Modern Myths of Atheism

One of the things that has been forced upon us by our Does God Exist? home page, has been a constant barrage of atheist propaganda. People who have someone in their family who has rejected God will send me arguments their loved one is making and expect me to give them five magic words that will convince their family member of the "error of their ways." We have also had people place our web site on atheist sites as a challenge to atheists' beliefs, inviting response. We are always glad to try to help anyone with any question, but when we get over 100 belligerent e-mails from atheists in one afternoon we are pretty sure about what has precipitated such a response.

A positive effect of all of this is that I get to see what modern day atheists are using to support their position. In the 35 years we have been engaged in this work, there has been very little change in the challenges to belief in God. The challenges are presented in new ways but the same basic mistakes that I made as a vocal atheist in the 1950s are still being made today. We would like to look at some of these in this article.

The Action of Christians Invalidate Christianity

When I was an atheist, I had a quotation I used over and over that went something like this, "More people have been killed in the name of Christianity than all of the cannibals in the world have eaten since man first appeared on the planet earth." I don't believe that anyone can possibly argue against the statement factually. The list of murders and killings by people wearing the name "Christian" is massive: the Crusades, the Inquisitions, the Ku Klux Klan, the wars between Catholics and Protestants, the David Koresh and Jim Jones mass suicides, the abortion bombers, and on and on.

On a lesser level, we have had religious figures engage in immoral acts, religious leaders who conned people out of their savings, and scores of religious leaders who have said one thing and have done another. The recent problems of the Roman Catholic church with pedophile behavior among their leaders has produced an avalanche of atheist articles against not only Christianity, but attempting to deny the existence of God on the basis that such behavior is a product of religious belief.

It would be foolish to try to deny that there have been some awful things done in the name of Christianity. It would also be foolish to try to deny that there have been some awful things done by people who claimed to be atheists. In the Chicago area many years ago there was a leading atheist in the area who lured 5- to 8-year-old boys into his home, brutally assaulted them sexually and then murdered them. Would I be valid to say that this behavior was a natural product of his atheistic beliefs? The only way I could do that would be to find a written verifiable statement agreed to by the main body of atheists which clearly documented the behavior. There has never been any group of significant size that did not have someone associated with the group do something that would have been repulsive to virtually all members of the group. The truthfulness and credibility of any group cannot be determined by examining the behavior of its fringe members.

In the case of Christianity, it is easy to point out how bad this argument by atheists is. All you have to do is to look at what Jesus taught! When one of Jesus' followers pulled out a sword to fight and defend Jesus, the weapon bearer was told to put it away. Statements like, "love your enemy," "do good to those who do evil to you," and "as much as it depends upon you, live at peace with all men" cannot be reconciled with the crusaders.

The Bible is Full of Horror Stories
That Invalidate it

There are some terrible stories in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. It is hard to believe that Jephthah sacrificed his own daughter to God in Judges 11. Does this prove that God endorses human sacrifice and in fact commanded it in Abraham's case? The Bible is full of murders, adulterous affairs, prostitution, killing, war, and any number of horrible inhumane things done to seemingly innocent people. The question that needs to be asked here is whether or not all of these bad actions and immoral activities are endorsed and sanctioned by God or not.

There was a time when John F. Kennedy was looked at by virtually everyone in the world as a hero and a saint. All you ever heard about was Kennedy's heroics in the World War II, his strong moral character, and his impeccable integrity. Over the years it has become obvious that Kennedy had some incredible weaknesses, made some monstrous moral errors, and was not always truthful. The point is that when you tell a story about a great human being, you tend to overlook his or her weaknesses and tell only the good stuff. In the Bible, this is not what is done. Heroes like David, Abraham, and Moses are shown as fallible men who made incredible errors. The fact that the errors are given to us when they could have been left out so easily, is a great testimony to the validity of the Bible as the Word of God, not a cause to reject it.

The other point to be made here is that because the Bible tells of an event does not mean God endorses it. The story of Jephthah in Judges 11 is a story that shows the foolishness of making careless oaths. There was no command from God to make a sacrifice of any kind, much less a human sacrifice. In Abraham's case it seems that Abraham knew that God would provide from the very start (see Hebrews 11:19).

