How to Evangelize An Atheist
Yesterday I posted a video about patronizing Christian author and radio personality June Hunt and her demonstration on how to convert an atheist using a simplistic argument and drawing.
Today, Jason Boyett, of O Me of Little Faith made some observations on Hunt’s argument.
But it occurs to me that, using the same logic, the same isn’t-your-knowledge-pretty-limited? circle-drawing approach would be just as effective in forcing a Christian to consider that Allah could be the true god and Islam the one true religion. Because couldn’t some form of truth exist outside that which think we know?
It could also force us to admit that Norse mythology could an accurate worldview. Or that Joseph Smith and his Mormon faith were true. Or that Mictlantecuhtli, the skeletal Aztec god of death who wears a necklace of human eyeballs, could possible exist in a horrible afterlife somewhere outside our limited range of knowledge.
Know any Christians who are just a few quick questions away from making those leaps? Me neither. Then why do we expect atheists to be ready to do the same?
Jason ends his argument this way, “I think humility is good, and admitting the limits of our knowledge is healthy. That’s why we doubt: because we don’t know everything. And that’s also why we seek truth.” However, in his rebuttal to Hunt he has made the same error she has: belief and knowledge are not the same thing.
Let me give you an example. Recently, in fact just a couple of weeks ago during Thanksgiving (I’m in Canada) I had a conversation with one of the persons on my wife’s side of the family. There are members on my wife’s side of the family that are into Religious Science or the Science of the Mind. Unfortunately, what they have is a weird form of religion with absolutely no science!
Anyways, in a discussion of our ‘beliefs’ this family member stated that they could light the candle sitting on the table with their mind if they really, really wanted to do so. To my chagrin this person had support. For some reason, after making their argument that they could do magic with their mind they decided to ask me, “Don’t you think so Scott?”
My response? “No, that’s absolute bullshit.”
We’ll see if I get my invite to Christmas.
Anyways, I went on to say after they asked me why: We live in the scientific age. We know how combustion works. We can repeatedly test it under observable conditions that will be sustainable upon peer-review. We have knowledge of how fire and combustion work. If we line up one hundred candles and you try to light every single one with your mind, and I try to light every single one with a lighter, you will light zero and I will light one hundred.
What we see here then is that I have knowledge of how fire and lighting a candle work. It is good and adequate knowledge. I may run out of fuel and not be able to light a candle but it is not because my knowledge is inadequate or limited. What my relative had was a belief of how those forces (acted upon by their magic mental abilities!) worked. It is a bad and inadequate belief. It will never, ever light a candle. To say following this discussion, “Well it’s possible that outside of your limited knowledge of how fire works that it’s possible I can light candles with the power of my mind is confusing and fundamentally missing the point!
To ask a person who is committed to observable data and to processes that reasonably explain that data to revert to a God of the gaps, or to “beliefs” is like asking a fish to stop swimming in water and receiving its oxygen in that medium.
So how does one evangelize an atheist? I’m not sure. Demonstrating your arguments in a repeatable format might be a real good place to start… but apologetics? Nah, I don’t think so, “even with powerful illustrations of empty circles.” (Boyett)