Category: (1) “What is atheism?”

Before we can discuss atheism, we need to define it. According to an official atheism website, atheists define themselves this way: “Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods.” Those who identify as atheists prefer to emphasize their lack of belief rather than the refusal to believe. They consider atheism to be intellectually superior to faith in God. However, this definition clashes with the biblical worldview, which states, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). Since atheists can agree with people of faith that every human being has the freedom to choose what he or she thinks or believes, we will define atheism here as the choice to disbelieve in any kind of Supreme Being to which mankind is accountable.

Statistics show that atheism is on the rise in countries that have historically had a strong Christian influence. These statistics include those raised in godless homes, but they also show an alarming increase among those who once held to some form of religious faith. When we hear of a prominent figure in Christianity renouncing the faith he or she used to claim, we are left wondering, “Why?” Why would so many people stop believing in God when His handiwork is everywhere (Psalm 19:1; 97:6; Romans 1:20)? Every culture on earth recognizes some form of deity, so why are so many people claiming they do not believe in any god at all?

There are several reasons people may define themselves as atheists. The first is ignorance. Due to lack of correct information, a person may conclude that nothing exists beyond this universe and man’s experience of it. Since there remains a great deal we do not know, ignorance often invents ideas to fill in the blanks. This often results in either false religions or atheism. Sketchy information about God is often tainted by mythology or religious superstition to the extent that anything supernatural sounds like a fairy tale. Exposed to a mishmash of confusing claims, some people decide there is no truth to any of it and throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Disillusionment is another reason some people become atheists. Due to negative experiences, such as having a prayer go unanswered or seeing hypocritical behavior in others, a person may conclude that God does not exist. This response is often fueled by anger or hurt. These people reason that, if God existed, He would behave in ways they could comprehend or agree with. Since He did not respond the way they wanted Him to, they conclude that He must not exist at all. They may stumble over complicated concepts such as hell, Old Testament genocide, or eternity and conclude the God of the Bible is too confusing to be real. Disillusionment propels people to find comfort in what is seen and known, rather than an invisible deity. To avoid the possibility of more disappointment, they abandon any attempt at faith and find a measure of comfort in deciding that God simply does not exist.

Closely linked to the disillusioned are those who call themselves “atheists” when, in fact, they are anti-God. Atheist is a label some hide behind to mask a deep hatred toward God. Often due to childhood trauma or abuse in the name of religion, these people are consumed by an antipathy toward all things religious. The only way they can retaliate against a God they consider cruel is to deny Him vehemently. Events of the past have left wounds so deep that it is easier to deny the reality of God than admit that they hate Him. True atheists would not include this group in their numbers, as they recognize that to be angry with God is to acknowledge His existence. But many people do, in fact, call themselves atheists while simultaneously expressing outrage toward a God whose existence they deny.

Still others reject the idea of God because they want Him to be easier to find. When well-known atheist Richard Dawkins was asked, “What would you say if you faced God after death?” he responded, “I would say to Him, ‘Why did you take such great pains to conceal yourself?’” Some people frown at the fact that God is Spirit, invisible, and found only through faith (Hebrews 11:6; Jeremiah 29:13). They adopt the attitude that the Creator of the universe owes them evidence of His existence beyond what He has already lavishly given (Psalm 19:1; 102:25; Romans 1:20). Jesus dealt with this mindset when He walked the earth. In Mark 8, Jesus had just fed four thousand people with a sack lunch, but the intellectual elites came to Him demanding that He perform a sign to “prove” He was the Messiah (verse11). Jesus illustrated this hardness of heart in His parable about the rich man in hell who longed to warn his brothers about what awaited them after death (Luke 16:19–31). From heaven, Abraham answered, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

The most likely explanation for the continuing rise of atheism has not changed since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6; Romans 3:23). The very essence of all sin is self-determination. By denying the existence of a Creator, atheists can do whatever they please without concern for future judgment or eternal consequences (Matthew 12:36; Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5; Hebrews 4:13). In the twenty-first century, self-worship has become culturally acceptable. Atheism appeals to a generation raised on evolutionary theory and moral relativism. John 3:19 says, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” If human beings are self-created, self-determined, and self-centered, then there is no moral law or lawgiver to whom they must submit. There are no absolutes and no one to whom they are ultimately accountable. By adopting such a mindset, atheists can focus on seeking pleasure in this life alone.

As long as scientists, professors, and philosophers peddle their atheistic viewpoints as truth and wisdom, people will continue to buy it because the idea of self-determination appeals to our rebellious natures. The attitude is nothing new, but the changing cultural norms are making it more openly acceptable. Romans 1:18–31 details the results of this rejection of God’s authority. Verse 28 says, “God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.” Our world is seeing the results of that depravity. What atheists call “enlightenment,” God calls foolishness. Verses 22–23 say, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.” Since the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10), then the denial of the Lord (atheism) is the beginning of foolishness.

A very well done article

Archaeology is a scientific discipline requiring dozens of specializations. Despite its complexity, it has the unenviable distinction of being a field in which anyone with sufficient interest and a modicum of experience can claim to be a specialist. Popular examples include self-proclaimed experts who claim to have found chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea, the real location of Mt. Sinai, and the long-lost treasures of Solomon in a hidden cave beneath the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. These claims are difficult, if not impossible, to verify, and are often accompanied by dubious proof and doctored evidence. Archaeology is a field subject to severe abuse by those with too little training and too much imagination.

The mistreatment of archaeological evidence is not the sole property of poorly trained apologists. It is also found in the writings of the new atheists. “New atheism” is much like atheism in general, except that it is exceptionally militant and intolerant of everything remotely religious in nature. The term appears to have been coined by Gary Wolf in a November 2006 article in Wired Magazine titled, “The Church of the New Believer.” In the article, Wolf says that the new atheist will “not let us [unbelievers] off the hook simply because we are not doctrinaire believers. They condemn not just belief in God but respect for belief in God” (2006). The new atheist is not merely an unbeliever, but one who promotes disbelief and has no tolerance for anyone who respects religion, whether theist, agnostic, or atheist. For new atheists, it is all or nothing. Incidentally, Wolf—though an atheist himself—ultimately disagrees with the severity of the new atheists’ approach.

The most noticeable of the current leaders in this new and virulent strain of militant atheism include Englishmen Richard Dawkins (biologist) and Christopher Hitchens (polemicist and political journalist), and American Sam Harris (neuroscientist). Their diatribes against religion are both malicious and well publicized. Virtually anything they write is going to secure a place near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. This is not surprising, since their devotees are anxious for any new criticism of Christianity, and believers want to read them to understand the new arguments facing the faithful.

The new atheists frequently appeal to subject areas outside their specialties for proof to support their claims. Such might not otherwise discredit their views, but their level of proficiency in these areas is decidedly inferior, as borne out by the numerous mistakes, misunderstandings, and logical errors that pepper their works. One of the blatant areas of abuse concerns their appeals to archaeology.

While Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris are gifted with formidable intellects and considerable literary prowess, archaeology lies outside their realm of competency. They would do well to remember that expertise in one area does not immediately transfer into any other area of one’s choosing. Dawkins may be a highly respected biologist among evolutionists, but he is a rather poor student of the religion he so fiercely opposes. In some cases it appears almost as if he reaches for any argument, no matter how poor, to justify his extreme dislike for Christianity. Hitchens is an insightful journalist, but his impeccable prose inadequately conceals a lamentable ignorance of Christianity and the wealth of evidence supporting its claims. Harris is an up-and-coming scientist, but his skills in logic and argumentation are virtually nonexistent and have drawn heavy criticism from nearly all quarters. All three men may be gifted in their areas of specialization, but outside those areas they are like fish out of water. They seem to have gained only enough familiarity with Christianity to generate criticism that will tickle the ears of their adherents. Their attacks on the Christian faith are little more than public proofs of their inadequacy as critics.

The Responsible Use of Archaeology

Archaeology is an exciting field that brings a great deal of information to bear on the study of the Bible. At the same time, archaeologists must exercise caution in evaluating ancient evidence for several reasons. First, the ancient evidence is usually very fragmentary. Not all the evidence from antiquity made it into the ground in the first place, and if it did, the march of time frequently takes its toll on ancient artifacts. This is not surprising since artifacts deteriorate even in climate-controlled environments in state-of-the-art museums. Second, with every season new discoveries are brought to light, adding to the body of information we possess about the ancient world. The next year could well produce evidence that contradicts this year’s conclusions. Finally, the surviving evidence is piecemeal in nature, requiring archaeologists to fill in the gaps with educated guesswork where conclusiveness may be lacking.  This is not to say that archaeology cannot reach definite conclusions, but only to say that those conclusions may frequently be tentative in nature. Unlike responsible scholars, the Bible’s critics frequently make grandiose appeals to evidence without the caution employed by those who understand how to evaluate the evidence.

Archaeology has been misused by those wishing to foster a skeptical attitude toward the factual reliability of the Bible. A prime example is an article published in Harper’s Magazine titled, “False Testament: Archaeology Refutes the Bible’s Claim to History.” Author Daniel Lazare writes,

Not long ago, archaeologists could agree that the Old Testament, for all its embellishments and contradictions, contained a kernel of truth…. That is no longer the case. In the last quarter century or so, archaeologists have seen one settled assumption after another concerning who the ancient Israelites were and where they came from proved false (2002, p. 39).

Lazare, a journalist with no archaeological credentials, does little more than survey the extreme left concerning the intersection of archaeology and the Bible. Yigal Levin, professor in the department of philosophy and religion at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, wrote a stinging response to the article in Harper’s. He states: “From his essay, I learned only that Lazare is capable of summarizing The Bible Unearthed, written by my former teacher Israel Finkelstein and his colleague Neil Asher Silverman. Like their book, Lazare’s essay is one-sided and overly dramatic” (Levin, 2002, p. 4).

The book to which Levin refers in his article is The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2001). Finkelstein’s work has drawn substantial criticism from other scholars—even those who doubt the Bible’s veracity. Virtually no archaeologists have adopted his somewhat radical conclusions, which generally deny a great deal of historicity to the Old Testament narratives. It should be noted that Finkelstein, who once held a relatively positive position on the relationship between the Bible and ancient history, now holds a minority view that finds little acceptance among even mainstream archaeologists. His work has been heavily and publicly criticized by American archaeologist William Dever, who called the book “an archaeological manifesto, not judicious and well-balanced scholarship,” adding, “it will do little to educate the public” (2001, 322:74). It is significant that Dever, one of the most widely respected archaeologists in America, states explicitly that he is “not a theist” (2005, p. xi).

A Classic Double Standard Used Against the Bible

The double standard employed against the Bible is both obvious and pervasive. One such example concerns the conquest of Canaan, which is frequently filed under the categories of fiction and myth. Joshua’s campaign is usually assumed to be fictitious, but there is a parallel example from Egypt that mirrors Joshua’s account. In 1275 B.C., the forces of Egypt under Ramesses the Great, and the Hittite Empire under general Muwatallis II, met at the Battle of Kadesh. Egyptian forces were separated into three units as they traveled northward through Canaan. Two divisions traveled farther inland, while a third made its route close to the Mediterranean coastline. The Hittites, lying in wait near the city of Kadesh, ambushed the Egyptian troops. The Hittite forces overran the first division and shattered it. The quick-thinking Ramesses hastily organized his troops and was able to fend off the Hittite offensive long enough for the third division to arrive. The reinforced troops eventually pushed back their Hittite opponents. In the end, Ramesses won a military victory, but suffered a political defeat since the Hittite Empire either retained or reclaimed lost territory in the area.

In typical Near Eastern fashion, Ramesses returned to Egypt and proclaimed a great victory. Indeed, the famous colossi at Abu Simbel were part of a monument erected near the border of Ethiopia to convince Egypt’s neighbors that Ramesses had won a decisive victory—just in case they heard otherwise. A relief depicting the battle shows Ramesses gunning down fleeing Hittite soldiers with his bow and rolling over others like speed bumps in his oversized chariot. In the written account of the battle, he credits both divine intervention and his own leadership as the main causes for the Egyptian triumph over his enemies (Kitchen, 2000, 2:37). According to the poetic version of the account, Ramesses leaps into battle while the uraeus, the serpent-shaped symbol of protection worn on the forehead of the king, blasts fire at his enemies and consumes the Hittite forces like an ancient flame-thrower.

In inscription we see several parallels between the Battle of Kadesh and the military operations carried out under Joshua as recorded in the Old Testament: (1) both leaders are dynamic military figures, (2) each is said to rely upon divine aid to defeat his foes, and (3) each credits his deity with the victory. While no scholar denies the Battle of Kadesh took place, a majority dismisses the conquest of Canaan out of hand. For Ramesses, scholars simply excise any references to the divine and accept the rest as reliable narrative. For Joshua’s account, the references to Yahweh immediately place the story in the realm of myth. No details are accepted as genuine. While there are other factors at work in this particular case (such as the debate over the available information that bears on the conquest of Canaan), it should be noted that for many people, including scholars, Scripture is virtually the only ancient literature where any mention of the supernatural immediately disqualifies any claim to historical reliability. Other ancient works are filled with magic and divine intervention, yet this fact does not stop scholars from searching them for a core historical truth. Quite the opposite is true in the case of the Bible.

Pseudo-Scholarship in the Popular Press

The popular press has been very active in its attempt to diminish the intellectual respectability of biblical faith, and the new atheists are one of the best examples. Their academic arrogance is nothing short of astounding, and only further highlighted by their lack of understanding of biblical studies. One of the most egregious examples of religious ignorance is found in David Mills’ book Atheist Universe:

It’s fairly easy to demonstrably prove that the Genesis accounts of Adam and Eve, and Noah’s worldwide deluge, are fables. It’s easier to prove these stories false because, unlike the notion of God, the Creation account and Noah’s flood are scientifically testable. Science may explore human origins and the geologic history of Earth. In this regard, science has incontrovertibly proven that the Book of Genesis is utter mythology (2006, p. 28).

