Why I’m Not an Athiest: My Online Video Course is Launched by CHURCH NEXT

“Why I Am Not an Atheist” with Frank Schaeffer

Is atheism a belief system in itself? Author and speaker Frank Schaeffer says yes. And in this course he explains why belief in Christ makes better sense of the world than no belief at all.

About this course

Atheism and fundamentalism have more in common than one might think, says Frank Schaeffer. Both, he reasons, are simplistic and unsatisfying ways to deal with the complex questions of faith and spirituality.

In this course, Frank defines atheism for us, tells us why it’s so appealing to people today, and explains why he rejects atheism in favor of a Christian understanding of the world.

they can take this class – or buy a subscription and take unlimited classes – take a look at the page here:

http://www.churchnext.tv/school/catalog/course/why-i-am-not-an-atheist-with-frank-schaeffer/This course is perfect for those who are wrestling with atheism, or with Christianity.

Here’s the first clip FREE, please watch.

Order the series HERE


Follow Frank Schaeffer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/frank_schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy! exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.

About Frank Schaeffer

Frank Schaeffer is an American author, film director, screenwriter and public speaker. He is the son of the late theologian and author Francis Schaeffer. He became a Hollywood film director and author, writing several internationally acclaimed novels including And God Said, "Billy!" as well as the Calvin Becker Trilogy depicting life in a fundamentalist mission home-- Portofino, Zermatt, and Saving Grandma.

  • Brian Westley

    “Is atheism a belief system in itself? Author and speaker Frank Schaeffer says yes.”

    Oh dear, a fail right out of the gate.

    Atheism isn’t a belief system, just like theism isn’t a belief system.

    Atheism is a tenet of a very few religions, and can be part of a person’s belief system; the same is true of theism. But neither one is a belief system, as they each only address one thing — whether a person believes in gods or not.

    That, itself, is not a belief system. Two atheists can disagree on everything else, including “supernatural” things like whether there is an afterlife, because these other things don’t necessarily require a belief in gods.

    • http://faithlikeaman.blogspot.com/ Ryan Blanchard

      I think Frank is assuming that anyone using the word atheist interprets atheism as explicit atheism (denying there are gods) rather than implicit atheism (lack of belief in gods). His mention of agnostics is the same as my implicit atheism (I don’t believe, but I also don’t make a faith statement like “there is no god.”) Terminology is important, and I think he just wasn’t specific enough.

      • Brian Westley

        Neither implicit nor explicit atheism is a belief system. It’s like saying non-belief in, say, a personified Fate is a belief system.

        • http://faithlikeaman.blogspot.com/ Ryan Blanchard

          I agree, they are not systems. But “there is no God” is a faith statement as much “there is a God” is a faith statement. Anyway, I agree with your original comment.

          • Anton

            But “there is no God” is a faith statement as much “there is a God” is a faith statement.

            That depends. I’m a Christian, but I think there’s a lot of nonbelief that derives from a lack of experience with the divine. If a person hasn’t experienced that, how are you supposed to demonstrate it?

            Look at it this way. Passenger pigeons once numbered in the billions, but have been considered extinct for a hundred years. Is my belief that passenger pigeons don’t exist really a matter of faith? Or is it just that I can’t affirm a legitimate basis, something experiential and real, for believing that they exist?

      • Lausten North

        Yeah, and someone should tell him what happens when you assume.

    • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com/ SC

      In “Uncomfortable Unbelief,” Wilfred M. McClay noted that, “Unbelief would be untenable without the moral and metaphysical capital created and banked by the belief it displaced.” I’ve appreciated the honesty of atheist, Thomas Nagel, who said that he hopes there is no God, “The Last Word.” For his full quote, see: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2008/12/03/i-hope-there-is-no-god-thomas-nagel/

      McClay went on to say, “Can there be unbelief without religion, or without a religious point of view that is being negated? After all, our understanding of ourselves as secular is undergirded by a powerful conviction that ‘we have come to be that way through overcoming and rising out of earlier modes of belief.’”

      “In other words, we have liberated ourselves. Will not God and theism therefore remain a necessary reference point? It may be possible to imagine a society in which the idea of God would not even have been a discarded image, never having been on offer at all. But such a society would clearly be very different from the one we actually inhabit, or any we are likely to experience in the foreseeable future. Part of the passion animating the new atheists is their sense of themselves as “having overcome” the foolish and destructive irrationalities of the past. Without that sense, their passion—and perhaps the cogency of their project itself—recedes.”

      • Guest

        “Part of the passion animating the new atheists is their sense of themselves as “having overcome” the foolish and destructive irrationalities of the past. Without that sense, their passion—and perhaps the cogency of their project itself—recedes.”

        Well wouldn’t that be – and I’m speaking here as an agnostic – a welcome development?

        • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com/ SC

          Only if you grant the premise that what is left behind is “foolish and destructive irrationalities of the past.” To put all belief in God under this description is itself irrational. Many myths are built around rejection of God. One of the most irrational ones is the myth about religion being the primary source of violence in the world. In fact, atheistic regimes have been a greater source of violence. (see:
          Is religion the primary source of violence? http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/is-religion-the-primary-source-of-violence/

          • Brian Westley

            I automatically ignore any website that claims Hitler was an atheist.

          • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com/ SC

            If Hitler believed in a god, the deity’s name was “Adolf Hitler.” An honest look at history tells us that Hitler only used the Church (like he used everything else) to serve his god. So if Hitler is disqualified from atheism, it’s only because belief in oneself as god doesn’t fit the atheist’s paradigm.

          • Brian Westley

            And now I’ll ignore you, since you pretend to be able to read the minds of dead people.

          • Guest

            I think you missed the point of my post… when I said a “welcome development” I was referring to the second part of the quote, i.e. the diminishment of atheism as a form of group identity in contrast to religion.

      • Brian Westley

        Hey, congrats on finding two people who agree with you. I don’t.

        • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com/ SC

          Not to be rude but this kind of non-substantive response doesn’t advance informed discussion.

          • Brian Westley

            Neither does cherry-picking. Thus my “two people” remark.

          • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com/ SC

            There is nothing unusual, at least in academic settings, with quoting original sources like the works of Nagel. In these settings one would simply respond with something like, “My problem with Nagel’s or with McClay’s way of seeing things is……” Not with a sarcastic, “Congrats….” The game of avoidance gets old.

          • Brian Westley

            Argument from authority. That’s really all theology is. And, of course, any argument from authority is a fallacy.

      • Dorfl

        I agree with Brian Westley on this. The text you linked to is one of the many, many texts that can be summarised as

        “Everyone actually agrees with me on this issue. Some people claim to think differently, but they are just pretending.”

        Once someone takes that position, it becomes impossible for any kind of substantive, informed discussion to happen. To advance, any discussion needs both sides to understand what the other’s position actually is, to avoid talking past each other. If one side declares that it will continue addressing a misrepresentation, despite any corrections, because it’s convinced that’s what the other really believes, then the conversation cannot get anywhere.

        • http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com/ SC

          At least this response helps to move the discussion forward. But there is far more to Nagel’s thoughts than “Some people claim to think differently, but they are just pretending.” Nagel’s reference to Theophobia is a rare find among those who claim to be atheists. But if you are interested in my reasons for rejecting the philosophy of atheism, I’ll direct you to my post on Five Reasons not to be an atheists, http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2012/11/29/five-reasons-not-to-be-an-atheist/

          • Brian Westley

            Wow, your reasons are incredibly terrible, even for apologetics.

          • Dorfl

            My comment about “Some people claim to think differently, but they are just pretending.” wasn’t really meant to summarise Nagel, but your use of his words:

            Nagel simply says that he hopes there is no god, and guesses that this hope isn’t rare. Fair enough. Nagel feels what he feels, and ‘not rare’ is too unspecific to be disagreed with.

            You “suspect deeper reasons for [atheists'] rejection of God” and pick out Nagel as “one honest atheist”, who is supposed to express what most atheists really think. That’s what I claim makes it impossible for the discussion to move forward. To get anywhere, you have to address the arguments people actually make, not the subconscious fears you suspect they have.

          • Dorfl

            I read your reasons. I did not find them very compelling.

            Atheism is irrational

            This argument doesn’t really have any substance for me to address. It pretty much consists of asserting again and again that the world is designed, which then requires a designer. Since we already have a theory which explains the appearance of design, and that predicts observations better than anything else we have, the argument is based on false premises.

            Atheism is too simple

            To continue Lewis’s metaphor, there are no straight lines anywhere. They are purely a mathematical construction. Even so, we can say useful things about real world objects by comparing them with the idea of a straight line.

            Similarly, we don’t need to assume that justice somehow exists out there in itself for it to be a useful idea. We can still talk about events in the real world by how well they correspond to our idea of justice, even if that idea is a mental construction that we have formed as a side effect of being social animals.

            Atheism is dishonest

            You first quote Weinberg saying that while science makes it possible for intelligent people not to be religious, it does not make it impossible for them to be religious. You then start attacking the idea that science specifically supports atheism, as though Weinberg had said that it made it impossible for intelligent people to be religious.

            Weinbergs point is that science has made the God hypothesis redundant, not that it has falsified it. That you are right that it cannot do, in the same trivial sense as science is unable to falsify any hypothesis that can be ad-hoced to fit any possible data.

