A Theist or Atheist?

HuffPo reports that an atheist in New Jersey has succeeded in getting a license plate that reads ATHE 1ST. The problem is the statement is ambiguous. What if I read it and conclude that the driver is… A theist? That’s the problem with atheists…they haven’t thought of all the possibilities.

Their advertising stunts are so lame. What about the one in Times Square last year which showed encouraged people to enjoy Santa Claus, but not Christ because Christ was a myth? Duh. So Santa is real? Then there is the really, really smart clever and witty bus signs posted in England that said something like, “God probably doesn’t exist so enjoy yourself.” Is that it? Is that all they could think of? Is that the extent of their wit, their wordplay, their badinage? What about the super dull bus poster above? And advertising on a bus to start with? Who advertises on a bus? Can’t help thiking of nuns on the bus. It’s much the same sort of tiresome, self righteous, yawn inducing activism.

And people say Christianity is boring?

Geesh, Christianity is very interesting compared to these yawners. I mean we’ve got cool stuff like snake handlers, incorrupt bodies of saints, relics, Eucharistic miracles, statues that weep and bleed, apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and more. We’ve got monks who brew beer and nuns who levitate. We’ve got saints who bi-locate, exist for years on nothing but the Eucharistic and joke with their torturers. You might not believe any of that stuff or think it’s all some sort of psychosis, but at least it’s interesting. Furthermore, we have fun stuff like pilgrimages, and World Youth Day, and all night vigils and climbing the Santa Scala on your knees–not to mention wild places like Antonio Gaudi’s cathedral in Barcelona, Mont St Michel, the catacombs or that Capuchin cellar in Rome with all the bones.

Atheism on the other hand is so mind numbingly dull, and the worst kind of atheism is the self righteous, “We’re good people too you know” kind of atheism. “Oh, look at me. I’m working at the soup kitchen!  I campaigned to ban nuclear power! I have a ‘co-exist’ bumper sticker on my Prius.” They pretend to be revolutionaries, but to me they seem as dull as the McMansion next door and the usual suburban, fast food, shop at the mall American. At least the old fashioned atheists followed their logic and tried to wipe out everyone who didn’t agree with them. Stalin, Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot had teeth. The present day respectable atheists are about as interesting as yesterday’s oatmeal.

They’re bland. “It’s a case of the bland leading the bland…and they shall both fall into the ditch.”

Not only dull, but humorless. The closest thing to wit I’ve ever experienced with atheists is a bit of sophomoric sarcasm. They’re always so darned serious…especially about themselves. Not only dull, but a little bit spooky.

The conversation with atheists always lacks a certain edge. There’s a slipperiness to it and a lack of grip–like wrestling in jello with a one armed man. I have thought long and hard about this phenomenon and I think it is because the theist is arguing from a positive proposition and the atheist is arguing from a negation. The theist is arguing in support of something positive. The atheist can only deny. That denial and essential negativity culminates in a vagueness about everything–their mindset seems dull and out of focus.

The bottom line is that if there is no God, no heaven and no hell and no final judgement then what’s the point? The weary dullness of the atheist is a true reflection. Without an afterlife and a final tally then there are only two options: the old Greek choice– Epicureanism and Stoicism. The first is, “Eat, Drink and be merry for tomorrow you die.” The second is “Be good. Be noble… for tomorrow you die.”

It’s like we’re all on the deck of a sinking cruise liner with no lifeboats. The Epicureans sit down to a five course meal and try to hold on while the tables slip away. The Stoic stands on the deck, gazes into the distance and goes down with the ship.

The Christian spots a distant light, believes it is a rescue ship, dons a life jacket and jumps in to swim for it or die in the attempt.

Chesterton writes better on this subject here.


  • http://ktcatspost.blogspot.com/ K T Cat

    Dude, that was fabulous. For me, the only atheists I can respect are the utter nihilists. Here’s one of my own takes on the subject, but it doesn’t hold a candle to your elegant formulation. http://ktcatspost.blogspot.com/2013/07/deconstructing-atheism.html

    • Banner

      I have reached the conclusion that nihilism is really the only honest atheism. Everything else seems to want to “have their cake and eat it too”.