Mills provides a priceless example of just how badly militant atheists misunderstand ancient literature. Within a mere paragraph, Mills uses the terms “fable,” “mythology,” and (false) “story” interchangeably. None of these terms are synonyms. A fable is a whimsical tale, usually containing a moral or teaching point, in which talking animals frequently play primary roles. Aesop’s Fables immediately comes to mind. This is quite different from the term “mythology,” which centers on stories of the gods and often has a religious or cultic function. These stories also have varying degrees of contradiction with other myths within the same corpus in which the deities are represented. Incidentally, this is also different from a “legend,” which is an embellished story about a human figure containing at least a kernel of historical truth.

Unlike myths, fables, and fictive stories, the Old and New Testaments are concerned with reporting factual details. The historical books frequently reference other sources such as the Book of Jashar (Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18), the Book of the Wars of the Lord (Numbers 21:14), and the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Chronicles 27:7). It appears that the divinely-guided Hebrew writers worked with sources in similar fashion to modern historians. The writers often used source material and on occasion point the reader to those sources where additional information could be found at the original time of writing (e.g., 1 Kings 14:19). Luke makes it clear that he conducted an extensive investigation of the sources in the composition of his gospel account (Luke 1:1-4). His attention to geographical detail, long recognized by scholars for its accuracy and thoroughness, is quite out of keeping with ancient myths, which had no concern for this type of information.  Finally, Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), Peter (2 Peter 1:16), and John (1 John 1:1-2) all offer eyewitnesses testimonials, presupposing their readers had the ability to verify their claims.

It is important to note that the ancients rarely believed their myths actually happened in real time and space. Actual history is of very little concern in mythology, which may come as a surprise to many moderns. It seems to be just as surprising to the critics of the Bible, who invariably equate myth with fiction. The new atheists assume that Jesus is a mythological creation of the early church, missing the point that the early Christians actually believed that He walked the Earth, performed miracles, and rose from the dead. Unlike the pagan populace of Greece and Rome, early Christians were willing to die for their convictions. This attitude made them a target for the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata, who mocked their belief in eternal life. He wrote in “The Death of Peregrine”:

The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them… (n.d., 4:82-83).

Since martyrdom was virtually unknown in the Greco-Roman world, why did it become so common in the Christian community? Simply put, no one else believed in the exclusivity of religion. The ancients were polytheistic and inclusive. Not only were other gods recognized, but initiation in one of the mystery religions did not exclude membership in other cults. As long as one had enough money for the expensive initiation rites, he or she could be a member of any number of the secretive mystery cults in the Greek world.

In his book, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, Christopher Hitchens spends a few pages alluding to Jesus as merely one of many virgin-born, crucified messiahs (2007, pp. 22-23). Many critics have argued Jesus is nothing more than a plagiarized myth from other world religions, adapted for use by the earliest Christians. Allegedly, the virgin birth is found in Mithras worship, and other gods such as Attis and Osiris were crucified and resurrected. Critics do not appear to realize that in the mystery cult of Mithras, the god was born from a rock, and that the earliest stories come from over a century after the time of Christ (cf. Butt and Lyons, 2006). Further, Attis and Osiris were never crucified. Attis killed himself and Seth drowned his brother Osiris in the Nile River. Further, the two never truly resurrected. Attis remained in a comatose state where his hair still grew and his little finger twitched. Osiris is said to have been brought back to life but did not rejoin the land of the living. He instead remained in the underworld as the lord of the dead (the story also explains mummification, which is decidedly different from the Christian view of resurrection). One would be hard-pressed to find a true resurrection outside the Bible. All of this information is readily available in popular translations of the ancient myths that seem to have escaped the attention of Christianity’s most popular critics. In their haste to relegate the Bible to the realm of myth, the new atheists have failed to realize that the Bible records actual persons, places, and events that can be located in the archaeological record.

Embarrassment in the New Atheism

The new atheists are quite skilled at parroting critical scholars in the popular media, but give little evidence of having done any real research into the archaeological concerns surrounding the Bible. Their mistakes are so elementary that, if one did not know that they were ranked among the world’s intellectual elite, one would simply consider them part of the lunatic fringe. The dogmatic conclusions reached by Dawkins and company are unjustified for several reasons. First, none are well-acquainted with the material they cite. Their specialties lie in unrelated fields, and their conclusions are frequently unsupported or even contradicted by the archaeological artifacts. Second, none possesses a basic, reasonable knowledge of Christianity. They often make basic mistakes that could have been easily prevented by spending time doing minimal research into basic biblical teachings. Finally, they make very few attempts at formulating arguments, and those they make are peppered with logical errors and fallacious reasoning.

Apologists for disbelief have noted the criticism of their leading spokesmen and have rushed to their defense. In a blog called the “Black Sun Journal,” editor Sean Prophet writes:

The flimsiest of all the rhetorical devices used by religious writers is the accusation that atheists lack scholarship on religion. That they supposedly “don’t even understand what they have rejected.” This dismissive attitude is repeated ad nauseam in the popular media. While it’s true that few atheists have doctor-of-divinity degrees, it’s completely false that they therefore can’t understand theology (Prophet, 2008, italics in orig.).

Prophet argues that it is false that atheists cannot understand theology. Yet, he misses the fact that critics such as Dawkins and P.Z. Meyers defend their refusal to engage Christian thought, sometimes crudely, as in the case of a Meyers’s piece titled, “The Courtier’s Reply” (2006). Georgetown professor John Haught critiques them, saying, “Given all their bluster about the evils of theology, why do they wade only ankle deep in the shallows of religious illiteracy? A well-thought-out military strategy sooner or later has to confront the enemy at its strongest point, but [Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens have—DB] avoided any such confrontation. Unlike the great leaders in war, these generals have decided to aim their assaults exclusively at the softest points in the wide world of faith” (2008, p. 63, bracketed item added). While he criticizes the supposed myth of ignorance surrounding the militant, atheist movement, Prophet appears to have as little understanding of religion as those whom he defends. Indeed, his assertion that “[r]ank-and-file atheists are far more facile with scripture than rank-and-file Christians” is so laughable and outrageous as to be absurd. A cursory survey of militant, atheist literature from those who are considered its greatest scholars quickly reveals a host of misunderstandings readily apparent to any unbiased observer.

One example of Dawkins’ many academic sins concerns the Gnostic gospels. In The God Delusion, he argues that Thomas Jefferson advised his young nephew to read the other accounts of Jesus’ life, which Dawkins claims are the Gnostic writings such as the “Gospels of Thomas, Peter, Nicodemus, Philip, Bartholomew, and Mary Magdalen” (2006, p. 95). It would be quite impossible for Jefferson to have recommended the Gnostic gospels to his nephew since they were unknown in his day. So it is with the apocryphal gospels. Those of Thomas and Philip were among the cache of documents discovered in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt. The gospels of Peter and Mary were both found in the late 1800’s. The gospel of Bartholomew has yet to be positively identified. In every case, these non-canonical writings date much later than the time of Christ and provide no evidence of offering genuine accounts of Christ’s life.

