Ratio Christi … if you want to become an expert heckler of Christian apologists, like moi, you should follow them on Twitter @RatioChristi. They link to some pretty interesting articles about apologetics and it gives you an idea where the non-Ken Ham/Kirk Cameron-allied portion of the theist population is headed as far as viewpoints are concerned.
And there is one Christian mommy blogger who is freaking out right now! Her name is Natasha Crain and she writes for her eponymous blog titled Natasha Crain: Inspiration for Intentional Christian Parenting. I’m not sure what she means by intentional Christian parenting, but I imagine that unintentional Christian parenting would be the worst nightmare of many a godless parent.
You see, Crain was dismayed to hear that (gulp!) atheists have our own TV network now! And if we have our own TV network and we can rule the internet (an assertion I can neither confirm nor deny) then what’s to stop us from … global domination. (Cue the scary reveal music)
The point in this article is to “raise awareness” about the spread of the “atheist worldview” so that Christians can be prepared for the onslaught of our mighty proselytizing skills.
For better or for worse, Crain actually did her research in this article. She starts off by mentioning the now infamous (at least among the secular movement) Pew Research Center study which shows that the NOTAs (none-of-the-aboves) are increasing at roughly the same rate as the Protestants are decreasing.
In a move that is almost unheard of in Christian apologetics nowadays, Crain draws a non-specious conclusion and states something to the effect of “Wow, some of those Protestants must be turning into atheists.” This statistical conclusion serves as the first premise in Crain’s first argument.
As the number of NOTAs grows in America, Christian children will encounter what Crain calls “atheist influence” with greater and greater frequency. Crain notes that “Atheists are often passionate about their worldview and are ready and willing to engage in discussion about the reasonableness of Christianity. Whether or not Christian children will be successful in refuting atheist objections to Christian dogma ultimately lies with how Christian parents react to the nature of the threat that atheists pose to Christianity. Therefore, if Christian parents don’t take the threat of atheists seriously, Christian children may just become atheist. Crain presents this argument as an inductive one, and treats the premises and conclusions as inductive as well.
Crain goes on to talk about the millennials, who have a higher proportion of their ranks identifying as NOTAs than any other demographic, older or younger and mentions a project undertaken by the Fixed Point Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to address apostasy in youth and how to remedy the faults that apostates find with Christianity. Many of the members of the New Atheist movement like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennet and soon Michael Shermer, have debated with Christians over a whole host of topics. The Foundations leader Larry Alex Taunton, counted Hitchens among his friends.
The project was not a scientific or really quantitative look at the reasons why millennials are leaving Christianity. However, in an article published in The Atlantic Monthly, Taunton does describe various factors that seemed to emerge when discussing apostasy with project volunteers. Among these: apostates left as a reaction to Christianity, that the mission and message of their church was vague, that the apostates felt as though churches offered superficial answers to profound and difficult questions, that they respected ministers who took the Bible seriously, that adolescent formative years between the ages of 14 and 17 were decisive, and that the decision to embrace unbelief was often an emotional one. Oh, and the internet factored heavily into their deconversion.
Crain takes the results of this project to mean that college is a time where kids are unprepared to deal with the challenges that come to their faith. Crain concludes on the basis of the Fixed Point Foundations project that the leap of millennials to apostasy is largely the cracks that these children fell through between their parents, their churches and their ministers. College-age children were ill-prepared to deal with the challenges that their faith would face.
The third and fourth arguments are pretty short and simple. The third argument is that atheists have a disproportionate presence on the internet than Christians do even though the population of NOTAs in the United States is only about 5 percent. And since the Fixed Point Foundation project pointed at the internet as a factor for people to become apostates, Crain concludes that the internet is bad for Christianity.
The fourth argument is pretty simple. The population of child-bearing atheists has grown and atheists are having children who they are raising to be atheist. Parents often times disagree about how a child should be raised, with one parent often undermining the other in terms of spiritual belief. Crain cites an example of a kid’s ministry volunteer who had a young woman in her class state openly that “She doesn’t believe in God, she believes in science. Your kids are inevitably going to run into these kids and these kids are going to challenge their Christian beliefs.
The overall crux of the Crain’s post isn’t to take us atheists down a peg or two, but to sound the alarm bell about the fact that atheism should be taken seriously.
And while that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, what she should be alarmed by is our message and not the increase in our numbers. Crain falsely assumes that there is a uniform world-view that atheists ascribe to. And while we do attend conferences and occasionally animal sacrifices, we’re a pretty diverse group of people from pretty diverse background with pretty diverse interests. The only thing that is required of you to be an atheist is a lack of belief in a higher power. That’s it. The rest is all on you. There is no overarching dogma, no thousands and thousands of pages scripture nor weekly attendance requirements to be an atheist. While it is true that some atheists attend what are referred to as Sunday assemblies, a lot of us cringe at that, myself included.
Which is also why I made the effort to use the terms ‘apostate/apostasy’ and ‘NOTAs’. Distancing yourself from the religion of your childhood is often times not an easy experience for those who have had the displeasure of doing so. And simply because you’re a Christian apostate, doesn’t mean you won’t become a Buddhist convert, I did for a short time. There is a wider gulf between apostasy and atheism that many (though certainly not all) people on the journey have to cross.
Crain and Taunton’s characterization of leaving a church and the actual experience of it couldn’t be any more opposite for many apostates. And even if a person crosses that gulf, their experiences, personality and opinions will likely be sufficiently distinct from every other member of the alliance (because let’s face it, that’s what we are). Which is why there’s also a healthy respect for the differences in outlooks amongst the atheist community of which, I don’t think Crain is aware. We only minimally conform.
What does that mean? Well, we all agree that there is no god, and that logic and science are the best tools we have to make sense of the universe. After that, it’s all fair game. Agnostics don’t feel comfortable making existential claims without being able to prove non-existence. Atheists simply don’t care about religion until they’re proselytized. And anti-theists think that religion is harmful to humanity due to their long track record of trying to suppress scientific advancement and cultivating ideological wars. There are also many different sub groups and identities amongst the NOTA movement, that it’s too diverse for there to be an atheist manifesto with more than the three items I mentioned. Christianity, at least within a denomination, is known for its homogeneity of thought. Like-minded people find it easier to pray with each other, whereas atheists only really hang out if they’re friends outside the movement.
And this “influence” that Crain talks about atheists having, isn’t some charisma that exudes from us like some skeptical musk which titillates the neurons of uncommitted Christians. Atheists aren’t Svengali, nor are we Rasputin, those two are all yours, theists. This “influence” of which Crain speaks is nothing other than the one thing that atheists are de facto committed to, that Christians at some point have to abandon in order to be faithful, and that is logic.
Logic does the heavy lifting and the gentle persuasion for us, Mrs. Crain. We need not seduce people into not-believing in God, logic and reason take care of that for us. The enterprise of religion regardless of denomination, is to sufficiently suppress this skill to the point where one can believe in a deity despite the evidence to the contrary. That is the problem that Christianity and all religions face in the future.