  • AshleyWB

    Thank you for this, Mr. Longenecker. Every time a Catholic opines about the sophistication and rationality of Catholicism as opposed to American fundamentalism (for example), I simply point to one of your unlettered, hateful, strawman-filled diatribes. You do more to rescue people from the throttling grasp of Christianity than a thousand non-believers.

    • frdlongenecker

      Thank you for such a sparklingly witty and urbane comment. You’ve sort of proved my point haven’t you?

      • AshleyWB

        Oh, please keep it up. Your triumphalism is your most winning feature. Also, I’m impressed by how quickly you deleted your own comment about “humorless atheists”. Did a smidgen of self-awareness penetrate your galaxy-sized self absorption?

        • frdlongenecker

          What I did was go back and add a paragraph to the post. Thanks for the compliment about triumphalism. I find there is so much defeatism and pessimism in the world today. I blame increasing atheism for such a dreary outlook. A morning dose of triumphalism perks me up no end.

          • Brian

            Father, isn’t the reality of war and poverty and pollution the reason for such a dreary outlook?

          • Ray Pastora

            The source of war and horror in this world centers around the fact that God is not a puppeteer. He has given us free will, which means we can embrace His reality and the gift of this love and attempt to live a life where we are closer to Him or we can reject such a life, embrace selfishness and evil, and carry on with all the consequences that brings.

            Ultimately, we all either embrace the beauty of creation and of the universe and of God’s guidance, or we turn away from it. I would argue that most of the evil things in this world stem directly from the embrace of secularism and evil. It is the lack of respect for a person’s humanity that has given us abortion, murder, adultery, theft, etc. It is the objectification of people that gives us porn and leads to the assault on the whole human person.

            Until mankind accepts that each person is a sacred creation from God, we will continue to see the evils. Otherwise, with Atheism, we can simply justify all of the actions that someone performs with moral relativism.

          • James Patton

            “I would argue that most of the evil things in this world stem directly from the embrace of secularism and evil.”

            I would blame the creator of said ‘evil’. It must be really hard to take responsibility for one’s own actions when you have such a convenient scape goat to slaughter. Of course that is one of the most endearing characteristics of the religious, to blame others for their own wickedness.

          • Rob B.

            This assumes that evil is a force in and of itself. Both Christian theology and ancient philosophy believed that evil was a deprivation of good (kind of like a hole in a shirt). Please read Plato and St. Augustine for further details.

          • James Patton

            Socrates, the wisest of the Greeks according to the Oracle of Delphi, is their, Plato and St. Augustine, greater.

          • AnneG

            James, aren’t you blaming others for your own wickedness”?

          • James Patton

            No, I can be wicked all on my own or behave. They are among the many choices I make each and every day.

          • BTP

            But you said you would blame the creator for evil; now you take the blame yourself.

            Do you mean something like: You would blame the creator for evil if the creator existed, which he doesn’t, so you don’t, and anyway those who believe in the creator should blame him for evil, which they don’t, and they blame those who embrace evil instead which is what they shouldn’t do because they think a creator exists?

            Do I have that approximately correct?

          • James Patton

            I do not subscribe to deities, so when it is stated “creator”, it was not to be implied your “Creator”…:D

            Now when I wear wool and linen mixed together and it is said to be a ‘sin’ (Deut. 22:11) I first blame myself for wearing such attire but I also blame the author of said ‘sin’. I don’t subscribe to ‘sin’ but I take full responsibility for my wardrobe but I will NOT take responsibility for such a superstition being applied to me.

          • Unbeliever Prime

            Then you appear to know little of history Ray.
            Virtually all evil acts throughout history were done by people who were at least nominally religious. Moreover, many of the worst atrocities in history were due to/justified by religion.

          • http://profiles.google.com/pat79thst PATRICK HICKEY

            Ain’t Ashley a Peach?

        • Glenn Juday

          Ashley – you are confused on an important point. Triumphalism based on a belief in the inherent talent, moral steadfastness, or capabilities of a faction – such as contemporary atheism in our culture – is indeed something to be avoided, especially because the basis for it is contradicted by everyday experience. Human limitations prevent the formation of a group that would justify triumphalism based on our efforts alone. On the oher hand, the triumphalism Fr. Longenecker is talking about is a more positive and logical matter. It is based on Divine love for all of us as individual human persons, and the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. Through the Divine redemptive power of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, we have been redeemed from an existence of meaningless futility. You, personally, have been invited to leave the sour and hostile outlook you are currently enmeshed in and to join the triumph over your fears and limitations by uniting your mind and will with the body of Christ on Earth, the Church, that faithfully transmits the saving knowledge and power of God. It’s really neat, and it leads to a fulfilled life. Just wanted to clear that up.