Christopher Hitchens follows in Dawkins footsteps when he misunderstands the nature of the Gnostic writings. He says that the gospels “were of the same period and provenance as many of the subsequently canonical and ‘authorized’ Gospels” (2007, p. 112). Yet, Gnostic beliefs arose shortly after Christianity, and the documents produced by Gnostics date from the second century to the fifth century and later. As a marriage between Christianity and Neo-Platonic philosophy, Gnosticism reached its height in the second and third centuries, but its incipient form is implicitly condemned in several New Testament passages (Colossians 2:9; 1 John 1:1; cf. 1 Peter 2:24).

Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris appear to draw their notions about the supposed legendary nature of the gospel accounts from Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. All three heartily recommend Ehrman’s book and give him high praise for his journey into unbelief, which he never seems to tire of describing (2005, pp. 1-15; 2008, pp. 1-19; 2009, pp. ix-xii). The new atheists are apparently unaware that Ehrman’s work has drawn heavy criticism because of its tendency to sensationalize, overplay the evidence, and present ideas that few of his academic peers affirm, regardless of their religious orientation or lack thereof. That the trio—as non-specialists who know relatively little about Christianity—would lean so heavily on a scholar like Ehrman is, perhaps, understandable, but remains inexcusable.

Hitchens claims that the existence of Jesus is “highly questionable” and there is a “huge amount of fabrication” in the details presented in the gospel records (2007, p. 114). The only genre into which the gospel accounts could possibly be forced would be legend, but even then, there was insufficient time for Jesus to reach legendary status. As the acclaimed classical scholar A.N. Sherwin-White pointed out, it takes time for legends to accumulate about a historical person (1963, pp. 188-191). The gospel records are clearly non-mythological and give no evidence of being legendary.

The biblical ignorance of the new atheists is on full display when David Mills begs for Christians to defend why they believe in mythical creatures such as unicorns (Job 39:9-10; Psalm 22:21), cockatrices (Isaiah 11:8), and satyrs (Isaiah 13:21). He embarrasses himself when he writes:

I also find it revealing that, in the newer, modern-language translations of the Bible, these ridiculous passages of Scripture have been dishonestly excised, rewritten or edited beyond their original translation in the King James. So not only are the Great Pretenders forsaking long-honored and long-held Christian beliefs, but the Bible itself, under their supervision, appears to be experiencing a quiet, behind-the-scenes, Hollywood makeover as well (2006, p. 150).

The words rendered “unicorn” (re’em, “ox”), “cockatrice” (tsepha`, a type of serpent), and “satyr” (sa`ir, “goat”) have nothing to do with mythological creatures. In fact, these creatures did not even exist in ancient Near Eastern mythology. The last 400 years has seen an explosion in the knowledge of the biblical languages. Scholars now have the benefit of the numerous manuscripts and inscription discoveries that have greatly expanded our knowledge of the languages. The work at the ancient city of Ugarit alone has provided a wealth of information on the Hebrew language through the study of the closely related language of Ugaritic. Mills’ objection evaporates when we understand that the change in English translation is not due to a dishonest makeover, but to a better and truer understanding of how the original text should be translated. To his discredit, he mistakes dishonesty for  intellectual progress, which only further underscores his unfamiliarity with the Bible and its ancient context—and his extreme prejudice.

Christopher Hitchens says the material from the Exodus to the Conquest of Canaan “was all, quite simply and very ineptly, made up at a much later date…. Much of the evidence is the other way” (2007, p. 102). Elsewhere, he says the Pentateuch is an “ill-carpentered fiction, bolted into place well after the nonevents that it fails to describe convincingly or even plausibly” (p. 104). Here Hitchens alludes to the Documentary Hypothesis which claims the books of Moses were compiled from different sources much later than the time of the Exodus. Again, Hitchens does not seem to know that recent discoveries have presented the Documentary Hypothesis with significant challenges that have yet to find plausible answers (cf. Garrett, 2000; Kaiser, 2001). While much of modern scholarship believes in the hypothesis, it must be noted that professors essentially pass on the theory to their students as a body of dogmatic teaching and rarely require them to actually question the theory (cf. evolution). Moreover, archaeology has consistently produced evidence that implies the writing of the Pentateuch is genuinely ancient.

Just when things could not get any worse, Hitchens further destroys his own credibility by claiming urban myth as fact. He states: “the Pentateuch contains two discrepant accounts of the Creation, two different genealogies of the seed of Adam, and two narratives of the Flood” (2007, p. 106). The two creation accounts are intentionally written for two different purposes and are complimentary, not contradictory. This is similar to the way in which a person might take a photograph of an object from two different angles in order more fully to explore the subject in view. Critics seem fixated on digging this old chestnut out of the wastebasket where it rightly belongs (cf. Jackson, 1991). Also, genealogies in the Bible are selective by nature, so differences in genealogical lists are inconsequential (cf. Miller, 2003). The alleged two narratives of the Flood in Genesis 6-9 refers to the artificial separation of the story into two constituent parts, which falls under the purview of the Documentary Hypothesis. This allegation, too, has been shown to be fraught with problems.

The Plausibility of the Biblical Record

Archaeology demonstrates solid connections between the biblical record and ancient history, in contrast to Christopher Hitchens’ assertion that it is an implausible record. Consider the following:

The Patriarchs

Critics often malign the patriarchs without just cause. They insist that camels were not domesticated during the patriarchal age, thus constituting an anachronism in the biblical text. Yet evidence of camel domestication appears as early as 2000 B.C. in several places in Mesopotamia, concurrent with Abraham—if not slightly preceding him (Kitchen, 2003, p. 339). Another point of confidence is the names of the patriarchs. While God selected Jacob’s name, they all highlight the Mesopotamian roots of Abraham since the names of Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, and Joseph are all of Amorite origin (pp. 341-342). These names were at the height of their popularity when the patriarchs lived in the early second millennium and quickly fell into disuse in subsequent centuries.

A vital piece of evidence is the structure of covenants in the Bible. Covenants made in antiquity evolved over time, and each period has a distinct structure for the covenants made at various times and particular locations. Kenneth Kitchen has surveyed a wide range of covenants used from the third millennium through the first millennium B.C. (Kitchen, 2003, pp. 283-289). He found the Abrahamic covenant made in Genesis 15-17 fits securely in the early second millennium, while the covenants in Exodus, Deuteronomy, and Joshua 24 fit only in a late second millennium context.

The Life of Joseph

In the very section of the Bible that Hitchens questions is found some of the most compelling evidence for the historicity of Scripture. As Egyptologist James K. Hoffmeier demonstrates, the story for Joseph rings true with numerous details (Hoffmeier, 1996, pp. 77-98). The 20-shekel price paid for Joseph (Genesis 37:28) is consistent with the price of a slave c. 1700 B.C. Egyptian mummification took about 70 days once the period for mourning was included, which matches the time given for the mummification of Jacob (Genesis 50:3). Examples of non-Egyptians becoming viziers is known from Egyptian sources. Further, it appears that the story of Joseph was put down in writing during the 18th-19th Dynasties in Egypt, the very period during which Moses lived. This idea is borne out by the fact that the Pentateuch uses the name “Pharaoh” (Hebrew phar’oh, Egyptian per-`3) when referring to the king of Egypt. During this time, the term was a generic one referring to the king, similar to referring to the U.S. President as “the White House,” or to the British monarch as “the Crown.” Prior to this time, the name of the king was used, and afterward sources mention the monarch as “Pharaoh X” or “X, king of Egypt”—as in the case of pharaohs Shishak (1 Kings 11:40; 2 Chronicles 12:2) and Neco (2 Kings 23:29).

