evidently grants) then atheism is false.
Moreover, a Facebook friend of P asks him, “How does it inspire and advocate atheism?” to which P replies “good question.” Translation: “the Bible advocates atheism but I have not a clue of why it actually advocates atheism.” So what then was the purpose of the post in the first place? Not only doesn’t he know what atheism is, he doesn’t even know why he just said what he did. This is the definition of irrational behaviour. One needs to think before they adopt a position or make claims.
1. Kai Nielsen in a debate with Willian Craig: Does God Exist? Available.
2. Scot Shalkowski “Atheological Apologetics” in Douglas Geivett and Brendan Sweetman’s Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemology (1992). p. 63-70.