            Atheism is arrogant

            You first quote Chesterton saying “Atheism is the most daring of all dogmas, for it is the assertion of a universal negative”. You then say “Some might accuse those who believe in God of arrogance. The issue comes down not to scientific certainty but reasonable plausibility”. If you understand that it’s a matter of reasonable plausibility, then you understand why it’s false to claim that atheism is an arrogant assertion of a universal negative.

            I’m not really sure how the quote that makes up the third paragraph of the argument is supposed to connect to the rest.

            Atheism is unnecessary

            This argument is exactly the “people pretend to disagree with me, but they really know I’m right” type of argument that I will not address, because it makes any meaningful discussion impossible.

  • R Vogel

    I think it is a strawman argument to say that all atheists don’t account for the aesthetic. Many acknowledge it, they simply don’t assign it to a supernatural being. They would say that we just don’t understand it yet. There was a time that sickness and weather were assigned to supernatural beings also and once science advanced enough it could be explained. This kind of Atheist, like Bob Seidensticker over at Cross Examined (in the Atheist channel), does not assert there is no G*d, but instead says there is no evidence for G*d. Things we don’t know, such as why someone has an emotional response to a piece of music, is not evidence for G*d. Just evidence of a gap in our understanding of the brain. I remember a story of a Catholic nun who thought she was having ecstatic visions until she was diagnosed with a form of epilepsy. The unexplainable was explained. This is how many Atheists see the world.

  • Dave Woodruff

    Frank is wholly right in saying that having a theistic belief is not a marker of stupidity and we, non-theists, need to acknowledge that Atheism and Theism do not signify any degree of innate intelligence.

    Where he seems to be quite mistaken is seeing the scientific point of view as being unable to carry the water of the need to find meaning. Admittedly science is materialistic, mechanistic and perhaps even reductionist in nature, but it is driven by the curiosity of the unknown; the (for now) unseen. I find that the further we understand the seemingly incomprehensible complexities of the universe the more beautiful it becomes. Because we are beginning to understand the neural-chemical basis for emotions (such as love) this does not in any way lessen the experience of the emotion. The fear about scientific reductionism appears to be that we will find that the sum of the parts are simply equal to the whole. But if we ever reach that summation, I doubt that it will be with any sense of deflation or with the feeling that “damn now that I know how it works, it has no more meaning.”

  • Lausten North

    So many straw men and just plain ignoring centuries of
    philosophy. The worst though was your reductionist fallacy about sonatas. I
    have those feeling too and I don’t attribute to them just materialism. I’m afraid you have taken yourself out of the
    conversation at this point Frank. You have shown that you are not listening.
    The video stopped playing about half way through. I took it as a sign from God
    that I should stop reading your blog.

  • Jeffrey

    Frank, you’ve done one hell of a job with this blog…that is till now. First of all many of the atheist I know are previously from the very evangelical background similar to yours, including me. Believe me when I say I know the routines and arguments for religious belief. Its been pounded into me for years. I also pounded it into others who at that time I thought it was a good idea. But for now I can say this: living a life that does not have the security of salvation is not too bad. I love the bible yet don’t take it literally. I think Jesus was a cool dude that many conservative have no idea what he meant. On top of this I am perhaps a happier person as I live with uncertainty. We love you Frank but please consider the context of where people are at in life.

    Side note: I have read that early Christians where labeled by the Romans as atheist because they did not worship the particular gods of the state.

  • MarilynLaCourt

    If we are honest, we are all agnostic. Nobody knows for sure whether or not there is a god, a first cause, etc. Even Richard Dawkins admits to being an agnostic at some level.
    However belief in god is NOT the problem. RELIGIONS are the problem. It’s how men define their god, gods, that is the problem.
    Men have defined god in their own image and then structured their belief systems to contain him/her, whatever. It’s the DEFINING of this totally ununderstandable entity called god that is the problem.
    In my humble opinion the search for the “meaning” of life is the hubristic activity of theologeons and philosphers.
    Ther is no universal meaning of life. We humans create meanings as we go bumbling along during our short journeys here on the planet earth. Theologians and philosophers attempt to impose what they perceive as the meaning of life on us. In other words, they attempt to define meaning for the rest of us.
    It’s mostly men who have created religions, and it is mostly men who want to keep women in their place as secondary travelers, as chattle for men to own and control.
    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate men. They have been duped by religions as much as women have. They are victims of their own hubristic belief systems.
    I am a very happily married woman to a man that I love dearly.
    GOD,belief it or not is not the problem. RELIGIONS and their constructed images of their god, gods are the problem.

  • Guest

    Ah, who the hell cares? God only knows!

  • frankschaeffer

    Hi All: Thanks for the posts pro and con so far. Since there are no good arguments for or against anything we’re all just talking here. Remember: none of us encounter reality, just our perception of it. Best, Frank

    • 3:10

      “[T]here are no good arguments for or against anything . . . none of us encounter reality, just our perception of it.”