The United Monarchy

David’s existence has been questioned frequently. Examples of petty monarchs ruling miniscule kingdoms in the Near East find rare mention in ancient sources, yet generally their historicity is taken at face value with minimal skepticism. Even Gilgamesh, the hero of the Epic of Gilgamesh, is thought to have been a historical figure ruling in Mesopotamia between 2600-2700 B.C. based on a reference in the famous Sumerian king list. Yet, David’s historicity is viewed with extreme suspicion, even though there are references to David found in the Tel Dan Inscription and the Moabite Stone, as well as numerous references in the Hebrew Bible. Indeed, Gilgamesh is thought to have been a real person despite being the semi-divine hero in a mythical composition, which also includes such fantastic details as a beast-man named Enkidu, a divinely sent creature of destruction called the Bull of Heaven, and a plant that can grant the person who eats it eternal life. David is frequently labeled a myth despite the solid evidence in favor of his existence.

The Divided Monarchy

Archaeology has vindicated the Bible’s mention of several figures that were once thought to have been fictional. The existence of Sargon (Isaiah 20:1) was questioned until a relief bearing his image was found in the throne room of his capital city of Dur-Sharrukin (“Fort Sargon”). Belshazzar (Daniel 5:1) was likewise questioned because Babylonian documents listed Nabonidus as the last king of the Babylonian empire. Scholars uncovered ancient evidence showing that Belshazzar co-ruled with his father Nabonidus, ruling from the city while Nabonidus sat for 10 years in self-imposed exile. Balaam (Numbers 22-24) has been located in an extrabiblical source called the Deir ‘Alla Inscription written during this period (Mazar, 1990, p. 330).

The Life of Christ

Archaeology does not always mention any one individual, and in the case of Christ, more substantial evidence comes from history rather than archaeology. One significant find is the 1990 discovery of the ossuary (bone box) of Joseph Caiaphas, high priest at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion (John 11:49-53). Jesus is mentioned by the Roman writers Suetonius and Tacitus, the Roman governor Pliny the Younger, and is indirectly referenced by the Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata. He is also noted in a Jewish composition from the fifth century called the Toledoth Jesu, which gives an alternate explanation for the empty tomb from a hostile source. Jesus is far from the “myth” critics claim Him to be.

The Early Church

Inscriptions have revealed the names of numerous individuals mentioned in the New Testament. Gallio, proconsul of Achaia (Acts 18:12-17), is mentioned in an inscription found at the city of Delphi. Paul’s friend Erastus (Acts 19:22) is likely mentioned in an inscription found at Corinth. Sergius Paulus, mentioned as the first convert on the island of Cyprus, was proconsul (a Roman governor) when the apostle Paul visited the island (Acts 13:7). He is mentioned in an inscription found near Paphos (Reed, 2007, p. 13).

After the evidence is surveyed, it is apparent that much of the criticism of the Bible arises—not from intense scrutiny of the evidence—but from ignorance of it. The overwhelming weight of the archaeological and historical evidence firmly places the Bible in the sphere of reality rather than myth.

Knowing Should Lead to Knowing How Much One Does Not Know

Part of the problem with secular science is that it focuses on empirical data, but has little to no interest in epistemology: the study of how human beings know what we know. This great divorce has become clearer over the past couple of centuries, and is on full display in books like The God Delusion, where Richard Dawkins commits dozens of logical errors. Many of his arguments fail because he is not conversant with religion. They also suffer from his lack of understanding how evidence outside his specialty is to be interpreted and applied.

Journalist David Klinghoffer points out: “A favorite strategy of such groups has long been to attack cartoon versions of older rival religions” (2007). He cites as evidence Dawkins’ now-infamous phrase about the God of the Hebrew Bible being “arguably the most unpleasant character in fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 31). No believer in the Judeo-Christian tradition would ever agree to this assessment, nor would anyone familiar with the Bible defend it. While Prophet argues that contrarians like Dawkins should not be labeled as ignorant of religion (2008), the evidence argues powerfully against him.

The unmitigated vitriol that pervades the works of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris is a clear indicator that their intolerance of Christianity is not motivated by objective reason. These men give every appearance of being desperate to artificially maintain a hatred of God. They fail to demonstrate sufficient familiarity with the Bible and fail in understanding the ancient evidence supporting it.

Christians everywhere should be reminded that grandiose assertions, unsupported by adequate evidence, can be dismissed safely. This is the case with much of the material produced by the new militant breed of atheism—which makes many bold claims and offers remarkably little proof. Such is certainly the case with the facts concerning the reliability and historicity of Scripture. Boisterous claims do nothing to bolster their case when Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris find themselves contradicted by the evidence. If these three are the best that militant atheism has to offer, Christians have nothing to fear.


Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Dawkins, Richard (2006), The God Delusion (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin).

Dever, William (2001), “Excavating the Hebrew Bible or Burying It Again?” Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, 322: 67-77, May.

Dever, William (2005), Did God Have a Wife? (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Ehrman, Bart (2005), Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (New York: HarperSanFrancisco).

Ehrman, Bart (2008), God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer (New York: HarperOne).

Ehrman, Bart (2009), Jesus Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them) (New York: HarperOne).

Finkelstein, Israel and Neil Asher Silberman (2001), The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts (New York: Free Press).

Garrett, Duane (2000), Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Pentateuch (Geanies House, Fern: Christian Focus Publications).

Haught, John F. (2008), God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox).

Hitchens, Christopher (2007), God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything(New York: Hachette).

Hoffmeier, James K. (1996), Israel in Egypt: The Evidence for the Authenticity of the Exodus Tradition (Oxford: Oxford University Press).

Jackson, Wayne (1991), “Are There Two Creation Accounts in Genesis?

Kaiser, Walt C. Jr. (2001), The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? (Downers Grove, IL: IVP).

Kitchen, Kenneth A., trans. (2000) “The Battle of Kadesh—The Poem, or Literary Record,” The Context of Scripture, Volume Two: Monumental Inscriptions Form the Biblical World (Leiden: Brill).

Kitchen, Kenneth A. (2003), On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).

Klinghoffer, David (2007), “Prophets of the New Atheism,”

Lazare, Daniel (2002), “False Testament: Archaeology Refutes the Bible’s Claim to History,” Harper’s Magazine, 304/1822:39-47, March.

Levin, Yigal (2002), “Let There Be Light,” Harper’s Magazine, 304[1825]:4, June.

Lucian of Samosata (no date), “The Death of Peregrine,” in H.W. Fowler and F.G. Fowler (1905), The Works of Lucian of Samosata (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

Mazar, Amihai (1990), Archaeology of the Land of the Bible, 10,000-586 B.C.E.(New York: Doubleday).

Meyers, P.Z. (2006), “The Courtier’s Reply,”

Miller, Dave (2003), “The Genealogies of Matthew and Luke,”

Mills, David (2006), Atheist Universe: The Thinking Person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism (Berkley, CA: Ulysses Press).