          • Pofarmer

            And in headier days, the church would have consigned us to an industrial school, or something of the sort, until we agreed leaving our “sour and hostile” outlook was the thing to do. They may have even beat or tortured us. Out of love, ya know.

          • Glenn Juday

            If I understand the reply from Pofarmer correctly, the truth or falsity of the offer of faith and salvation through the Church is to be judged by assuming that all Catholics are evil, and imagining a past for them. Of course, that represents a mistake in logic, and can be safely dismissed. It is possible to go back and correct a poor or biased education – in fact I heartily recommend it. And, refocusing on the original point, at the end of our natural lives we will get what we are asking for, what we have built our lives around – eternal joy and happiness with God as manifested by conforming our lives to truth and love, or eternal separation from God. It’s an offer, and we get to decide. The stakes are high and time is always short, which means that poor use of logic could be truly tragic.

          • Pofarmer

            The truth or falsity of the Catholic Church is judged by it’s actions,and the actions of those who make up it’s body. Many people find those actions terribly substandard. The problem is, that those who belong to the Church do bad things BECAUSE of the philosophy of the Church, far from being a few outliers. Was it just a few outliers running the Magdelen laundries? Was it just a few outliers selling babies in Spain? Well, at least it was a few outliers jailed for crimes against humanity in Rwanda, but, they did it for the message, the love, ya know. You see, I find the mistake in logic is your own, not mine. I see no truth, love, and happiness in the Catholic Church, none at all. What I see, exhibited daily and around the world, is control, timidity, and arrogant condescension. If I must submit to the will of this twisted organization or wish separation from God, then separation doesn’t sound particularly bad. I don’t think all Catholics are evil, but, I think that the first time the papacy was sold, the Church lost a little bit of her legitimacy, the first time there was a war for the papacy, she lost a little more, and when she began torturing and killing those who disagreed with her, it all went. History, indeed.

          • Glenn Juday

            Well, Pofarmer, those are some interesting assertions. As I said, they suggest the logic of dehumanization. Catholics are to be presumed evil precisely because they have been taught to adhere to rules such as not bearing false witness against their neighbor, going the extra mile, turning the other cheek. I simply find that not logical, and I recommend against such fundamentalist thinking. Again, regarding the faith proposition, you get to decide – you can’t duck the responsibility. Try this – walk up to a Catholic Church and say you want to join. If you are not baptized or already in communion, you will get put through a process to make certain that you know and freely agree to what you are undertaking. Are there sinners – yes, sinners who need to be locked up in jail – in the Catholic Church? Well, duh.

          • Pofarmer

            I don’t know that I’m making any assertions, I’m just pointing out what has happened, and not way in the past, but recently. “Try this – walk up to a Catholic Church and say you want to join.” I’m married to a Catholic, my kids go to a Catholic school, I know plenty about Catholicism. I know I constantly have to refute the bullshit the Catholic church is selling. And, once again with the “Catholics are presumed evil” straw man. I never said that, but, I will say, due to the preponderance of evidence, the Catholic Church is NOT to be trusted.

          • Glenn Juday

            I can see that for a person of your convictions you face a difficult situation. I’ll pray for you, that the situation is resolved to the benefit of all. I particularly pray that you may encounter a hand extended in genuine friendship from someone in the Church. Peace.

          • Pofarmer

            My convictions are that I want to be treated maturely and fairly. I want to be treated with facts, not platitudes. I want to analyze actions, not rhetoric. I want to see history, not theology. That’s my convictions. You can pray all you want, but you would be better off doing something useful.

          • Glenn Juday

            Interesting response. Much in there.

    • Rob B.

      First, his title is not Mister, but Father.

      Second, where are the straw men in his post? How is he “unlettered” or even irrational? If you wish to make an argument, do so with evidence.

    • Proteios

      I feel the same way about atheism. As soon as I hear the mockery, condescension, complete lack of historical perspective or general ignorance common among atheists, I tune them out. I think that is why the ranks of atheism have such turnover…atheists talking.

