In conversation with Atheists

by Mike Reith on 19th May 2014

“I’m an atheist”.
This was the response of a young man when I knocked on his door when he knew I was a Christian. It said ‘we have nothing to talk about’ – as if we came from 2 different planets. This is a common reaction.

But atheism is also a faith. It has a view about God. It shapes our understanding of how we came to live here. It has implications on how we live life.
As the young guy was an IT expert, I likened Christianity and Atheism to 2 separate operating systems in a computer – they are not 2 separate planets.

And just like programmes can run across different platforms, so Atheists and Christians can have friendly conversations. In fact many Christians will prefer speaking to atheists who are honest about their position, than we do to those who claim to be Christians, but in reality act as if there is no God in the way they live (OK, this used to be me!).
However it is generally true that atheists don’t want to have conversations with Christians.
I can understand why. As Christians we can sound arrogant about our ‘certainties’ – which would annoy anyone who is unconvinced by them. We need to be more humble than we are.
But I wonder if atheists might also be humbly asked to reconsider their certainties… and to be open to the possibility they might just be wrong.

It’s easy to write off Christianity because it lacks objective proof. Where are the scientific facts to prove there is a God? But truth can be measured in different ways. And if someone turns up in history claiming to be God and backing his claim by doing the things only God can do, then it doesn’t make sense to write off that claim without evaluating it, at least a bit.
History can reveal reality as much as scientific experiment.
Now it would be entirely legitimate for an atheist to challenge a Christian – “is it true?”
But there needs to be integrity. Will an atheist ask the same question of atheism – i.e. is it true? It’s only fair-minded to apply the same tests to both.

My cheeky guess is that atheism for many is not a watertight intellectual position. It is just a belief system of convenience.
A wise friend once had a conversation with an honest atheist in which he asked the atheist a question. “If I could convince you that Christianity is true, will you become one?” The atheist thought long and hard and then said “No”. He was sleeping with his girlfriend and didn’t want to stop.
If there’s no God in the frame, it conveniently allows us to make up our own morality.
But if it is not true, and there IS God, then atheism is a dangerous road.

I also happen to think that truth can be measured in another way… ‘does it work?’
If an engineer’s theory about constructing a bridge is spot on, the bridge will work – it’ll stand the weight of traffic etc.
I’m not sure atheism works on the ground. For example, the relationships atheists have with others aren’t generally great.
Just going by observation, atheist marriages aren’t close (more like flat mates), and atheistic relationships often go ‘ping’. There’ll be exceptions of course, but they are exceptions. The atheistic ‘operating system’ causes malfunctions in this most vital of areas! Largely, I wonder if it makes people more selfish (although I’m getting close to hypocrisy here).
I think there is evidence for this if you survey the wider scene. Atheistic governments are responsible for the largest number of human deaths in those who oppose them. (20m under Stalin, 40m under Mao… then there’s Hitler, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Un…) The body count of Communism is the casualty-count of a political system founded on atheism.
On the other hand ask what has atheism positively contributed to any community?
Well, London waits eagerly for the first atheist food bank!

The Bible however connects God to good relationships with others. Loving God goes with loving neighbour. Switch off a loving God and…?

Am I wrong. Well I’m happy to be corrected… but that requires a conversation!