Prophet, Sean (2008), “Pastor Acknowledges Arguments of New Atheism,”

Reed, Jonathan (2007), The HarperCollins Visual Guide to the New Testament: What Archaeology Reveals about the First Christians (New York: HarperOne).

Sherwin-White, Adrian Nicholas (1963), Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament(Oxford: Clarendon).

Wolf, Gary (2006), “Church of the Non-Believers,”

For many “professing” Christian theists there’s nothing quite like watching an atheist get an intellectual walloping from a preacher. There’s just something apocalyptic about it, and it most easily occurs when the atheist tries to chop up religion to irrelevancy without realizing that he is himself awfully religious. However, a true Christian believer should never take delight with, or participation in, belittling, or persecuting, another. Christ calls us to “Love One Another (Loving Thy neighbor) ;” even those who might persecute us by .

It happened again recently at the Cambridge Union debating society when former Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams took on the best known name in contemporary atheism, Richard Dawkins. They were debating whether religion has a role in the 21st century.

Dawkins said it didn’t.

Williams said it did.

Everyone needs and everyone has a “God.” That’s why we’re so religious. In the end, Williams was handed a decidedly strong victory with more than two times as many votes from the audience as the infamous atheist, Dawkins. It was a triumphant day for the faithful and a shameful one for the irreligious.

But actually no one really is irreligious. This world beats to the rhythm of religion in a thousand ways, and absolutely everyone is religious — including atheists.

Religion certainly includes an idea of a God under whom man is inherently subservient, but religion also governs the belief system undergirding the way people think about, and live, their lives. It tells them who their authority is and it informs their values and behavior. It gives them their sense of morality and goodwill, and it guides them in the way they treat themselves and others. Religion does nothing less than construct one’s view of the world.

Atheists are, in fact, some of the most religious people.

First, they have a functioning God under whom they are subservient (normally it’s science or rationality, but mainly themselves), and that idea of God informs the way they live and interpret their lives. It informs their biases and determines their values, and governs any sense of morality or ethics they adhere too, or ignore.

Once that’s all settled all that’s left is the preaching.

And they preach all the time. This new breed of atheists is obsessed with the idea of God. They write books, deliver speeches, comment – bomb the evangelical blogosphere and generally rant on ad nauseam about the ills of believing in God. Honestly – comically – some atheists must type the word “God” on the Internet five times more often than most Christians I know and they do it with the fury of a fire-and-brimstone zealot!

Maybe no one invokes the name of “God” more than they, and they are doing so in more and more virulent ways such as the shocking moment when Dr. Dawkins recently told Al-Jazeera television that he believed being raised Catholic was in itself even more psychologically damaging than being abused by a priest!

Instead of just ignoring God, or the idea of God, atheist preachers feel somehow compelled to rid the Earth of him; so they argue endlessly that theists can’t prove God exists without confessing that they can’t prove he doesn’t either.

Occasionally, some of them discover that they do indeed worship a God, but it is an insufficient one. They worship a God that loses his car keys when they are in his hand, or that misplaces the glasses on his face – a God filled with flaws and inadequacies, and a God (themselves) whose probability of helping them supernaturally is absolutely zero.

Everyone needs and everyone has a “God.” That’s why we’re so religious.

It’s a matter of which religion is yours.

One of the nice things about the Christian God is that he seems to be as concerned about those that do not believe as those who do. Or as one skeptic-turned-believer has said of the Him, “a young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere – God is, if I may say it, very unscrupulous.”

He knew it well.

For C.S. Lewis, the iconic British scholar, was himself a convert from the religion of the atheism to the religion of Christianity because, as he later said: “atheism turns out to be too simple. ”Oddly enough, atheists often accuse theists of being the simple ones. We are “anti-intellectual,” they say, and in so doing they become exactly what they accuse us of being. It must be an unfortunate plight to be both anti-intellectual and religious!

The United States 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rules Atheism is a Religion:

After finding that plaintiffs atheism was not a “religion” within the meaning of the First Amendment, I (District Court for the Western district of Wisconsin) granted summary judgment in favor of defendants in an order dated February 9, 2004. On August 19, 2005, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed this court’s decision, holding that atheism was plaintiffs religion and that summary judgment was improper because defendants had advanced no secular reason for permitting inmates of other religions to form study groups while denying plaintiff the same permission: To review the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision visit: Kaufman v. McCaughtry, 419 F.3d 678, 682 (7th Cir.2005).

By Robin Schumacher

At first blush, they couldn’t seem more different. Atheism denies the existence of any supernatural deity, whereas Islam (whose name means ‘submission’) is monotheistic in nature and asserts a supreme supernatural god named Allah. Atheism denies any life beyond this world, while Islam teaches that those Muslims whose good works exceed their bad will spend eternity with Allah after life on earth, with both Muslims who lack works and non-Muslims being punished after death. And on it goes.
However, there is one thing that both the faith of atheism (yes, atheism is indeed a faith-based system) and Islam have in common: they aggressively do everything in their power to silence any voice that dares to challenge their ideology.
Now, to be fair, I must add a qualifier to both atheism and Islam in this regard. I have had dialogs with both atheists and Muslims who were very respectful, truly considered my arguments for Christianity, certainly respected my intelligence, and defended my right to voice an opinion that was contrary to their own. I have benefited greatly in discussions with such people, and appreciate their correcting me on inadequate arguments that I asked them to consider.
By contrast, it is militant Islam and atheism (which I call hatetheism) that seeks to stifle any person that calls into question the validity of their worldview.
The fact that militant Islam practices such a thing is no news to anyone remotely educated on that movement. One needs to look no further than the high-profile imprisonment of Youcef Nadarkhani who was arrested in 2009 for being a Christian and preaching Christianity in Iran. The formal charge labeled against pastor Youcef is blasphemy against Islam.
While militant Islam’s persecution against non-Muslims is widely acknowledged, what isn’t so well known is that hatetheism operates in the exact same way as militant Islam.
Hatetheism both insults and tries to humiliate anyone who professes faith in God, and does everything it can to silence those it considers its enemies. For example, comedian Bill Maher has openly stated that the opinions of religious people should not be respected, and has gone on to say: “We are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. . . . I think religion is a neurological disorder. . . . I am just embarrassed that it has been taken over by people like evangelicals, by people who do not believe in science and rationality.”[1]
Sporting such a spirit, it is not surprising that hatetheism has no desire for any dialog with others who do not share its position. A case in point is the first “Reason Rally”, which is being held in Washington D.C. on March 24, 2012, with headliners like Richard Dawkins and other similar famous atheists being present.
When Tom Gilson, editor of the book True Reason, contacted David Silverman of American Atheists to inform them that Christians would be present at the Reason Rally, and were interested in having a respectful dialog with the atheist group with a formal debate between Dawkins and Christian apologist William Lane Craig also being proposed, he was told the following:
no mistake – you are not welcomed guests at the rally. We are not going to DC for ‘dialogue’ with people who believe ridiculous things – we are going to have fun with other like-minded people. Those who proselytize or interfere with our legal and well-deserved enjoyment will be escorted to the 1st Amendment pen by security, which will be plentiful, where you can stand with the Westborough [sic] Baptists and shout yourselves hoarse.
Spreading out among the crowd is not a substitute for a permit. Indeed, I will be meeting with the Parks Commission on Thursday to discuss how to handle your infiltrative permitless counter-protest.[2]

