It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist

Here is a conversation I hear over and over in evangelical circles:

Atheist: “How can you believe that God created the world in 6 24-hour days out of nothing? That sounds pretty ridiculous considering the amount of evidence we have for the slow progression of life on earth.”

“How can you believe that people came from monkeys? That sounds pretty ridiculous. I think it actually takes more faith to believe in evolution. Given the incredible order and design of creation, the complexity of things like the human eye, not to mention the accuracy of the Bible, it makes more sense for me to believe that an all-powerful God created everything than that we all came from monkeys over billions of years.”

Atheist: “But we have evidence for evolution. All you have is the Bible. You are an uneducated idiot.”

Evangelical: “I have to stay strong. The Bible says that my faith won’t make sense to the world. I should expect to be persecuted for having faith in God. I don’t need “scientific” evidence, I have all the evidence I need: I trust the Bible.”

I would gather that most evangelicals have had this conversation. Some have literally had this conversation with an atheist. But most have this conversation in the privacy of their own head, every time they hear someone “going on and on about the so-called theory of evolution” or someone making fun of the seeming absurdity of Christian belief. But evolution is just a test-case. This same conversation is had about any number of things: the miracles of the Bible, the “literalness” of the Bible, even the Resurrection of Jesus.

And it sounds innocent enough. But it’s not. The evangelical response in this conversation is hypocritical and unfair.

When we are faced with scientific evidence or discrepancies in the Bible that seem to undermine our way of reading the Bible, we want to play the victim. We must resist the temptation to believe the evidence and simply “have faith.” That means we must trust the Bible (or I would argue, our way of reading the Bible, but many do not understand that those are two different things) against the evidence of scientists, “godless” Bible scholars who have been influenced by “the world,” anthropologists, etc.

But, when we believe that the scientific evidence supports our way of reading the Bible, then we are no longer the victims but the reasonable ones. When this is the case, we make Christianity sound like the most reasonable thing in the world. Are you kidding me? The theory of evolution? That sounds asinine. Christians are smarter than that nonsense. For instance, Norman Geisler wrote a popular book in 2004 called I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. In other words, if we just look at the evidence, Christianity is the most reasonable option.*

So which is it? It sounds hypocritical to try to have both. So, let me get this straight. Whenever the evidence is in our favor, we like it and use it to point to the “truth” of Christianity over against atheism or other religions. If you don’t believe that evidence you are being unreasonable.

But whenever the evidence is not in our favor, we dismiss it as “the godless agenda of science” and fall back on “the only evidence we need is (our way of reading) the Bible.” And if you believe that evidence you have been corrupted by “the world” and lack faith.

It sounds more like someone who mocks nice cars because secretly they wish they had one than trying to reflect the humility we find in Jesus.

I love evangelicalism in the way I grew up with it. But, as this blog can attest, I often have a hard time understanding it. I find it full of inconsistencies that are hard to reconcile. This is one of those areas. And I believe this is an area that truly hurts our image in the world. We arrogantly proclaim we are the most reasonable option in the world when it suits us and we play the innocent victim who is being persecuted for our beliefs when the evidence game is not going our way. Who wants to be a part of such a manipulative system?

But my goal in this and all posts is always deconstruction, not destruction. It is a critique-so-that-it-can-be-stronger, not a critique-it-because-i-am-angry. Those are two very different projects. My posts are always about starting a conversation, never about ending them. So may the conversation begin.

*I talk about this more here.

7 responses to “It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist

  1. Jared,
    As someone who invests a lot of time learning developmental psychology, I see holes in both of these (although the atheist is still more advanced). I believe that if people are constantly growing, the way they go about doing this is in this process:

    Pre-rational (evangelical in your model) to rational (the atheist) and then into transrational (the truth that transcends and includes both).

    Transrational faith can live with paradox (which the rational, western, platonic mind won’t understand) but it also sees the value in the either/or model

  2. I find the same anger towards logic within evangelical circles. I was self-trained in apologetics to argue that the belief that all religions are correct is completely contradictory. But when I want to argue that something else is contradictory, they say that God is outside of logic and works in mysterious ways. You cant have your cake and eat it too.

  3. “Pied Beauty by Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Glory be to God for dappled things—
    For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
    Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
    Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

    All things counter, original, spare, strange;
    Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
    He Fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
    Praise Him.”

    [Praise Him, too, for Atheists and
    Transrationalists, Evangelicalists and
    Bumble brained Agnostics;
    All parse facets of true things
    For mental complex and sleight of mind.

    All their counter, original, spare, strange,
    Misses under our noses and over our heads,
    From organelles to cosmos adazzle dappled glory,
    Simple evidence for God’s hand touches love,
    Praise Him.]

    (my brackets)

  4. Pingback: Blog Rewind | Jared Byas

  5. Great post!

    I think that really, what it all comes down to, is whether we as Christians accept that God is the author of all things and all that is true. This includes scientific AND biblical/revealed truth. Pitting the two against each other is something I would consider deeply unchristian and maybe even slightly gnostic.
    There are problems on both ends of the spectrum as well. Many scientists aren’t doing science in a reasonable way, i. e. they believe that science can completely disprove Christianity. Many Christians have strange beliefs about the Bible as well (think Ken Hamm’s statement “I don’t interpret the Bible; I just read it.”)
    So to unpack this I think we’d have to look at a lot of things, but most importantly would be philosophies of science and methods of biblical interpretation. That’s where the conflict truly is, not in the facts themselves.

  6. Pingback: The Irony of the Remnant Majority | Jared Byas

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