Who’s afraid of atheists?

August 23, 2011

When I was in high school 25 years ago, I fell in love with C.S. Lewis. Reading his books today, on the other side of 40—having experienced a lot of life in the intervening years—I find that my appreciation for him has only grown.

As a teenager, I especially enjoyed the autobiography of his early life, Surprised by Joy. In it, he recounts his childhood faith, followed by his apostasy, atheism, and Christian conversion.

Somewhere in the book—almost as an aside—he says that some of his former atheist allies were constantly sending him propaganda in order to “re-convert” him. He said he found their arguments tedious and disappointing—almost as if he were rooting for a better class of atheist!

That stuck with me all these years. At the time I remember thinking how nice it would be to be like Lewis—so well-acquainted with all the atheist arguments and able to say of them, “They’re really not very good.” The truth is that for much of my early Christian life, I was afraid of atheism. It scared me to think that I could stumble upon some argument that would prove so compelling that I could abandon my faith. As if anyone comes to or rejects the Christian faith through argument! But I was pretty dumb back then.

Among other things, I bought into the god-of-the-gaps theory: that science was fast encroaching on God’s territory, and unless someone found a knock-out argument against evolution, for example, then believing in God may prove untenable. It was either God or science: the town I lived in wasn’t big enough for the both of them. I’m sure that even the shallow philosophizing of Richard Dawkins would have been very intimidating to me.

Happily, I’m a different person today. But I’ve been reminded of Lewis’s words about atheists recently. Why? Because I regularly read the Huffington Post’s “Christianity” section. As I’ve said before, I’m a fan. As far as I know, no other mainstream secular news site dedicates as much space to Christian thinkers, pastors, and writers.

Blogging there as a Christian, however, must be a thankless job. I hope these people get paid well! Just read the comments section of any blog post—for example, this perfectly thoughtful and genial piece about God and suffering by Derek Flood.

Peruse the comments section, and please tell me: Even if you disagree with Flood and don’t believe in God, what on earth are you getting so worked up about? Where does all this righteous indignation come from? It boggles the mind.

Some of the heavy-handedness is no doubt the result of the wide-eyed college freshman taking his first philosophy course. It happens. I shudder to think of some of the arguments I used to get into at home on winter break. But as I examine the substance of the comments, such as it is, I see the same tired arguments, endlessly recycled. They are tedious… and disappointing.

That’s what Lewis meant! I’m not so different from him!

Now if only I could write like him…

2 Responses to “Who’s afraid of atheists?”


  1. It’s the internet. You could write an article about how puppies are the best and the comment section would be full of tedious yelling and insults.

    • brentwhite Says:

      Puppies suck! What are you talking about? 🙂

      I’m sure that’s true. The anonymity of the internet makes it easy. But I’m a fan of the internet, so it’s a good trade-off.


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