    • Unbeliever Prime

      I don’t believe that Father Longenecker is as witty as he seems to think that he is (of course most people aren’t).
      But he does come across as a lot more intelligent and rational than major evangelical figures like Pat Robertson and Doctor James Dobson.

  • Mark Moore

    The dreary dullness of the atheist putting rovers on Mars, decoding the universe, curing dread diseases, traveling to the bottom of the ocean, discovering new life forms, building the internet, extending life expectancy, delving into the origins of the universe is all so boring when they could be praying or talking to a priest or even chanting – Wow – Chanting!

    • frdlongenecker

      Atheists did these exciting things because they were good scientists–not because they were atheists.

      • Ray Pastora

        Funny, because it was a Catholic priest who as a key part of the development of the Big Bang Theory. The Catholic Church also sees science as a means of understanding how God works, and not as a negation of God. So your argument fails terribly given that many of the examples you mentioned were carried out by God loving scientists.

        • Unbeliever Prime

          I heard a story about the priest who first developed the Big Bang Theory.
          According to this story, the pope at the time was so impressed that he told the priest that he was going to make the Theory an official dogma of the Church. But the priest/scientist begged him not to, because scientific theory (unlike theological doctrine) but must be able to stand based on the weight of its own evidence.
          Now I don’t know if this story is true, but that fact that its plausible illustrates the fundamental difference between science and religion.

      • Daddy Love

        And how do you know this about their motivations?

        • Mike M

          Because there’s not a correlation between being an atheist and being a great scientist, doctor, explorer, entrepreneur, etc.

          When our first astronauts landed on the moon, they read the Book of Genesis and Buzz Aldrin had (Presbyterian) communion.

          • Pofarmer

            Buzz Aldrin has actually said, if he had to do it over again, he probably wouldn’t.

      • Marvin the Martian

        Yet you happily assert that Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin and Mao did what they did due to their Atheism? A little double standard there, sparky… From my own perspective, I’m a happier person having moved on from a Christian belief – Atheism has much more of the Carpe Diem about it than theism ever offered me… But I suppose that one person’s excitement is another’s dull – Each to their own.

        • http://ktcatspost.blogspot.com/ K T Cat

          You’re happy? Who cares? You’re nothing but a bunch of pointless molecules. There’s no spark there, sparky.

        • Faithr

          If you are so darn happy with atheism, if you have moved beyond Christian belief, what are you doing here, haunting the comboxes of a Catholic priest? Major disconnect! Go actually carpe diem instead of just talking about it. Words are cheap. You sound like you are convincing yourself that you are happier. Methinks thou doth protest too much. You come across as being like: I am happy, I am happy, I am happy, dammit, that’s why I hang out here so I can get mad at you guys!

      • ponerology

        And that’s only if you believe these ‘good scientist’ cured anything at all. Those who control the pharma/medical establishment always neglect to mention that better hygiene began the decline and eradication of contagious diseases–not vaccines, for instance. These ‘good scientists’ live off of grants and one isn’t a ‘good scientist’ unless one plays ball with those who offer up the grant money. Rev. Fr. I would have left out the reference to WYD however. That has been mostly an occasion of sin if there ever was one.

    • maddermusic

      Missing the point, Mark. Ever read Ecclesiastes?

    • Howard

      Because only scientists are atheists, right? Wrong. Seriously, what IS your background that leads you to imply something so ludicrous?

      I am a physics professor, and I can tell you that some of my colleagues are atheists, yes, but many others are Christians, or Jewish, or Muslims, or Hindus, or Buddhists. Real scientists are real people, with all the diversity you encounter among other people; they are not one-dimensional stereotypes.

      And let’s face it: not a single thing that you mention was done by atheists alone. Oh, maybe an atheist travels to Brazil and finds a previously undescribed form of pill-bug, but that would be a meaningless accomplishment if you removed from biology all the previous work done by Christians and Jews. Most of the other examples were accomplished by teams of scientists and engineers — typically large teams, on which you can expect to find believers of various kinds in key positions, including that of principal investigator.

  • JT

    >”That’s the problem with atheists…they haven’t thought of all the possibilities.”

    As opposed to what? A fundamentalist whom just takes the word of a book written thousands of years ago?

