Letter From Hank

Will a weakened Christianity survive the new atheism?

HHHS-200rbMarch 2015

Dear CRI Partner:

As someone who monitors the spiritual landscape of America, you’ve no doubt been exposed to the relentless and increasing attacks on theism by the “New Atheists.”

For just a sample hors d’oeuvre, try this savory little morsel from Alex Rosenberg, a professor and Chair of the Philosophy Department at Duke University. In his book The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions, Rosenberg states,

Is there a God? No.
What is the nature of reality? What physics says it is.
What is the purpose of the universe? There is none.
What is the meaning of life? There is none.
Why am I here? Just dumb luck.
Is there a soul? Are you kidding?
Is there fee will? Not a chance!
What is the difference between right/wrong, good/bad? There is no moral difference between them.

Rosenberg concludes, “So much for the meaning of history, and everything else we care about.”

And on a particularly cheery note, Rosenberg says, if you’re going to be atheistic, “you will have to be comfortable with a certain amount of nihilism… And just in case there’s always Prozac.”

Now let me ask you a couple questions:

If growing multitudes of college students are drinking deeply from this nihilistic nonsense (and they are), are we really supposed to be surprised that so many of our national spiritual and cultural indicators are headed south?

And if more and more of our young and insufficiently critical minds are being exposed to this spiritually deadly drivel, can we really be shocked when the perceived value of human life is deteriorating before our very eyes?

Well, rather than triggering hostile responses from those they now routinely ridicule (the old notion in spiritual warfare that to resist it, you must recognize it), the New Atheists have simply reframed the game. In short, they’ve rebranded.

What this means, in part, is that for a vast multitude of slumbering Christians, these New Atheists will stealthily and surreptitiously be stealing hard-won intellectual ground once actually defended by people of faith.

But because their winsome ridicule (winsome, at least, to naïve secularists) has been dumbed down to slide effortlessly past the growing number of uncritical minds receptive to such nonsense, they are being remarkably effective.

That’s why I want to send you a very timely book: New Atheism: A Survival Guide. I’ve included a sheet with some excerpts to give you a sneak preview, but first I want to alert you to how New Atheists are using blogs to spread their message of nihilism and misinformation about Christianity.

Commenting on how increasingly popular these blogs are for young people, Graham Veale, the author of New Atheism, notes:

“The most popular comments are brief, snappy and witty. The most outrageous posts gain the most attention. There are honourable exceptions — but, in the main, blogs are intellectual junk foods. They’re fun and addictive, but they provide little for the mind to chew on.”

He notes, for example, that one particular blog, Pharyngula, “is a clumsy and ignorant attack on religion; indeed, that is the whole point of this blog. It takes a great deal of intelligence and effort to be so ill-informed.”

Veale goes on to say, “As propaganda New Atheist websites are exceptionally effective.” Commenting on what he aptly calls “sneer pressure,” he shows how ridicule, rather than dialogue, is gaining momentum:

“This is the strategy pursued by the New Atheists. Dawkins’ grasp of philosophical arguments wouldn’t get him a pass grade in a high school class. But he doesn’t mean to deal with the questions that theists are asking. He’s ridiculing his opponents’ position. The reasons for theism must be so bad, why even read about them? My goodness, no, you just dismiss them… The New Atheists have not offered one original argument for atheism. But they’ve plenty of original insults.”

As you might expect, over the years I’ve read more than my fair share of books on apologetics. Some are classics, and, as you no doubt know, some are, well, “not so much.” But New Atheism: A Survival Guide is a keeper, and I want you to have it for multiple reasons:

  • First, it’s eminently readable. Perhaps like me, you’ve waded through some books on apologetics that are like reading tax manuals written in German! Whatever their value, they’re also sure cures for insomnia. (Perhaps a clue to its readability is that Veale is a high school teacher in Ireland, and he understands that most folks, like high school students, have little patience for convoluted intellectual abstractions.)
  • Second, it’s moving. What I mean here is that, along with providing clear and logical arguments for theism, Veale will also touch your heart. Along with feeding your head, he’ll move you with stories that touch the deepest feelings that are part of our shared humanity — like our moral outrage over the existence of evil in our world.
  • Third, it’s brief. Unlike those apologetics books that could be used as tank stoppers just as easily as doorstoppers, this is a book you can read in a couple sittings.
  • Fourth, it’s practical. Unlike postgraduate textbooks on philosophy that would take a year to make sense of and another year to figure out how to use, Graham Veale presents critical truths in ways that are tools not only for reflection but also for discussion and engagement. That is, you can use the key points in this book to empathically and respectfully engage agnostics, skeptics, and even atheists without thumping them over the head with the Bible. (With sufficient force, the latter may be effective to induce unconsciousness, but unlikely, with New Atheists, to invite genuine engagement!)

Last, but by no means least, I’d like to send you New Atheism: A Survival Guide for your gift to support the outreaches of CRI because the book and your gift will do “double duty.” The book will be a valued addition to your library and a practical tool for engaging others, and your gift will help us to continue touching and transforming lives, not only here on the “home front” but also in crucial battles for truth that are raging around the world.

For example, just last month I was in Mexico City, the largest city in the Western Hemisphere, meeting with leaders regarding ways in which CRI’s resources can be translated into Spanish and used to impact not only Christians throughout Mexico but also eventually all of Latin America.

What’s more, this month I’ll be in Asia, meeting with key Christian leaders and missionaries in Thailand and China, developing strategies on how we can touch tens of millions of lives with biblical truth and more effectively halt the advance of predatory cults that are ravaging multitudes of new believers.

The simple truth is that I wouldn’t be able to make these trips without the support of caring and concerned friends like you. And something as simple as your gift today will be leveraged — and very likely to touch more lives than you ever dreamed possible.

So I’ll ask you to take just a moment to glance at some select excerpts from New Atheism: A Survival Guide. I just want you to catch a glimpse of the content that will warm your heart as well as steel your mind.

Then, while it’s still fresh in your mind, please also take a moment to make a gift today to support the work of CRI. Whether it’s $500 or $50, $250 or $25, please know that every gift to CRI makes a difference in our life-changing work together.

May God bless you richly for the difference you make in so many lives through your partnership!

…because Life and Truth matter…



P.S. If you’re looking for a practical, highly readable, and enjoyable book on apologetics, trust me: you can’t go wrong with this survival guide!

More Questions and Answers with Hank

Q&A: Atheism, Moroni, and the Millennium

Q&A: Joel Osteen, Organ Donation, and Young Earth Creationism

New Atheism – Part 3, with Graham Veale, and Q&A

Q&A: The Existence of Evil, Homosexuality, and Church Leaders

Characteristics of Cults, and Q&A

Best of BAM: Dr. Clay Jones, Graham Veale, and Q&A

Alex Rosenberg’s Nihilism, and Q&A

The Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Q&A

ABCs of Marriage Redefinition, and Q&A

New Atheism – Part 2, with Graham Veale, and Q&A

Paradigms, and Q&A

Best of BAM: New Atheists Present an Emperor without Clothes, and Q&A

Only the Holy Spirit Can Change the Heart, and Q&A

New Atheism – Part 1, with Graham Veale, and Q&A

The Poison of Osteenification, and Q&A