While Silverman and his group have no problem erecting billboards during times such as Christmas and Easter that mock Christianity and thus insert themselves into Christians’ holidays, it appears they have no desire to have Christians ‘intrude’ into their events.
So much for being ‘free thinkers’.
One last illustration of hatetheism doing its best to silence its opponents is when supposed ‘neutral’ scientists, who are really devotees to philosophical naturalism, shut down any peer that dares to challenge certain teachings of evolution. A good example of this is the current legal case of David Coppedge vs. his former employer, NASA, who first demoted and then fired Coppedge after he shared DVD’s of intelligent design with some of his co-workers.
Commenting on how aggressive the adherents to naturalism can be, paleontologist Jun-Yuan Chen has stated, “In China we can criticize Darwin, but not the government; in America you can criticize the government, but not Darwin.”[3] Those knowing the history of this battle in academia will remember that Darwinian advocates only asked that their view be taught alongside intelligent design in the early 1900’s, but now they do everything in their power to shut the door in ID’s face. Noting the double standard in situations like this, Ravi Zacharias has said: “Is it not odd that whenever it has power, liberalism is anything but liberal, both in the area of religion and politics?” We can also add science to that list.
I think most everyone would agree with the argument that the only reason a person should believe anything is because that particular ‘thing’ is true. If Islam is true, we should all be Muslims; if atheism is true, then we should all be atheists; and if Christianity is true, we should all be Christ followers.
But the fact is, sometimes people who say they are truth seekers aren’t interested in hearing the truth. There are other factors at work other than a commitment to what’s really true, and these influences can often bring together those who are otherwise enemies of each other.
Without a doubt, militant Islam and hatetheism seem to have absolutely nothing in common. But when it comes to shutting down anyone who dares to oppose them, they couldn’t be more alike, and indeed make comfortable bedfellows.

[1] This last comment is especially absurd as the number of believing scientists, philosophers, historians, and other thinkers are legion.


[3] John Lennox, God’s Undertaker, Has Science Buried God, pg. 93.

Can an atheist act in moral and ethical ways? Certainly, he can. All humans still retain the image of God upon them, even after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. The image of God was effaced at the fall, but it was not erased, and so man still understands right and wrong no matter how many try to say otherwise. Even atheists react to this inherent knowledge of right and wrong, some even to the extent of living exemplary lives.

C.S. Lewis put it this way: if a man sees another in danger, the first instinct is to rush to help (altruism). But a second voice intervenes and says, “No, don’t endanger yourself,” which is in keeping with self-preservation. But then a third voice comes into play and says, “No, you ought to help.” Where does that third voice come from, asks Lewis? This is what is referred to as the “ought-ness” of life. Morality is what people do, but ethics describe what people ought to do. And yes, people know what they ought to do, but that doesn’t mean that they always act according to that knowledge.

The difference between the atheist and the Christian in this sense is that the atheist may act ethically for certain reasons (e.g., not wanting to go to jail, it disrupts social order, it makes them look good to others, etc.), but he has no ultimate reason for acting ethically because there is no ultimate moral authority that exists over each sphere of his life. Without this ultimate authority, each atheist defines morality on his own terms, although his morality is influenced by the remnants of morality from the image of God within, along with the strictures and constraints of the culture and society in which the atheist exists.

The Christian, on the other hand, acts morally out of the knowledge of the moral law given by God in His Word and a love for the Law-giver Himself. In addition, that knowledge is continually increased and personalized by the indwelling Spirit of God, whose task it is to bring the Christian “into all truth” (John 16:13). From within believers, He directs, guides, comforts, and influences us, as well as producing in us the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). To the atheist who is without the Spirit, God’s truth is “foolishness,” because it is “spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14), and the only fruit of righteousness is self-righteousness, not the righteousness of Christ.

When confronted with a situation that demands both the Christian and the atheist to make moral choices, a situation in which societal constraints are removed, the reaction of each will be vastly different. If a society deems it morally acceptable to kill unborn babies, for instance, the atheist sees no reason to oppose the practice. His own “moral law” even tells him it’s the compassionate thing to do in cases where the child is the result of rape or incest. The Christian, however, knows abortion is wrong because his moral choices are built upon the moral Law-giver who has declared all human life to be sacred because it is created in the image of God. The Law-giver has proclaimed, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) and, for the Christian, there’s the end of it.

So can an atheist act ethically? Certainly, but he has no ultimate reason to do so and no ultimate authority to look to in order to ensure his line is indeed straight and unbendable.

The early 21st century has seen secularism and atheism promoted throughout the Western world with an ever-increasing vigor and militancy. This has led to the emergence of the “new atheists,” notable members of which include best-selling authors such as Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens.

The contention of the new atheists is, obviously, that there is no God. Adherents to the philosophy of new atheism believe that blind, natural forces are responsible for all of reality which we perceive. The new atheists do not restrict themselves to a passive disbelief. Rather, they are actively engaged in admonishing others to follow suit, to declare their non-belief in God, and to take the necessary steps to rid the world of religious belief and practice. As outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins puts it in The God Delusion, “I do everything in my power to warn people against faith itself.”

An ironic feature of the new atheism is its strong faith in the inferiority of having faith. The new atheists erroneously redefine “faith” as an “irrational belief in the absence of evidence.” This misrepresentation of the nature of faith is absurd, for faith is not essentially a strong belief in something, but rather the ground of Christian faith is believing in someone—God. A.W. Tozer said, “Faith rests upon the character of God, not upon the demonstration of laboratory or logic.” When one has faith in the character of a person, e.g. a mother or an aircraft pilot, one no longer needs to be skeptical or require strong evidence in respect to any service that he or she renders.

When it comes to things, Christians correctly approach the subject looking for strong evidence, while accepting that some matters may be beyond our current understanding. Indeed, many faith-filled scientists have been at the cutting edge of the scientific enterprise and test the evidence using thorough methods and techniques. The new atheists believe that empirical science is the only path to understanding reality. However, this is erroneous, since the very concept of “scientism” (the view that science is the only way to gain knowledge) is not itself subject to any scientific experiment and ultimately distills to a faith. Faith, far from being an “irrational belief in the absence of evidence,” is a decision to reckon as true something that is not visible. Scientism is a metaphysical concept. Thus, the new atheists require faith of some description, even if not in God. Scientism is self-refuting, and thus should not be believed. Scientism could be summed up as the belief that “empirical science is the only way to be sure about anything.” Of course, we might well then ask, “What was the scientific experiment that established that empirical science is the only way to be sure about anything?”