The question of wars and the destruction of whole populations is a different issue. Why would every animal, woman, and baby be commanded to be killed and then a city burned? There are many sociological, political, and theological issues involved in this question, but the recent AIDS epidemic suggests still another explanation. God had given all mankind a moral law to follow. Virtually all cultures had not only ignored the moral laws, but had sunk into immorality difficult to comprehend. Some religious worship included sexual acts of all kinds. As a result, disease of all kinds was running rampant. How do you stop a sexually transmitted disease in a primitive society where the virus is in babies, animals, and has contaminated the very fabric of society? The SARS problem in China and the AIDS problems in places in Africa have proven a huge challenge in the twentyfirst century. In the days of Moses and the Judges, it was far worse; and there was very little choice as far as how it could be stopped was concerned.

Science Has Done More For Mankind
Than Christianity

One of the more uninformed myths of atheism is based upon the attempts of atheists to get all of humanity to believe that science and Christianity are opposed to one another. What atheists attempt to do is to claim that science has improved life for all humans on the planet and Christianity has not. Everything from efficient agriculture to spacecraft is claimed to benefit man, and Christianity is portrayed as a withdrawal system where people either retreat into monasteries or convents, or where people engage in worship practices that entertain and encourage them but benefit no one else.

The first point that needs to be made is that most of the great discoveries that atheists want to point to as having been beneficial to man were made by people who identified themselves as Christians, and very few were made by people who classified themselves as atheists. For several years we have been carrying articles in this journal by John Hudson Tiner on the faith of great heroes of science--Newton, Boyle, Maxwell, Pascal, and others who were devout Christians but also the top scientists of their day. In today's world this has continued with people like Francis Colling, the director of the Human Genome Projects and Charles Townes, the discoverer of the principles of the maser and laser. Both the scientists of the past and present have written extensively on how their Christian belief system has led them to their work as scientists.

Another point that needs to be made is that service to mankind by a discipline cannot be measured only in terms of the gadgets that have been produced. Science by its very nature is very limited in what it can do for man in terms of other needs all humans have. Science cannot address most social issues, moral issues, educational issues or even ethical issues. Einstein's famous statement that, "Religion without science is lame, but science without religion is blind" is certainly a good description of this point.

Atheists are fond of pointing out the wars, ethnic cleansing, political involvement, and human rights issues that religions have contributed negatively to. The track record of Christianity has been a whole different picture than that of other religious systems, but it is true that even Christianity has had those religious leaders who have distorted or ignored the teachings of the Bible and have done some vile things. This has also been true of atheism, especially in modern times in Russia, China, and Albania.

More to the point is the fact that Christianity has opposed abuses and worked for solutions to abuses. In our March/April 2003 issue, we reviewed the book Under the Influence by Alvin Schmidt that spelled out massive numbers of enormous benefits that have come to mankind by those following the principles of Christianity.

We have already pointed out Einstein's comment "Science without religion is blind." Think how many terrible things have been brought to mankind by science. The devices and objects of science have been used in war, the pollution of the environment, September 11, 2001, carcinogenic agents leading to cancer, torture devices, execution devices, etc. Atheism not only cannot claim science, but it has a weak case of how to manage the devices of science.

Biblical "Errors" are Not an Argument
Against the Existence of God

A casual trip through atheist web sites will reveal that there is a major effort by atheists to convince the public that the Bible is full of all kinds of contradictions. The fact that there are statements of science, math, astronomy, geography, geology, etc., which have been proven in modern times seems to escape these folks. The sites also ignore the fact that many of the supposed errors are because of erroneous assumptions by the atheists themselves. When the Bible gives a count of how many people were involved in something, it may count just the men, just the soldiers, just the families, all the men and women but not the children, or everyone. One book in the Bible may do the count one way and another book may do it differently.

These kinds of explanations are helpful to believers or searching people, but there is a more important point that needs to be made: whether or not the Bible has an error in it or, no matter what the cause is, does not have any relationship to the existence of God. It may affect how we interpret the Bible, what translation we use, or how we understand the purpose of the passage but not whether there is a God or not. The evidence for the existence of God comes from cosmology, morality, philosophy, design evidence, and a variety of other areas of study and understanding.

It is important to answer challenges to the integrity of the Bible and we do that frequently in this journal and in the Does God Exist? program, but it is not a matter of whether or not there is a God.

Atheist distortions and misrepresentations need to be answered. These are just a few of the common myths and a response to each of them. It is important to "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is within you" (1 Peter 3:15), and we hope this will be useful to our readers as they attempt to do this.

--John N. Clayton

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