Most Christian believers can think of a name of at least one friend or an acquaintance who has rejected his or her faith. Unfortunately, atheism is making a comeback, and New Atheism names like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are household names among the growing generation of young people searching for answers to life’s tough questions.
Scholars like Bart Ehrman, once an insider and a “deluded fundamentalist,” who studied at evangelical institutions like Moody and Wheaton and then eventually rejected Christianity, further solidify the New Atheism beliefs and punch the final blow to the crumpling faith of many young believers.
Before I begin, I want to make clear the following: this post is not written with any specific individual in mind but is a result of many conversations I have had with those who call themselves former Christians, or former “deluded fundamentalists.”
The battle in my mind was long and intense and, in the process, I almost lost my own faith. Since that perilous time, I have searched for answers to the similar questions many young people are facing today. These questions are serious, and the reasons presented by young adults for leaving the Christian faith are diverse and complicated.
Recently, I came across a blog post written by a former preacher who simply wants to be understood. Read his blog post “From Delusion To Reality” HERE. Upon reading Vadim’s blog post, I couldn’t help but relate to many of the same struggles I faced years ago. His post also gave me a much needed final nudge to sit down and write some thoughts I wanted to express for awhile now.
I do not claim to know all the answers, (that would be ludicrous), but I am writing this letter with a glimmer of hope and a sincere prayer that this blog post would impact at least one soul…
Most of those who become disillusioned with the Christian faith, (I should say most of those I have had a privilege to talk to), were born into Christian families. The young man who wrote the cited post above writes that his faith “wasn’t something he converted to but something he was born into.”
Naturally, once we reach the age of logic and reasoning, we begin to question the belief system we grew up with, which is perfectly normal and healthy. There would not be any converts to Christianity from Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, Islam, Atheism, etc. if individuals did not question the belief system they were born into and raised in!
The mistake we as believers in Jesus make is blaming the “pagan colleges” and “pagan universities” for pushing the young people to leave their faith. The public institutions may have some impact on the young person’s decision to reject his/her faith, but ultimately these institutions are not the scape goats. We look for answers to why this or that young believer rejected Christianity and the easiest answer is: It must have been that university he/she went to.
There are many prominent and highly educated people who came to the knowledge of God through deep studying of science, law, medicine, philosophy, biology, math, and chemistry. David Limbaugh, a lawyer, wrote “Jesus On Trial: A Lawyer Affirms The Truth Of The Gospel.” Josh McDowell, a once disillusioned pre-law college student, took on a challenge to prove that Jesus Christ is not God’s Son and the result was “The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict.” Dr. Chauncey Crandall, a Yale-trained physician and cardiologist, a “skeptical scientist by nature,” came to believe in supernatural healing and wrote his story in “Raising The Dead.” These are just a few that come to my mind but there are many more highly educated and intelligent human beings who believe in the God of the Bible.
One biblical example I cannot neglect mentioning is that of Daniel and his three friends. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (most theologians agree that they were no more than 14 at the time), were torn from their families and their land and immersed into a Babylonian pagan culture of the time. These young men were placed into the center of the pagan culture and isolated from any and all religious mentors who might have held any influence over them. The intent of the Babylonians was to brainwash these young men, and to “conform them to the patterns of this world” (Romans 12:2). Their names were changed, therefore stripping them of their identity.
Daniel in Hebrew means “God is my judge” but his name was changed to Belteshazzar, meaning “Bel protects his life.” Hananiah “Jehovah has been gracious” became Shadrach. We do not know what that name means, but it contains the name of the pagan deity Marduk. Mishael “Who is like God?” became Meshach – a name which contains one of the ancient forms of the name for the deity Venus. Azariah “Jehovah has helped” became Abed-nego “the servant of Nebo.” This was a forced assimilation! (GotQuestions.org). Moreover, they were offered food from Nebuchadnezzar’s table, with an intent to play on their emotional feelings of “You owe us.” (Who knows, maybe God instituted the dietary Kosher laws for times such as these?)
How did their faith withstand the most difficult test? Can we honestly say that our young people are in the same position as Daniel and his friends? So, I cringe when I hear pastors and preachers make statements like, “keep your children away from the pagan colleges and universities! They will corrupt their minds and shatter their faith!”
Are we misplacing the blame altogether? What if the blame is on us? What if we, the church body of believers and the Christian parents, are at fault for not building a solid foundation of faith for our children while they are/were still with us?
While education was not the answer to the life’s toughest questions roaming in my mind, (Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?), it deeply enriched my own faith in God and solidified the belief that all of this – the complex human body and the complex universe I live in – could not have happened by mere chance and that there is an intelligent designer behind it all…
Most young people who pursue higher education will search for the truth, as I did and presumably, Vadim. The philosophical question “what is the truth?” has been around since the beginning of humanity and it will remain the most important question in the young minds of our generation and the future generations.
