The Fundamentalist Atheists
By Bob Kellemen | Founder and CEO, RPM Ministries
Posted 9:25 pm on November 09, 2011
I’ve been blogging periodically about unbelief.
In The Psychology of Unbelief, I proposed that:
- Unbelief stems from our emotional response to our mental perception that life has let us down, and, therefore, the Author of life is at fault and faulty.
- Unbelief is an emotional response to a mental interpretation about the ultimate Relational Being where we falsely conclude that this Being is unfair, un-protective, unsafe, and untrustworthy, and so we choose to trust anything and anyone but Him.
In The Bible Is Counter-Cultural: Christ’s Humiliation Humiliates Us, I proposed that:
- Why do people refuse to believe in Christ? Here’s the unspoken reason: “Christ calls me to live for others and I want to live for myself!” “Christ calls me to put others first, and I insist that I am number one!”
- We insist that we are the captain of our fate. Christ insists that He must be our Captain by faith. The choice is clear. In our self-sufficiency, we reject the reality of our desperate need for Christ. We refuse to humble ourselves and become Christ-sufficient by clinging to Christ alone.
Five Hallmarks of The Fundamentalist Atheists
Today my focus is on the personal, interpersonal, and relational aspects of unbelief. Increasingly in public writings you find men like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens displaying what might best be described as “fundamentalist atheism.” You experience the same tenor and tone by less well-known atheists on various blog sites, on Amazon in the “comments” section, and on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites.
What are some of the hallmarks of fundamentalist atheism?
Hallmark # 1: Angry
When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are angrier than the Christians they accuse of being angry. I wonder, “Why the venom?” “Why do they find it so difficult to have a gracious, open, give-and-take, adult-to-adult conversation?”
I wonder if it has something to do with their suppressed rage against the God they say does not exist. I wonder if it has something to do with their lack of peace with God which leads to a lack of personal and interpersonal peace.
Hallmark # 2: Anti-Intellectualism
When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are more anti-intellectual than the Christians they accuse of being anti-intellectual. In personal conversation I’ll sometimes ask, “What books by thinking, loving Christians have you read in the last year? The last decade?” Almost universally the answer is, “None!” The exclamation mark indicating pride in their refusal to read Christian material.
Yet, many thinking Christians read Dawkins, Hitchins, and Harris (books by the fundamentalist atheists). Why are Christians, who read books by atheists, who attend universities staffed by secularists, and who are well-educated and well-read called “anti-intellectual,” when atheists who only read “within their camp” viewed as intellectuals?
What causes this close-mindedness to any books, materials, or facts other than those that seem to support the atheistic perspective? What might explain this failure to read widely and/or to read with an open mind. Could this be caused, in part, by fear of being swayed by the other perspective?
There’s seems to be a fear to doubt their doubt. Personally, I’ve spent years honestly facing my own doubts. The atheists I talk to don’t seem to want to spend even a second candidly pondering the possibility that they may be wrong about their unbelief. They don’t seem to want to wrestle intellectually and emotionally with doubt.
Another aspect of this anti-intellectualism is “cherry picking.” That is, in a discussion they will describe one extreme negative example from the life of a Christian and stereotype that as indicative of the Christian norm. In research statistics this is known as an “outlier.” However, you are not to use an outlier to assess the whole.
Yet it happens seemingly endlessly. “Well that tele-evangelist…” Well, what about the quarter-million pastors who sacrificially love and serve people as they serve Christ? That would be like the Christian saying, “All atheists are just like Stalin and Castro.”
Hallmark # 3: Unloving
When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are less loving than the Christians they accuse of being unloving. A frequent stereotype tossed about is that Christians are focused exclusively on what they’re against and do little or nothing in terms of positive ministry. It’s the “truth without love” stereotype.
And yet, statistically, Christians give far more to charitable causes than non-Christians. They give far more time to charitable work. The fundamentalist atheist expends more energy railing against Christians than sacrificially giving to others—like Christ lived His life.
Hallmark # 4: Judgmentalism
When I read the fundamentalist atheists, I detect that they are more judgmental than the Christians they accuse of being judgmental. When they hold a view with passionate conviction they call it “social justice.” When a Christian holds a view with passionate conviction they call it “arrogant condemnation” or “hateful intolerance.”
This conveys the typical post-modernist perspective that the only approved moral position is amorality. They fail to acknowledge that their refusal to allow others to hold a moral view other than their own view is itself intolerant.
John Dickson has an excellent definition of humility: holding power in the service of others. Why wouldn’t the Christian who stands up for pro-life views be seen as compassionately and humbly holding power in the service of the most powerless—the unborn? Instead, in the supposed name of an accepting and cooperative society, the only acceptable cooperation is blind allegiance to an atheistic worldview.
Hallmark # 5: Weakness
Fundamentalist atheists often accuse Christians of being “weak” because “they have to place their faith in a Supreme Being.” Is faith weak? Is it weak to engage in “creative suffering” that provides healing hope that leads not only to surviving, but also to thriving? It is weak to engage in “creative suffering” that not only produces meaning in seeming meaningless suffering, but prompts and promotes sacrificial living for others?
Why can’t unbelief be perceive as potentially “weak”? Perhaps it is weak in that it can’t handle life and has to rage against the Author of Life.
A Way Forward
So what? Is the point to “bash fundamentalist atheists?”
The relational point is to call for a mutually civil, honest, respectful conversation.
The theological point is to call for a reasonable investigation of truth—the truth will set you free.
The personal point is to say, “I have compassion and empathy for anyone who doubts Christ.” By “lovingly exposing” some of the inconsistencies of “fundamentalist atheism” I hope to encourage and challenge those who do not believe in Christ to reassess their own unbelief.
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