    Last I checked we do take the time to look at all the possibilities, and we discount those that have no merit. We could care less how someone reads the plate. Although statistically speaking, the term Atheist is far more common than the term A theist, so people are more likely to read it as such.

    We never claimed that Santa was real. But from what I remember he doesn’t slaughter all those who are naughty or don’t believe in him. Your simple and narrow mindedness on what an Atheist actually is, is appallingly apparent.

    >“God probably doesn’t exist so enjoy yourself.”
    Just goes to show that you know nothing. We don’t believe in ANY ‘god’, so instead of living your life based on the idea that being a good person will fast track you to those pearly gates, we live our lives being good to just be good. To me that sounds like a far more selfless act then what you are preaching. You do not need faith to have morality, all you need is empathy.

    I thought your ‘god’ was suppose to teach you not to judge others. Yet I see so much judgement it’s mind numbing. You claim Atheists are dull, yet all you do is regurgitate that same idea over and over again. It might as well read “Atheists suck and are stupid poop poo heads”. Your basis for argument is moot and lacks any validity, it’s nothing more than a nonsensical folly.

    • Mike M

      “We could care less how someone reads the plate. Although statistically
      speaking, the term Atheist is far more common than the term A theist, so
      people are more likely to read it as such.”

      Case in point about the whole “Not only dull, but humorless” thing.

      Wherever the atheist sun doth cause tumors,
      Someone’s using Ngram Viewer to argue with humor.

      • JT

        How is that a “case in point”? Cherry picking at it’s best. That was not meant to be humorous, it was meant to state a point and a fact. I didn’t realize those had to by funny.

        We are far from dull and humorless. But most fundamentalist might feel that way since most of our jokes poke fun at them.

    • GettingHoldOfGod

      JT: I don’t think the essay is about logic so much as about what makes life worth living. Atheism doesn’t really supply anything in that regard. It just leaves you to make arbitrary choices. An atheist can certainly be empathetic, but atheism makes that an arbitrary choice, no more justifiable than apathy or enmity. Christianity gives you some ground to stand on.

      • Pofarmer

        Yeah, but here’s the deal though, the ground is all in your head. It ain’t real, friend.

      • JT

        So instead of living as an atheist and being good to be good to human kind and treat others kindly. You wold rather live a life being good in fear that if you don’t you will suffer eternal damnation?

        For atheist when you don’t have to live your life trying to make some petty sky wizard happy, you start living your life for yourself and doing what makes you happy and helping others to find the same happiness.

        We don’t make arbitrary choices in life. If anything fundamentalist make the arbitrary choices in life, just do what the book says regardless of it’s moral standing.

        Explain to me how it’s an “arbitrary choice”.

  • Vision_From_Afar

    Christians in Georgia can add “In God We Trust” as a sticker over their county on their licence plate. The problem is the statement is ambiguous. What if I read it and conclude that the driver is…a follower of Poseidon? It says “In God We Trust”, it never mentions which God. That’s the problem with monotheists…they haven’t thought of all the possibilities.

    • Faithr

      Sorry, but that would read ‘in gods we trust’, nobody who believed in Poseidon only believed in Poseidon. Poseidon might have been their favorite god, but he was always one of many. Brush up on your pagan gods!

      • Isaac42

        Who said anything about believing? What if Poseidon is the only god he trusts?

        • Proteios

          Ding ding ding! You got it friend. And this is why the arguments with atheists serve no purpose. They are so intellectually lazy they end up reducing themselves to mockery, obfuscation or straw men. Tis is why most of us don’t bother with the new age cult of Dawkins style atheism anymore. This is what alienated me from atheism and I suspect most others.

  • Ray Pastora

    Father, the greatest insight I’ve had recently is the realization that all evil comes from Godlessness and what that entails. I imagine a beautiful world where the entire planet voluntarily becomes devout Catholic. Along with such a development would come the end of abortion. There would be an end to pornography. Adultery would disappear. People would remain chaste outside of the bonds of marriage. Men and women would date each other with the goal of marriage and not of the next sex session. None of this would be forced by law. It would happen because people would choose to avoid the things which are evil, even though they remain legal (I’m a libertarian, so I’m against outlawing personal behavior).

