Tuesday, December 13, 2005


(A) What is Atheism?

1) “Atheism” = Greek word derives from two words “A” and “theos”.
“A” means “No” and “theos” means “God”.
Atheism means “No-God-ism”

2) Not to be confused with
a) Agnostic – that will says “I don’t know whether God exists” or “I can’t know whether God
b) Skeptic – will say “I doubt that God exists”.

3) Atheists say “I know / believe that God does not exist”.

4) Atheism is not only a negative anti-theistic philosophy but positively affirms that matter is
the ultimate reality.

(B) Varieties of Atheism

1) Traditional / Metaphysical Atheism
- holds that there never was, is or will be a God.

2) Mythological Atheism
- popularized by Friedrich Nietzsche
- “God is dead”
- believe the God-myth was never a Being but was once a live model by which people lived.
This myth has been killed by the advancement of man’s understanding and culture.

3) Philosophical Atheism
- professes no god and lives as if there is no god.

4) Practical / Pragmatic Atheism
- professes existence of God but lives as if God does not exist.

(C) Main Tenets of Atheism

1) Reality
- Matter was, matter is and matter will be.
- Matter is the only reality

2) God
- God is a superstition, a myth, a psychological projection of human.
- God did not create man, man created God.

3) Human Beings
- a human being is matter in motion with no immortal soul.
- the product of evolution, random shuffling of molecules.
- no immortal soul, no spirit, no eternal destiny, no ultimate meaning.
- everything in this universe is meaningless.

4) World
- essentially matter or energy.
- the universe is the product of evolution.
- the universe is eternal or if not, it came into existence “out of nothing and by nothing”.

5) Evil
- evil is real.
- origin of evil is in human ignorant.
- man can defeat evil and does not need God’s help.
- man is the boss.

6) Destiny
- depends on what human make it out to be.
- no God guiding the world.

7) Miracles
- impossible
- nothing beyond the nature, no supernatural events.
- Everything can be explained with reference to natural events only.

(D) Positive Critiques

1) Their professed commitment to reason and science is a good thing.

2) Their insistence on the principle of sufficient reason.

3) They recognize evil as real.
contrast: pantheism eg. Hinduism

4) Their concern on justice and human rights.

5) They are loyal opposition to theists.
- They serve as a corrective to invalid theistic reasoning.

(E) Negative Critiques

1) Atheists insist that reason came from non-reason through naturalistic means, this makes
atheism unreliable.
- how do atheists depend on their reason if everything happens because of random shuffling
of molecules.
c/f: Christian - God created me with reasoning capacity.
- In Old Testament, Isaiah 1:18 – invite his people to reason with Him.
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD
- New Testament – he is commanding us to reason with non-believers. – 1 Peter 3:15
“…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for
the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
- Our reason has basis.

“Reason might conceivably be found to depend on (another reason), and so on; it would not matter how far this process was carried, provided you found Reason coming from Reason at each stage. It is only when you are asked to believe that Reason comes from non-Reason that you must cry Halt! for if you don’t, all thought is discredited. It is, therefore, obvious that sooner or later you must admit a Reason which exists absolutely on its own.”
C. S. Lewis, Miracles

2) By claiming absolute knowledge of the non-existence of God, the absolute Being, it engages in
self-defeating statements.
- There is no God means there in no being who knows everything because God is omniscient.
- “I have infinite knowledge that there is no one has infinite knowledge.”

3) Atheism fails to measure up to an adequate standard of coherent and congruence with
respect to its explanation of the origin of universe.
Eg. The universe has its beginning in the big bang.
Q: Who caused the big bang?
- Law of causality requires me to ask the question.
Christian – cause of the cosmos is GOD.

4) Atheists can believe in morality, but they cannot justify this belief.
- It is one thing to say that hate, racism and rape are wrong. But if there is no ultimate
standard of morality (ie GOD), then how can these things be wrong?
- A moral law requires a moral law giver.

5) What is the basis for meaning?
- Most atheists believe life is meaningful and worth living. But how can it be if there is no
purpose for life or destiny after this life?

(F) Dialogue with Atheists.

1) Beginning with a positive note when dialoguing with atheists.
- Build bridges of understanding and communication with them.
- Indian proverb: Cutting a person’s nose off then offering a rose for him to smell
- Paul – surrounded by idolatry, he was completely shattered on the inside, but when he
stands up to speak to the Athenian … how did he start? Acts 17:16, 22-23
“Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

- Paul establishes the point of contact.
- arousing interest in them.

2) He who asserts must prove.
- If atheists make a positive claim, he has the burden of proof.

3) Ask a good question.

a. To gain information and stay out of the “hot seat”.
1) Ask clarification question to understand what he says and so that you do not
misunderstand / misrepresent him (beware of straw man fallacy).

2) Key Q: “What do you mean by that?” (“What he thinks?”)
eg. - There is no God
Q: “What do you mean by God?”
- “All religions are basically the same.”
Q: “In what way are religions all basically the same?”

3) It accomplishes few things.
i. it immediately engages the non-believer in an interactive way.
ii. it shows a genuine interest in the other’s view.
iii. it forces him to think more carefully about exactly what he does mean.

4) Staying out of the “hot seat”.
i. when you are not academically prepared or not quick enough on your feet to deal with
the challenge.
ii. shift from argument mode to fact finding mode.
eg. “Can you explain your view and your reasons for it so that I get it right, then let me
think about it.”
iii. the key is to stay out of the hot seat but stay engaged.

b. To reverse the burden of proof.

1) we should get out of the habit of trying to refute every story a non-believer can spin or
every story he can manufacture (no more free rides).
2) Place the burden of proof on them.
- they have got a lot of explaining to do themselves.
3) Key Q: “How did you come to that conclusion?” (How he thinks?)

c. To indirectly exploit a weakness or a flaw in someone’s views.
1) suggest an alternative

2) key Q: “Have you ever considered ….”
eg: “Have you ever considered … that the existence of evil is actually evidence for the
existence of God, not against it?”
“Have you ever considered … that if the Bible were “merely written by men” it would
be very hard to account for the fulfilled prophecies?”

4) The Suicide Tactic

i) Point out self-refuting arguments / statements

ii) Self-refuting statements, the minute you say then, they become false.
eg: “I cannot speak a word in English.”
“There is no truth.”
“You can’t know anything for sure.”
“I don’t believe anything unless it can be proven scientifically.”
“It’s wrong to try to change other people’s religions beliefs.”

5) The “Taking the Roof Off” Tactic

i) “Every man has built a roof over his head to shield himself at the point of tension …
The Christian, lovingly, must remove the shelter [the roof] and allow the truth of the
external world and of what man is, to beat upon him. When the roof is off, each man
must stand naked and wounded before the truth of what is.”

“He must come to know that his roof is a false protection from the storm of what is.”

“We confront men with reality; we remove their protection and their escapes; we allow
the avalanches to fall.”

Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There

ii) First you adopt the other person’s viewpoint for the sake of argument. Then you press him to
the logical conclusion of his view.

Matthew 12:24-26
“But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?”

eg. : X: “I was born with a natural urge towards man”
Y: “I was born with a natural urge towards beautiful women. Do I take them and have
my own ways with them?”

X: “It’s okay as long as I’m not hurting anyone.”
Y: “Then you have no objections to peeping-Toms? They are not hurting anyone.”

1 comment:

Sze Zeng said...

Thanks, Ambassador. It would be very useful in my studies.