Truths about atheism that only Christians know
Regular columnist James Knight explains the paradox that atheists cannot really understand the very thing they don’t believe in.
Christians and atheists are different in many ways - but perhaps the most important of which is in the experiential barrier that divides them, where the debate cannot be on equal grounds, because Christians are in possession of the one thing that will tell us that Jesus is Lord (the Holy Spirit), and atheists are not, so cannot possibly know that Jesus is Lord. Consequently, because the atheist's position entails that he doesn't accept Jesus is Lord, he is missing the only thing that can change his mind - which means that he can't yet have a proper conception of God.
Consequently, this presents the atheist with a problem; if he doesn't have a proper conception of God, then how can he ever confidently trust his atheism? If you've only ever tried non-alcoholic sparkling wine, and you were convinced it was champagne, then you are in no position to judge the quality of Dom Pérignon.
This is the truly extraordinary thing about atheism - that there are profound truths about atheism that atheists can’t know but only Christians can know. And that's because in order to know God, you have to know Christ as Lord. Atheists can’t know Christ, otherwise they wouldn’t be atheists. Yet atheists have a set of beliefs about the god (small g) they believe doesn’t exist. The god they reject is not the same God that Christians know – therefore the god they reject is a sub-standard caricature of the God who does exist. Atheists are effectively rejecting their own creation, because the god they don’t believe is a god that we Christians don’t believe in either.
To illustrate with a more extreme case, imagine that for his next project Richard Dawkins decides to write a book called The Flying Spaghetti Monster Delusion – in which he explains in about 200 pages why there is no such god as The Flying Spaghetti Monster. The book would have no utility, because nobody sane believes in existence of The Flying Spaghetti Monster. A book that claimed millions of people believe in the FSM, and tried to argue for its non-existence, would be a book full of misrepresentations of what people actually believe.
Yet the absurd truth is, Richard Dawkins did more or less the same thing with his book The God Delusion – he wrote a book replete with misrepresentations of Christianity. I know this because I once read it, and I know Christianity, and I know that no Christian really believes in the things Dawkins spends 200 odd pages trying to refute. At best, he may have counter-argued against a few ideas held by the most extremist religious fanatics, who are both unlearned and unworldly, but in doing so he has written a diatribe against a set of ideas that most people don’t believe in and never have.
I juxtaposed The Flying Spaghetti Monster Delusion and The God Delusion because this truth – that there are profound truths about atheism that atheists can’t know and only Christians can – can create one of the first flickers of light towards enlightenment. An atheist who rejects the Christian God has to be rejecting a god that Christians also don’t believe in, otherwise they wouldn’t be an atheist, they’d be a Christian. To that end, the Christian agrees with the atheist, in that we also don’t believe in the gods that atheists don’t believe in.
Yet, as soon as the atheist understands the God that Christians believe in, he will be more like a Christian than he will an atheist, because to recognise Jesus is Lord is to know God, and at the same time reject all the made-up gods in our head.
The above image of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is part of a picture by Niklas Jansson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
James Knight is a local government officer based in Norwich, and is a regular columnist for Christian community websites Network Norfolk and Network Ipswich. He also blogs regularly as ‘The Philosophical Muser’, and contributes articles to UK think tanks The Adam Smith Institute and The Institute of Economic Affairs, as well as the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC).
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