→ Six tips from an atheist on talking with non-Christians


Chris Stedman is an atheist, an ex-evangelical, and an assistant chaplain at Harvard. He’s written some advice to Christians who are wanting to talk constructively with atheists about faith:

As someone who lives in the tension of my evangelical past and atheist present, and as someone who maintains abiding and mutually inspiring relationships with Christians, I understand that many of my Christian friends are trying to discern how to navigate these swiftly changing times. And I definitely empathize with their frustrations over the less productive exchanges that often occur between Christians and non-Christians.

I’d like to humbly suggest six ways Christians might have more constructive conversations with non-Christians.

I’m not with him every step of the way, but it’s a fascinating insight into how these kind of conversations are perceived and how they might proceed. Worth a read.

(h/t Nic Swadling)

→ Where are the honest atheists?


From a fascinating article by Damon Linker at The Week on the continuing crop of ‘new atheists’:

If atheism is true, it is far from being good news. Learning that we’re alone in the universe, that no one hears or answers our prayers, that humanity is entirely the product of random events, that we have no more intrinsic dignity than non-human and even non-animate clumps of matter, that we face certain annihilation in death, that our sufferings are ultimately pointless, that our lives and loves do not at all matter in a larger sense, that those who commit horrific evils and elude human punishment get away with their crimes scot free — all of this (and much more) is utterly tragic.

(h/t Jean Williams)

Are the Atheists Right about Christmas?


This Christmas the American Atheists have posted a large billboard in Times Square New York. It has two pictures: one of Santa Claus and the other of Jesus on the cross. The captions under the pictures are “Keep the Merry” and “Dump the Myth”. Apart from having the captions under the wrong pictures, the sentiment is one I agree with. (more…)

New Atheism: There’s probably no lasting impact


I think the New Atheists are overrated. I find myself under-whelmed at their bus campaigns, their books, the way that journalists throw softball questions in response to their every problematic pronouncement, and their whole position. I have been scratching my head for years trying to work out where all the interest in them comes from, let alone why they are treated as some kind of serious attack on religion in general and the Christian faith in particular. (more…)

→ A debating trick gone wrong?


In a recent audio podcast from Freakonomics called “Soul Possession” they talk to a Christian guy who in debating atheists would try to buy their soul, since they placed no value in it… and also to the guy who took him up on his offer.

It gets bogged down a bit in the middle as they run away with the idea a bit, but it’s an interesting discussion: is this a rhetorical move gone awry, or a useful discussion to have?

Listen to it here.

Not a lot of hope in humanity

Reading Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists is like watching a train-wreck of a sermon.

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such a remarkable combination of astute observation and analysis of how religion and ritual affect our relationships and us alongside such a bare-knuckled insistence on missing the point of it all. He freely acknowledges this, of course:

Professor versus Cardinal (#qanda)

Life, Sola Panel

Here in Australia last week’s Q&A on ABC television was an Easter Monday special, featuring Professor Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, and Sydney’s Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell for a live discussion of faith, science, and morality. The show’s audience was 863,000, its biggest audience since it covered the 2010 federal election. (more…)

New Atheism (8): The next generation—The Neo-New Atheists, part 2


Last post I argued that Davies, Pratchett, Whedon, and Adams handle death far more empathically and sensitively than is New Atheism’s tendency. It is similar when it comes to meaning in life. These writers do not agree with each other about the answer to the meaning of life, but they all share far more in common than they do with New Atheism. (more…)

New Atheism (6): Different strokes for different blokes—Christian leaders


The third group is Christian leaders. The issues here are usually much the same as the second group, and the solutions will work much the same. The distinctive extra element leaders bring to the table is the particular demands that come from exercising some kind of leadership role. On the one hand, they usually (if they’re any good) have high expectations of themselves. So the ambiguities and compromises of life can often vitiate their sense of the vitality of the Christian life more than for ‘run of the mill’ believers. The right expectation that they will be an exemplar of the life of faith puts pressure on them that sometimes ends up being directed to the reality of God himself. Their falling short in life and godliness can make the whole faith seem less real. This in turn can leave them vulnerable to arguments that the faith is merely a human construct, with no inner objectivity or power. (more…)

New Atheism (5): Different strokes for different blokes—Younger and older Christians


Which Christians are particularly vulnerable to New Atheism’s polemics? The first group is teenagers and young adults growing up in some kind of Christian framework. This group will generally be relatively ignorant of the content of the Christian faith and how it can answer challenges such as that presented by New Atheism, as they haven’t had time to mature and sink their roots down deep. They are in the process of transitioning into the man or woman they are going to be and so are usually, whether they realize it or not, coming to conclusions about where they stand in relation to the God they have grown up with. They are in the process of deciding whether or not, and if so to what degree, their life will be a pursuit of the kingdom of God. (more…)

New Atheism (4): Different strokes for different folks—Ground zero


The third group New Atheism has an effect on is Christian believers. It seems to have some success in persuading some people to abandon their faith. My impression is that the numbers involved are fairly small, and New Atheism’s effect is usually only one of a constellation of factors; there’s usually a number of other things going on in that person’s life. Nonetheless, given New Atheism’s weaknesses and flaws it’s a bit surprising it has any effect at all. (more…)

New Atheism (3): Different strokes for different folks—The enemy of my enemy mightn’t be my friend but boy is he useful!


The second main group relating to New Atheism is ‘Joe and Jill Average’. This is the average Aussie or English or American, etc. They are not signed up members of New Atheism, but they aren’t signed up believers in anything in the way of organized religion either. They’re the bread-and-butter target of our evangelism. (more…)