Smug Apologetics

I recently read an oft cited quote by accomplished apologist, Lee Stroebel, which portrays atheism as a commitment to naturalism, that in order to carry on in atheism he had to maintain randomness produces fine tuning, and that our rationality is an effect of an irrational process.

While I agree that atheism does have a hard time wrestling its way out of the naturalistic mud, I also found this a poor representation of atheism. While Stroebel was a former atheist and quite competent in defining what atheism might have been during his personal journey in this worldview, no one atheist gets to define what atheism is. So far I have found no one single source on atheism, no manifesto, no creedal statements, nothing. Although, Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins have attempted to write their own “Summa Atheisma” many atheists do not necessarily share in their views, nor are they obliged to in a worldview without prophets and priests. There only seems to be individual atheism. Stroebel, thus, defines what his personal experience with atheism was.

The atheist may very well agree with Stroebel in that God is indeed the best way to account for objective morality, and fine tuning in the universe, but may rightly dismiss this as an argument from wishful thinking. How does our “ought” produce an “is”? Here, they may simply say, “we just don’t know yet!”

Another problem with this type of “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist” reasoning is it seems to be beating the atheist over the head with an incredulity stick. Just because they might have a difficult time with escaping the naturalistic implications of atheism does not mean an escape hatch doesn’t exist, they just haven’t found it yet, and that is what atheism is, it is not putting one’s signature down committing themselves to any one particular view. The apologist simply hasn’t furnished the atheists plausibility structure to rationally accept theism and just because we note how silly a worldview is, and the difficulties within, does not mean one is left with Christianity as a default either. It seems to be quite a leap to go from disbelieving in naturalism to accepting Christianity. Let’s say one were a Jehovah’s Witness and we deconstructed their theology and helped them see how false it was. Does this automatically mean they will become Christians? No, as we have not provided them with reasons we are right, only with reasons with why they are wrong.

Finally, one should recognize that atheism is not necessary to naturalism, it is only sufficient to naturalism. However, naturalism is necessary to atheism. If one wishes to be a naturalist, one is committed to atheism, but an atheist is not committed to naturalism. This would be like saying naturalism and atheism are the same thing, which they are not.

It is my hope we stop misrepresenting the worldview of people in order to make our apologetic seem more powerful, when all this does is weaken it and do damage to our credibility as Christians. I for one will not be using this type of argumentation.

2 thoughts on “Smug Apologetics

  1. Thank you! This is not often recognized by apologists and theologians. We atheists are often lumped together under one monolithic category, which is no more fair to us than it is to lump all Christians together.

    I like to use the following analogy: imagine that a non-Christian proclaimed that all Christians have crazy, irrational beliefs because of the doctrines of Mary’s being conceived without sin, transubstantiation, and papal infallibility.


    1. Good point. Imagine if we were all associated with the lunatics at Westboro Baptist type churches. That’d be just as rude as saying all atheists are automatically a bunch of moral nihilists.

      I think apologists would do well to understand what atheism means to the individual atheist, rather than us telling them what they must believe as atheists.

      I admit, I was guilty of imputing certain beliefs on atheists, mostly because I read too many books on apologetics, rather than learning to sympathize with and understand other positions.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s