    Nations would respect each other, trade freely, and not deal in animosity. People would voluntarily work together to combat poverty, help the sick, and celebrate together. Our jails would disappear because men would fear displeasing God through crime. We would all see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ, working to build His kingdom here on Earth as we await the glories of heaven for those of us worthy to enter.

    Granted, this is a fantasy. We live in an imperfect world and even the devout fall. There are those that embrace evil religions and hurt others in the name of that faith.

    The beauty of having the Church and a loving father who is willing to welcome us back, lift us up, and set us back on the right course. It is up to us, the faithful, to work towards the utopia we will never reach and to bring others into the flock.

    Atheism offers no such thing. Everything is relative. All actions are justifiable. There is no right or wrong and there is no foundation for right or wrong. The arguments fail once you start asking questions. Why be good for the sake of being good? Why worry at all about any of that? Atheism leads to tyranny, for all altruism is built into government and is forced on everyone, rather than having free men and women engage on their own.

    Yes, you can be a good person who doesn’t believe in a God, but such an existence is hollow. I’d rather believe in something greater than myself than to believe that I simply disappear once I take my last breath.

    • Mark Duch

      We might try to get Catholics to be Catholics first. You know, as a proof of concept. As a start, you might try letting go of your libertarianism, as it has its roots in the moderate Enlightenment, a most thoroughly anti-Catholic affair, indeed. I’ve managed to let go of libertarianism, although it was quite difficult.

      • Ray Pastora

        Umm, no. My belief stems from the fact that government will use religion to justify anything and everything under the sun in the name of helping the poor. I’ve seen government, both in the US and abroad, use faith when it suits it to try to get votes.

        I believe in letting people have total freedom. They can then use their God given right of free will to choose to do good or not. So I don’t understand how having the belief that government should stay out of everyone’s lives and leave charity to citizens. There’s nothing un-Catholic about that.

        • Black Lotus

          “Free will” is not a “god given right”. Nothing is “god-given”. You merely imagine your beliefs and ideals to be.

    • Pofarmer

      Holy cow, you don’t know much of the history of the Catholic Church.

      • Ray Pastora

        Actually, I’m very well aware of the history of the Church, both good and bad. It’s about as perfect a human institution as we can hope to ever have on Earth.

        • Pofarmer

          Then we a well and truly screwed.

          • Proteios

            Look around you. We are screwed. Look at the worlds governments secular or otherwise. They have done everything to ignore problems while creating more. Sure blame the Church for what it deserves, but the litany of 20th sentry genocides, world wars, derivatives fraud and on and on really dwarf the bad acts of the Chirchs entire 2000 year history. Give states and governments credit for these evils. They worked hard for it. We pay the price. So I recommend you start putting blame where it belongs.

          • Pofarmer

            Nothing new under the sun.

    • Unbeliever Prime

      You’re assuming Ray, that being a devout Catholic automatically makes someone a good and pleasant person.
      That is a dangerously large assumption to make.
      I don’t believe that entire countries could be made up of devout believers without soon descending into fanaticism.

  • David

    Aren’t we (human beings) all rather dull and bland, in the main? Of course atheism (the ideology) is dull and bland, but it seems to me that atheists are only dull and bland (and foolish) insofar as they champion atheism. (On the other hand, I don’t want to minimize the far-reaching intellectual repercussions of this mistake.) As for Epicureanism, the idea was much more to embrace asceticism, so as to avoid suffering, than to cultivate pleasures, which would only lead to more suffering in the end.

    • Ed Hamilton

      “Aren’t we (human beings) all rather dull and bland, in the main?”
      Not really. But I think that because of what I believe which makes it not dull or bland.

  • Daddy Love

    You were wrong about that distant light. So you die in the attempt.

    • frdlongenecker

      Err, we’re all going to die anyway right? Even I’m wrong I’d rather swim for the light than the other two options.

      • JT

        The Atheists asses the situation at hand, create a rudimentary beacon and life raft that can hold people and supplies. And use their intelligence to survive.

      • Brian Westley

        Considering how many times you’ve previously changed your religious outlook, why do you think you’re on the right track now?

    • Ed Hamilton

      Sounds good, as long as your sure there is no use in trying.

  • Sean

    I think it says more about you than any atheist that you look at life as a “sinking ship”.

    • Ed Hamilton

      So we aren’t going to die?

