said the atheist.
“My grand-daughter invents dragons, so dinosaurs do not exist,” said I.
“But I would bet that you would have no problem calling the God/s of other religions “invented”…so what makes yours any different…. other than you have the faith in yours and not theirs?” said another atheist.
To which I replied:
It’s not nearly as simple as that. An atheist has to commit to the proposition that 99.9% of all the people who ever lived were absolutely wrong about the thing that mattered to them most. A Christian is free to say that every religious tradition got something–and in many cases, many things–right. Read Acts 17:10-34.
Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he argued in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the market place every day with those who chanced to be there. Some also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers met him. And some said, “What would this babbler say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he preached Jesus and the resurrection. And they took hold of him and brought him to the Are-opagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you present? For you bring some strange things to our ears; we wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.
So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To an unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything. And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us, for
‘In him we live and move and have our being’;
as even some of your poets have said,
‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all men by raising him from the dead.”
Paul does not tell pagans, “You’re all wrong and I’m right!” He tells them, “You are on the right track and God has already revealed himself to you in part. I’m here to bring the rest of the story because that same God you worship as “unknown” has become a human being, died, and risen from the dead.” In short, the Church says that Christ is the fulfillment of the pagan heart as well as the Jewish one. Of course, pagans have gotten things wrong too (we all do). And so where the revelation of Jesus contradicts human error (and sin) the error and sin must go. But it’s just not the case that Christians have to call everybody but themselves dead wrong. We leave that to atheists.
To which my atheist reader responded:
“99.9% of people ever have not have faith. That is an inflated number pulled out of your ass as an appeal to popularity.”
To which I replied:
The vast majority of human beings have been religious. Atheists themselves are keenly aware of this and routinely say of their ancestors, as Christopher Hitchens did, “Religion comes from the period of human prehistory where nobody—not even the mighty Democritus who concluded that all matter was made from atoms—had the smallest idea what was going on. It comes from the bawling and fearful infancy of our species, and is a babyish attempt to meet our inescapable demand for knowledge (as well as for comfort, reassurance and other infantile needs).” Atheists routinely reassure themselves that their tiny minority in history (and still on the world stage) is due to the fact that they are just the intellectual elite and vanguard of history. So yes, atheists really do have to commit to the proposition that virtually the whole of the human race is 100% wrong about religion and they alone are right: there is no supernature. All religions are totally wrong and atheists alone are right. Pulling off that feat while condemning Christians for supposedly believing the same thing is one of its cuter tricks.