Atheism / Education · July 21, 2011

How to dismiss Atheist Teenagers

Greg Stier was a recent guest columnist at the Christian Post who wrote an article entitled: “How to Reach Atheist Teenagers“.

In this article he gives 4 points of advice:

1) Mock Religion to seem “cool”
Atheist teens are disgusted by religion because religious people are filled with hypocrisy.  
A dictionary definition of the term “hypocrisy” is “The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform”.  This excellent definition does seem to apply to many religious people and organizations. 
It would be a good thing for a religious person to recognize when they are guilty of hypocrisy and work to correct this flaw.
Highlighting this flaw with religion and (many) religious people merely as a tactic to gain a teenager’s trust does seem to expose a questionable moral standard – using this as a tactic is intellectually dishonest at best.
Maybe it would be more ethical if you actually examined Christian hypocrisy, understood it, could point out examples, and believed it to be true.  Start with “Christian Privilege”.
2) Jesus was “cool” too!   
The “radical, rebel, revolutionary” Jesus was a hero to the downtrodden, who willingly suffered injustice to pay for your sins.
Nothing stated here about why God punishes everyone for the fall of Adam and Eve, or why God holds children to blame for the sins of their parents or grandparents or great grandparents or….
Also, the illogical and unreasonable position of allowing a supposedly guilty person to go free by the blood payment of an innocent person is never discussed.  Or that all sins are equally bad (you are just as quickly damned for shoplifting some gum as you are for being a serial murderer.)
Perhaps this is not the time to talk about “salvation”.  Saved?  Saved from what?  An eternity in Hell?  Say, who made this “Hell” place anyway, and why?
All of these uncomfortable questions are glossed over.
3) Don’t believe atheist teens when they say they’re “atheist” because they don’t know what they’re talking about
Stier writes, “Instead of assuming they are true atheists…” and “At the end of the day there are no true atheists.  In the deepest parts of their soul every atheist… truly believes in the existance of God, but doesn’t want to () glorify him or give him thanks.”
This has got to be one of the most dishonest, evil, unethical statements ever.  What makes it so sad is that Stier isn’t the first (or the last) Christian to make this assertion.
The Bible (in Romans 1:18-32) seems to indicate that God is “made plain” to everyone.  To continue the quote, “For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks…”  and “Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.”
This text then goes on to condemn nonbelievers and homosexuals, and is the New Testament justification for Christian hatred toward male and female homosexuality and atheism.
This section of Romans ends with, “Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.”
Stier’s words, taken with his quoting of Romans, would seem to indicate that he devoutly believes in these quotes.  That there are no “true atheists” or “true homosexuals” for that matter, and that any claim of atheism (or homosexuality) is FALSE because they KNOW BETTER – in their soul.
This is a way to completely discount a person’s convictions.  It is belittling.  It is hateful.  It doesn’t matter if you “hate the sin but love the sinner” or if you “do this out of love”,  It is a hypocritical, hateful, dismissive action that is designed to derail any argument.  It is a license to be a discriminating bigot without guilt.
Any Christian who quotes a portion of Romans 1 in order to demonstrate that everyone “knows God” should be forced to read ALL of Romans 1.  It is one of the most dehumanizing statements in the Bible.
4) Prayer – the ultimate tool for feeling as if you’ve done something (without actually having to do anything!)
Stier mentions the conversion of Saul of Tarsus to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus as an example of what can happen through the power of prayer.  He then quotes Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 about how hard it is to resist the power of love.
But Saul wasn’t converted through the prayer of others.  Saul converted to Christianity because Jesus appeard to him in a “great light” and struck him blind.  Saul’s sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus, which was enough evidence for Saul to convert to Christianity, change his name to Paul, and start preaching that Jesus was the son of God.
Do you see what Saul had that today’s teenagers do NOT have?  Evidence. 
Yes the evidence is anecdotal, but even anecdotal evidence is powerful enough to change your mind if it happens to you.

So what is missing here?

Is Stier successfully spreading the gospel to teens across the USA using his methods?  Perhaps.  However his methods have a serious flaw that anyone could find with half of a moment’s thought.

Right.  The missing ingredient is evidence.

Stier doesn’t mention evidence, and I think the reason why he does not is pretty clear.  Because evidence in any god or gods is lacking, let alone the God of the Bible.  It doesn’t matter how many times you toss out a quote from Romans 1 about how an atheist “really knows the truth, but denies it” – the fact is that without evidence such a quote is exactly like the Great Wizard of Oz howling at Dorothy to not pull back the curtain.

It’s a house of cards built on supposition and daydreams.  Reveal the lack of evidence, and it all comes tumbling down.

This is how you innoculate a young person against Stier’s verbal trickery.  Teach the young man or woman to reason, to use logic, to look for evidence.  Teach the young person that the question, “How do you know that?” is one of the most powerful fact-finding tools in the toolbox of the Scientific Method.  These five words are a piercing spotlight that withers the clouds of religious dogma.

Let’s teach our kids to recognize when logic and reason are abandoned – and to recognize hypocrisy in articles such as this.