However, we do a big disservice to our children by teaching them not to question their faith and not to question anything. Period. “You just have to take it by faith” is not the approach that will keep them in their faith. Our faith is not blind faith. If it were, Christianity would have died hundreds of years ago and would not have withstood the countless attempts of the enemy to erase it from history.
But the New Atheists continue insulting the Christian believers by throwing statements like “all you Christians have is blind faith” and “I would have to commit intellectual suicide to become a Christian.” In fact, the distinctive mark of a New Atheist is his/her belief that religion is blind, irrational, and stupid, as evidenced by Richard Dawkins’ title “The God Delusion.”
May I pose a question to the New Atheists? On what basis can we conclude that the Christian faith is blind? Can you tell me of a person who continues to hold a belief his/her mind rejects? Where is the irrationality in our belief?
Oh, the citing of the “doubting Thomas” surely proves that Christianity requires blind faith, you will say… (You can read the “doubting Thomas” story HERE). The famous Dawkins cites this text in “The Selfish Gene” as proof that Christianity opposes reason. He writes, “Thomas demanded evidence… The other apostles, whose faith was so strong that they did not need the evidence, are held up to us as worthy of imitation.”
However, this story is always taken out of context. As McDowell and Morrow point out in “Is God Just A Human Invention?”
“First, Jesus predicted his resurrection on multiple occasions in the presence of the disciples. Thomas should not have been surprised at the return of Jesus. Second, Thomas heard eyewitness testimony (evidence) from the rest of the disciples and yet still refused to believe. (The vast majority of scientific knowledge we possess depends upon trusting the conclusions of other scientists, which is true for virtually all disciplines.) Third, Jesus did many miracles during his ministry as proof of his identity. In fact, right after the story of Jesus scolding Thomas, John said the miracles of Jesus were recorded ‘so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.'”
The fact that you may know some people who have blind faith does not mean that Christianity as a whole endorses blind faith and irrationality.
Faith and reason go together.
The authors cited in the above paragraph add, “Biblical faith is trust in God because he has shown himself to be reliable and trustworthy. Faith is not belief in spite of evidence, but belief in light of the evidence.”
Personally I agree with Josh McDowell: “my heart cannot rejoice in what my mind rejects.” Jesus commanded us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Our faith is reasonable faith and is based on evidence. Paul Little adds, “Faith in the Christian sense goes beyond reason but not against it.”
However, one can still hear New Atheists often quoting Carl Sagan, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Therefore, by this statement, Christians are exercising blind faith when they “blindly believe in talking snakes, people turning into pillars of salt, or stars leading individuals to a specific house.”
Everyone has faith. Every individual has faith in something. Even the New Atheists have faith.
Just think about it.
You wouldn’t be able to live in this world if you didn’t have faith (faith that the pilot on the plane you are taking is adequately trained, faith that the oncoming car will not swerve onto your lane, faith that the doctor had proper education and will give you an accurate diagnosis, etc.) Yes, occasionally things happen contrary to our faith – planes crash, cars crash, and you get a wrong diagnosis – but the faith we have is well-grounded and rational because the above-mentioned occurrences are isolated incidents in our lives.
Take a moment to read some of the New Atheist writings and you will see many unseen things they believe in:
- They have faith that the universe came into existence from nothing.
- They have faith that life spontaneously arose from matter. (Dawkins says he wouldn’t be surprised if chemists announce in a few years that they have solved the problem of the origin of life.) Why does he believe this? Faith.
- They have faith that multiple universes exist to help explain why our universe is so exquisitely fine-tuned for life. (Dawkins admits that there is currently no evidence for the “multi universe” theory).
- They have faith that mind can emerge from matter, or that mind is solely matter.
- They have faith that there is nothing beyond the natural (physical) world.
- They have faith that the world would be improved without religion.
Is it possible that the New Atheists could turn out to be right? Sure. Is it possible that they would find new evidence to prove the multiple universes and evidence to explain the origin of the universe? Sure. It is also possible that the philosophers will be able to explain how mind can emerge from matter. But this is all a MAYBE. But until such evidence comes into existence all THEY have is BLIND FAITH.
Well, friends and readers, I just realized that my post has become rather long… I apologize for this. If this turns out to be a topic that you are interested in, I want to write some more posts on the different reasons young people reject the Christian faith and turn to New Atheism.
Some of those topics are:
- Are miracles possible?
- Is God just a human invention?
- Is religion dangerous?
- Is God a genocidal bully?
- Can people be good without God?
You can also email me or comment under this post with any other suggestions for future topics. These would be very welcome!
Until next time!
For now I want to leave you with this statement: I do not have enough faith to be an atheist!
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