In contrast, theism is aligned with the reality of a transcendent God. Biblical theism is based around a set of sensible concepts, one of which is that there is no such thing as an atheist. Clearly the atheists have faith of a sort, if only in their power to influence others to join their atheistic pursuits. But one wonders why, if they truly believe God does not exist, they spend their lives trying to disprove His existence. Does a man spend a lifetime trying to disprove the existence of unicorns or elves? Of course not, because he knows they don’t exist and wouldn’t bother. Even if he knows others believe in unicorns and elves, he doesn’t dedicate his life to trying to debate them out of that belief. Romans 1:19-20 declares plainly that all men do know God exists because God has clearly revealed that knowledge to them through the evidence of creation. Those that deny God are doing so out of the rebellion of a darkened heart (Romans 1:21). Rather than the intellectual the self-described atheist imagines himself to be, God has pronounced, “The fool says in his heart ‘there is no god’” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1).

Atheism is the view that God does not exist. Atheism is not a new development. Psalm 14:1, written by David around 1000 B.C., mentions atheism: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Recent statistics show an increasing number of people claiming to be atheists, up to 10 percent of people worldwide. So why are more and more people becoming atheists? Is atheism truly the logical position atheists claim it to be?

Why does atheism even exist? Why doesn’t God simply reveal Himself to people, proving that He exists? Surely if God would just appear, the thinking goes, everyone would believe in Him! The problem here is that it is not God’s desire to just convince people that He exists. It is God’s desire for people to believe in Him by faith (2 Peter 3:9) and accept by faith His gift of salvation (John 3:16). God clearly demonstrated His existence many times in the Old Testament (Genesis 6-9; Exodus 14:21-22; 1 Kings 18:19-31). Did the people believe that God exists? Yes. Did they turn from their evil ways and obey God? No. If a person is not willing to accept God’s existence by faith, then he/she is definitely not ready to accept Jesus Christ  as Savior by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s desire is for people to become Christians, not just theists(those who believe God exists).

The Bible tells us that God’s existence must be accepted by faith. Hebrews 11:6 declares, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those  who earnestly seek Him.” The Bible reminds us that we are blessed when we believe and trust in God by faith: “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed’” (John  20:29).

The existence of God must be accepted by faith, but this does not mean belief in God is illogical. There are many good arguments for the existence of God. The Bible teaches that God’s existence is clearly seen in the universe (Psalm  19:1-4), in nature (Romans 1:18-22), and in our own hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). With all that said, the existence of God cannot be proven; it must be accepted by faith.

At the same time, it  takes just as much faith to believe in atheism. To make the absolute statement “God does not exist” is to make a claim of knowing absolutely everything there  is to know about everything and of having been everywhere in the universe and having witnessed everything there is to be seen. Of course, no atheist would  make these claims. However, that is essentially what they are claiming when they  state that God absolutely does not exist. Atheists cannot prove that God does not, for example, live in the center of the sun, or beneath the clouds of Jupiter, or in some distant nebula. Since those places are beyond our capacity to observe, it cannot be proven that God does not exist. It takes just as much faith to be an atheist as it does to be a theist.

Atheism cannot be proven, and God’s existence must be accepted by faith. Obviously, Christians believe strongly that God exists, and admit that God’s existence is a matter of faith. At the same time, we reject the idea that belief in God is illogical. We  believe that God’s existence can be clearly seen, keenly sensed, and proven to be philosophically and scientifically necessary. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4).

In 1997, the science journal Nature reported that 40 percent of scientists in the U.S. believed in a personal God—the same amount as had believed eighty years prior. However, when those results were filtered to include only members of the National Academy of Sciences, the number dropped to 10 percent. A Pew survey taken in 2009 records that 33 percent of scientists believe in God and another 18 percent in a higher power, compared to 94 percent of the general public. On the list of long-ago scientists who believed in God are Galileo, Descartes, Pascal, and Newton; more modern names have been added, such as Lord Kelvin, Max Planck, and Francis Collins.

So, to say that scientists don’t believe in God is a gross generalization. However, it is true that there are fewer believers in God among professionals in the scientific community than among the general public. Why?

For some scientists, atheism is a matter of faith, not of evidence. Hungarian biologist George Klein wrote to a Christian colleague, “I am indeed an atheist. My attitude is not based on science but rather on faith, just as you have your faith. The absence of a creator, the nonexistence of God is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.”

Other scientists deny God’s existence because of a commitment to materialism. Francis Crick, a molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist, was a materialist to the core. Materialism teaches that there is nothing in the cosmos besides matter and energy. The supernatural does not exist, and there is no such thing as thought, consciousness, or the soul. Crick even went so far as to predict that science would one day find that the act of prayer changes a neurotransmitter in the brain and induces a positive effect on the person praying.

Some scientists reject faith because of personal experiences. Marie Curie, the only scientist to win two Nobel Prizes in two different science categories, became an atheist or agnostic after the deaths of her mother and sister. It’s possible that this loss influenced her theological beliefs. Alan Turing, a mathematician and groundbreaking computer scientist, lost faith in God after the death of his first love. Refusing to believe a loving God would allow her death, Turing embraced materialism.

Some scientists simply see no use for God. Paul Dirac was a forefather of quantum mechanics. He believed science was well on its way to describing the universe in detail, and he saw religion as a political tool. String-theorist Brian Greene says, “Most scientists like to operate in the context of economy. If you don’t need an explanatory principle, don’t invoke it.”

Some atheistic scientists come from a religious background and purposefully reject it. Richard Leakey, a paleontologist and conservationist from Kenya, is the grandson of missionaries but was disillusioned with any kind of faith in God.

Some scientists see faith and science as mutually exclusive. James Watson, who with Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, thought belief in God would preclude his love of science. He loved science more than God.

There are scientists who simply don’t bother thinking about God. Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize laureate for his work in particle physics, said, “The experience of being a scientist makes religion seem fairly irrelevant. Most scientists I know simply don’t think about it very much. They don’t think about religion enough to qualify as practicing atheists.”

Some scientists are religious but deny any reality beyond tradition and ritual. Oliver Sacks, the neurologist portrayed by Robin Williams in the movie Awakenings, loves religion and feels comfortable in both Orthodox Jewish and Catholic settings. He explains that “nature itself seems so wonderful that I don’t feel a hunger for any concept beyond it.”

In short, scientists reject faith in God for the same reasons anyone else does. Their atheism is built on some foundational choices:

1) They choose to worship “created things rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25).
2) They choose to embrace “opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge” (1 Timothy 6:20).
3) They choose to retain their sin instead of repenting (John 3:19).
4) They choose to limit their definition of truth to what can be empirically discovered. Unfortunately, the truth of God cannot be discovered via the scientific method. “The world through its wisdom did not know him” (1 Corinthians 1:21).
5) They choose pride over humility (James 4:6).

One other reason for their rejection of God has to do with the enemy of their souls. “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 4:4). We must never forget that we are involved in a spiritual battle. The human intellect, no matter how lofty, must be redeemed by Christ.

God gives grace to the humble. “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential. . . . But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:26-27).

Of course, not all scientists reject God. Dr. Francis S. Collins is the former head of the National Human Genome Research Institute. As a young man, Collins was well on his way to atheism when a woman dying of heart disease confronted him about his beliefs. He realized that none of his scientific work answered the bigger questions in life. Later, a minister gave him C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Something about the irrefutability of natural moral law resonated with him, and he became a Christian. The moment Dr. Collins was saved, there was “rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God” (Luke 15:10).