      So now we’re an existentialist, are we? Good luck with THAT!

      • R Vogel

        Probably closer to Solipsism than Existentialism ;p

        • 3:10

          You may be correct, Friend. I’m no philosophy major. I just thought that Frank sounded more absurd in his comment than sure of anything, even his own self!

          But Frank’s an old friend of mine, and I didn’t mean to get us all into calling one another names. Hell, I’m just glad Frank took a break from denouncing us evangelicals to pick a fight with someone else for a slight change of pace. And if he’s gonna take a swing at the atheists, well I’ll have his back in that brawl. But what I don’t like is when Frank picks a fight and then doesn’t stick around to finish it!

          On the other hand, it’s Christmastime! Maybe that don’t mean much to some people, but it still means something to me and my kind. So I don’t want to fight. Hell, there’s them that would love nothin’ better’n to find us all here squabbling amongst ourselves whilst they sharpen their scimitars so as to easier remove our heads from our shoulders! Let’s not get so worked up that we forget that “reality,” and may we none of us ever have to “encounter” it.

          And, oh yeah, “Merry Christmas!” to everyone here on Frank’s blog.

    • Grady

      No good arguments for against anything?

      You are an idiiot.

  • John MacDonald

    Hi Frank,

    I’ve just watched this video, and wish to bring to your attention some flaws in your argument that you may wish to correct in future presentations.

    First of all, you gave a couple possible definitions of atheism at the beginning of your video that concerned the meaning of life and theology, but atheism is really just a rejection of belief in divinity. It doesn’t address life’s meaning, or the gnostic/agnostic dichotomy. There are agnostics who are theists, agnostics who are atheists, and gnostics who are theist. I can’t think of any gnostics who are also atheist, but it’s important to remember that most theists are atheist about every other religion beside their own.

    Atheism isn’t necessarily a belief, and rarely a belief system. There are atheists who claim to have belief or knowledge that divinity doesn’t exist, but they have a difficult time rallying other atheists to their cause, because most atheists are skeptics before they are atheists, and would want evidence to demonstrate the non-existence of god, which is a nearly impossible demand.

    So you’re right in saying that an atheist making a declarative statement concerning the non-existence of god would be a faith statement, but most atheists don’t make declarative statements about the non-existence of divinity. Rather, they make declarative statements concerning their rejection or suspension of belief in divinity.

    Secondly, you claim that atheists find meaning in the material things in life, and theists believe that “unseen” things also give their lives meaning. I find the terms you use here a bit vague, but I think you’re talking about the known and unknown, so let me restate your argument. Please let me know if this is incorrect, but I think you believe that atheists find meaning only in that which is known, and theists find meaning simultaneously in the known and unknown.

    The problem with this is that there are many examples of theists who find meaning only in the known, and atheists who find meaning in the unknown. Any devout believer in a religion knows with absolute certainty that the god he worships and the things that god does are real. Their gods aren’t some kind of theoretical construct.

    These gods are physical, albeit supernatural, beings who will protect them, die for them, destroy their enemies, construct universes and devise plans of action, laws and customs. They give their adherents earthly and heavenly tasks, demands and rewards which are also fully material. This kind of theist only believes in things that are known.

    Conversely, about 85% of scientists in the world are non-believers, and yet the things that gives their lives meaning are the things they don’t understand, ie. the unknown. They marvel at how much there is to learn about the world around them, and as soon as they figure out the answer to one thing, they’re off to figure out something else. And they do all this without belief or knowledge of god.

    Ok, that’s it.



  • Nanci Murphy

    Frank, I am not going to pay money to know about my savior, Jesus. His salvation is free. At the risk of sounding like a “Jesus Freak” or worse,please let me assure you,I am a sucessfulbusiness owner, happily married with two wonderful childeren in college. I have been a Chrisitan for 30 years following an upbringing in a ridgid Catholisism upbringing mixed in with both parents being hypocritical nightly drunksss

    He showed me His love and salvation when I was in my darkest hour and been with me always. He has shown me His love, His Spirit to guide me as I navigate this life with His constant presance and guidance. Through all the ups and downs one thing He has made clear…..Love. NOTHING is more important!!! Loving Him, Loving those He has blessed us with in this life and Loving all others. Everything else is secondary!!! And I mean everything, success, money, possessions, even supperficial joy. There is only one true lasting truth and that is thru loving Him.

  • Guest

    Typo up there in your main title/page-link, Frank. You spelled it “athiest.”

  • Hank Fox

    Typo up there in your main title/page-link, Frank. You spelled it “athiest.”

    “Why I’m Not an Athiest: My Online Video Course is Launched by CHURCH NEXT”

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