  • Steve

    You make the comparison of the modern dullness of atheism to the average mall-going suburbanite. But I think that’s the point – that’s the target audience. Make atheism normal, unremarkable. Drill those bromides into the head of John Q Public, “You can be good without God” “Religion causes wars” “Atheism is science, and science is good.”

    It is the banality that allows it to slip into the public consiousness and gradually assimilate them.

  • maddermusic

    It’s kinda odd that the atheists on this thread keep making Fr. Longenecker’s point for him, over and over and over. So many of them are humorless scolds. Was I like that back when I was an atheist? Probably. Then I got saved, and became a humorless scold for Christ! I’m older now, and much more inclined to chill. Maybe the “new atheist” types will do the same as they become old atheists!

    • Brian

      I get the impression that they’re asking difficult questions.

  • Mitchell

    Chesterton’s Orthodoxy perfectly describes the malaise of the skeptic.

    Real atheists like Hume and Kant didn’t even believe in Science.

  • http://cwchristopher.blogspot.com/ Chris

    This made my day. Thanks for the post, father! I would add that atheists of the past were much better at articulating their position, whereas the new atheists seem to babble incoherently. Honestly, I think new atheism is based on the unconscious realization that theism has wiped the floor with atheism (philosophically speaking), and there’s not much left to the atheist than angry & absurd soundbites. They debate like an animal about to die.

    • Rob B.

      The atheists of the past also understood that without God, there’s no legitimacy to traditional morality and natural law. At least Nietzsche and Marx were honest enough to rewrite morality to fit their new paradigms. The modern atheist wants at least some aspects of natural law without admitting to the existence of a Lawmaker…

  • Howard

    Let’s be fair, though: a mere “theist”, should such a creature exist, would be at least as bland. Maybe Unitarians are theists, since they seem to believe nothing in particular about God, and they are as bland as you can hope to find. I can understand a martyr dying for Christ and His Church, but I cannot imagine anyone dying for “theism”.

    And for that matter, you will meet many people who don’t think there is a God, but who do not define themselves by their atheism. The people who go out of their way to make sure everyone knows they are atheists are FANATICS, and they are bland because most fanatics on any single topic are bland. Think of fanatics for Star Trek, baseball fanatics who insist that the game manifests all that is good and right about America, or even fanatics about Gregorian chant. Try to make it through a single episode of “Ancient Aliens” — I dare you to endure something that tiresome!

    • Dan

      Mere theists exist; they are called deists. They are the people who say, “Yeah, I believe there’s a god, but I don’t think he cares about us.”

      I believe most deists fall into that position because they look at things like the Big Bang and the complexity of the universe and come away with a belief that there is a god (atheists, obviously, look at the same things without coming away with a belief that there is a god). However, the deist rejects religion, often for the same reasons that the atheist does (e.g., problem of evil, multiple faith traditions, etc.).

    • Nan

      Don’t Congregationalists, Reform Jews and Methodists also believe nothing in particular about God?

      • Howard

        Well, John and Charles Wesley certainly had strong beliefs about God, but I get your point.

    • Howard

      Two votes down. I’m guessing I offended one baseball fan and one Trekkie.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    An Atheist Church? The waiting room of the new saviour, the Physician:

    Gotcha! It’s a Quaker Chapel!
    (Remember, any thing remotely decent in England was nicked from the Theists by Tubby the Tudor.)
    Their bicycle slogan? ‘God might exist, so you better not enjoy yourself.’
    No blood, no guts, no humour, no relics or stained glass, and with congregations that bi-furcate…

    Whilst, chust…

    Yes, Atheism can only deny. It’s fiercely trying to deny its Puritan roots, but only the God part of it. As the old adage goes, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same’…

  • Sven2547

    What if I read it and conclude that the driver is… A theist? That’s the problem with atheists…they haven’t thought of all the possibilities.

    Oh they think of plenty of possibilities. Then they choose the most logical one. Turns out “ATHE1ST” translates to “atheist” to almost anyone. That’s not a particularly stupid thing to do, nor is it an advertising stunt.

    Tell me, are those little “Jesus fish” advertising stunts, too?

