Recently I came across an article by the popular Christian author R.C. Sproul, Jr. called, “What are 5 things to remember when talking with atheists?” It’s incredibly condescending, and as an atheist I am insulted. This guy apparently holds several degrees yet he doesn’t even understand what atheism is. Has he ever even had a conversation with an atheist? I suppose he has, so the only explanation for his ignorance is that he refuses to listen to a word atheists say. Since he believes he has a hotline to the creator of the universe, he thinks he understands us atheists better than we understand ourselves.
Here are the 5 things (you can read the full article here):
- There are no atheists.
- Their deepest need is to deal with their guilt.
- Their worldview allows for no transcendent morality, or purpose.
- As with point number 3, every time they express a moral judgment against you, or the Bible, or believers, remind them that such is out of bounds based on their foundation conviction.
- Remember such once were we.
I was going to write a point by point reply, but then I figured it would be more fun to turn his points around on him. Here, then, are 5 things to remember when talking with theists:
- There are no theists. They know there is no god but they’re just trying to convince themselves otherwise. They do this for many reasons: They’re afraid of dying, they want to live forever, they want to see lost loved ones again, they hate their lives and hope to be happy in Heaven, they are angry at all the injustice in the world and want to see bad people punished, and so forth. (See my post, There’s No Such Thing As Theists.) Theists are angry, sad, and frightened. Remember, they are more afraid of you than you are of them.
- Their deepest need is to deal with their guilt. Like all humans, theists have made many mistakes and done bad things to other people. They feel so guilty that they want there to be an all-powerful judge who will forgive them and let them off the hook. They call it grace. To them, it’s more important to be forgiven by god than by the people they wronged.
- Their worldview allows for no objective morality, or purpose (outside of pleasing god). For theists, right and wrong are whatever god says. It’s called divine command theory, and it means anything is acceptable (even killing your own children!) so long as they get approval from god. Additionally, they have no purpose other than to please god. Rather than take the responsibility of creating their own purpose in life, they would rather turn their lives over to a god. This makes them feel like they have it all figured out.
- Every time theists judge you, remind them of point 3. Why should you take their moral judgments seriously when they follow a book where in one chapter god condemns murder and in another he condones it? Theists don’t understand that morality is not a simple list of do’s and don’ts or a series of whimsical commands from a bipolar god. The purpose of morality is to minimize harm and maximize the well-being of humans. How to do this is complicated and debatable, and theists don’t want to think that hard about it. Again, they would rather skip that and feel like they have it all figured out.
- Remember, such once were we. Many atheists such as myself used to be theists. We were thoroughly convinced of our beliefs and for most of us it took years of deprogramming. The human mind creates very powerful psychological defense mechanisms to protect its beliefs, so don’t be too hard on them. Instead, be patient and understanding. However, if you encounter someone like R.C. Sproul, Jr., you might not want to waste your time.
So there you have it. I don’t necessarily think every one of these applies to every theist, but generally speaking, this is how it is. If R.C. Sproul, Jr. hasn’t figured this out yet, he probably never will.