A couple of days ago CNN ran a blog post by Rachel Evans entitled, “Why Millennials are leaving the Church”. This post has gone viral and has the blogging world in a spin. In the post she expressed her thoughts on why many Gen-Xers and Millennials are leaving the Western Church. For her, there is a disingenuous element to much of the “seeker-friendly” evangelical church, which does not sit well with this new generation, which is longing for genuine, gracious, and real-life community. There are elements of her argument, which I do not fully agree with, however, overall I think she articulated the larger ideas of why this demographic is bleeding out of the church. If you would like to read the full article it is available above.
However, what caught my eye in regards to this story was another CNN blog post written in response hers. This other post was simply entitled, “Why are millennials leaving the church? Try atheism” by Hemant Mehta. In this post Mehta makes the assertion that while the Church might be pushing people away, there is also a force pulling them out. He claims that the rise of Atheism is also a contributing factor in why people are leaving the church.
He believes that Atheism and science provides answers to questions, which are not being answered in churches. He, like many Atheists, asserts that the biblical narrative is full of contractions, myths, and falsities, which people blindly follow. Therefore, when people who were raised in the Church, get to an age of searching for themselves, they run from the teachings of the Church. He specifically attributes this to the internet’s ability to get new ideas to a larger group people and says, when it comes to internet influence, “atheists dominate”.
With this said, the question is, which is the greater influence, the Church or Atheism? To be honest, I am not sure nor do I think it matters. Truth is truth regardless of who claims it. What I am sure of, this millennial generation is longing for authenticity and honesty. Yet, this is where both sides are falling miserably.
It is this dishonesty, which needs to be addressed. In the tug of war happening for the younger generation, each side needs to be willing to admit some things.
In this post I will be addressing the atheistic dishonesty. Please keep an eye out for a follow up to the Church.
As person who spends an enormous amount of time listening to Atheistic arguments, I have to say that I am often disappointed with some Atheists intentional or unintentional misguidance. I have listened to hours and hours of debate and read pages and pages of books and articles. From my perspective, here is what I’ve learned.
First, Atheists claim there is no God because there is no evidence to show that one exists. Most intellectually honest Atheists will admit there is no real way of knowing, but decide to not believe in one because there is no evidence for one. Until there is empirical evidence for God’s existence, there is no reason to give it thought.
Second, since there is no external power, which creates and dictates, there must be a naturalistic basis for everything. This is where the study of science, and the use of logic and reason come in. The use of logic, reason, and scientific law should be enough to explain or eventually explain all that is necessary in life.
Here is where I see the dishonesty. In all my time listening to debates, there is almost always an Atheistic divergence away from science, logic, and reason, and into theology. Often, within the debate, the use of scientific law, logic, and reason are undermined, since there is no empirical evidence for understanding where these have come from. The theistic argument usually says that one cannot claim to use logic and reason without giving the basis for understanding where these laws have come from.
While they often have many lucid arguments against such an assertion, time and time again I’ve seen the Atheist get frustrated with the Theist. At this point, the Atheist inevitably leaves the arguments based on science, logic, and reason and instead attempt to undermine (usually) the Bible, the morality of God, or the morality of believers today or in the past. In the end, they resort to giving their own theological conclusions.
I have seen this time and time again and even with each of the “four horse men” of Atheism; Dawkins, Harris, Bennent, and Hitchens, as well as, many others. In fact, Dawkins and Hitchens have their greatest claims to fame through their books, “The God Delusion” and “God Is Not Great”, respectively. Each of these books spends enormous amounts of time undermining “God” by providing their own theological interpretations of Scripture or religious thought.
In an excellently written article, atheist Curtis White calls the hypocrisy out by calling it “intellectual dishonesty”. In the following extended quote, White describes his issue with the deception. He is specifically referring to Christopher Hitchens and his writing. White said,
“But what I am most concerned with is not Hitchens’s sloppy or altogether missing knowledge of theology. What I want to describe is how irresponsible his thinking is within his own professed area of expertise, Western literature and philosophy. I have “four irreducible objections” (Hitchens’s phrase): he does not acknowledge, and may not recognize at all, his own brand of metaphysics and magical thinking; he does not admit to the destructiveness of this metaphysic; he ignores the spiritual and anti-rational contributions of 19th-and 20th-century literature and philosophy; and his own thinking is ultimately an expression of faith.
I’ll begin with Hitchens’s metaphysics. Of course, a large part of his book is devoted to denouncing the stupidity of religious metaphysics, especially the idea that God is an entity outside of the ordinary workings of nature. But Hitchens has his own metaphysical claims, claims for which he seems not to feel any need to create arguments. In opposition to religion he proposes Enlightenment reason. What is “reason” for Hitchens? Your guess is as good as mine. Is it the rules of logic? Is it the scientific method? Is it Thomas Paine’s common sense? Some combination of the above? Hitchens seems to feel that, of course, everyone already knows what reason is and there is no need to elaborate its function or its virtues. But this “of course” is the marker of ideology, and the ideologist resists examining his own assumptions because to do so would be to make vulnerable his claims to authority. So eager is Hitchens to get on to the next item in his concatenation of religious insults to reason that he can’t be bothered to say what he means by the term. The one thing that he does seem to be sure of is that reason is something that shouldn’t be “outraged.” Nevertheless, there is no real difference between Hitchens’s outrage to reason and an evangelical’s outrage to God” (White 2013, full article here).
To the Atheist and those on the fence…
First, while I would not discourage your questioning of things, I would ask for less of a superiority complex. Please stop assuming there is no element of faith in believing in a naturalistically based world with no metaphysical characteristics. Until there is empirical evidence for scientific law, logic, and reason please just admit there is an element of the unknown and therefore an element of faith. Furthermore, the argument of “well we know these to exist because we see the results of them taking place over and over again” is no argument. Are you really so blind to see that this is the exact argument for the belief in God? We believe in Him “because we see the results of Him take place over and over again”.
Second, if your worldview truly stands as truth, then there is no reason to enter the world of theology by giving your opinion of things like the biblical text. Quite frankly, you sound ridiculous when you try to exegete a biblical text. This is no different than me, an individual not educated in things of biology and physics, attempting to lay claims in the scientific world. Trust me, I’d come off ignorant to all those in the scientific community for my obviously incorrect assumptions.
Please remember there have been thousands of years worth of great thinkers, philosophers, and scientists who have wrestled with the same difficult biblical texts. They have given their entire lives to properly understanding these texts the same way many scientists give their lives to understanding their fields of study. Please stop assuming that your superficial, prejudiced reading of the text gives you the right to undermine what others have dedicated their lives to understanding. It is obnoxious, dishonest, and no different than a theologian arguing with you about evolutionary biology. Believe it or not, there are many lucid philosophical, historical, and even scientific basis’ for many beliefs.
Granted, there is much to learn through the use of science, logic, and reason and I’ll be the first to admit that believers in God (Christians in particular) need to be more open to scientific findings (I’ll be addressing this with church in my next post). However, the belief in the metaphysical is not a new phenomenon, rather it is basic to the human experience.
There is a natural tendency within the human condition, which longs to understand that which is outside of the natural. Can it be suppressed and ignored? Of course it can. However, should it be considering that the majority of humans that have existed have looked toward the supernatural? Are we arrogant enough to believe all of human history, including some of the world’s greatest thinkers and intellects, were mere ignoramuses compared to our modern sensibilities? That seems pretty dishonest to me…