  • dmw

    I wish atheists would be consistent and really, truly embrace ‘survival of the fittest.’ If a person is hungry, the atheist should let him starve. If a man is beating his wife, the atheist should encourage him (and then take his stuff). If an atheist scientist discovers an amazing insight, he should exploit it and not share it with anyone but should take all the glory and profit as much as possible from it. If an atheist research scientist discovers a wonderful cure to cancer or AIDS or what-have-you, he should ensure that only he himself (and his genetic lineage) share in its benefits. Come on, just be consistent. Or could it be that the desire for being called “good,” or having an innate sense that loving others of the human species is important and necessary, or that having a little thing called “conscience” might just point to Something or Someone above and beyond space and time?

    • Pofarmer

      Teh stupid runs deep here. There are good Evolutionary reasons for how we’ve developed morally. “Someone above and beyond space and time” isn’t necessary.

    • Unbeliever Prime

      I know you’re trying to be witty dmw, but many of the things you are suggesting that consistent atheists do would be both pointlessly cruel (such as encouraging a man to beat his wife) and counterproductive from a personal profit point of view (like curing a horrible disease and then not telling anyone out of spite).
      Assuming that this post is serious, you seem to think that atheists are by default both mean and stupid.
      But why would this be the case when the opposite certainly isn’t true (religious people definitely aren’t automatically smart and pleasant)?

  • http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester curtjester

    When I started my first blog back in 2002 it was named “Atheist to A Theist.”

  • Dave

    In other words, Christians have hope. It is difficult to be interested, or interesting, without hope. According to atheists, it is a false hope. But what is worse, a potentially false hope, or no hope?

    • Pofarmer

      False hope is worse. Working hard at something, and then realizing that you have been going the wrong direction is hard on someone.

      • Dave

        In this case, one would never find out that their hope is false, because if the atheists are right, they’d just be dead.

    • Claudia Sperlich

      Moreover, there is no evidence that Christian hope is false. If a man decides for the love of Christ to have himself killed in the place of another man – Maximilian Kolbe did that – and then survives the dark and filthy hunger bunker for an amazingly long period, comforting his cell mates, all this due to Hope, this hope might not be quite wrong.

  • ponerology

    Humorless? I think perhaps it’s more a case of a lack of love. They have no love for their creator and thus very little real love (aka true charity) for anything else.

    • Brian

      Please refer to Pope Francis comment above. I gave that other Brian an upvote.

  • Tim Eisele

    “And advertising on a bus to start with? Who advertises on a bus?”
    I realize you’re trying to be funny, but atheist groups originally got the idea from JesusSaid.org putting religious advertising on buses. And now they’re keeping it up because they’ve found that even the blandest, least interesting statement about atheism gets everybody all wound up to a surprising degree.

  • jarms40

    I DO have a Coexist bumper sticker on my Prius! It says, “Coexist with the Unborn.” But then again I’m a_theist.

  • Chesire11

    Just last night, my 15 year old son and I were discussing this same point, and I was so proud when he said he had not interest in atheism. “It would be just so…boring,” he said.

    Ultimately, all positions lead to theism or solipsism, there really isn’t any other option available.

  • David_Naas

    Now, now Father… Isn’t at a sin to mock the theologically impaired? (Hmmm which reminds me, Confession this Saturday.)
    Actually, it boils down to a matter of pacing. The difference between ATHEIST and A THEIST is miniscule, but, such a difference.
    Reminds me of a billboard I saw years ago, which said, “There is a great gap between GOD IS NOWHERE and GOD IS NOW HERE.
    All the difference in the world.
    Timing is everything.

  • http://profiles.google.com/pat79thst PATRICK HICKEY

    Father, you are my kind of Stiff-Collar!

  • TheodoreSeeber

    “God probably doesn’t exist so enjoy yourself.” is the sum total of their philosophy. There is no there there.

    • Unbeliever Prime

      Atheists don’t have a philosophy (as atheists).
      Because atheism is merely a lack of belief in something (the supernatural).
      You give atheists both too much and too little credit.
      An atheist can be a capitalist or a communist, a prude or a pervert, a winner or a loser. Being a atheist just means that you don’t believe in God or other supernatural things.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        That there is no God or other supernatural effects is axiomatic. It affects all other thinking- corrupts all other thinking.

        It ends all possibility of a rational morality.

  • Pluto Animus

    Another Christian too brain dead to know what Communism is.

    How excruciatingly typical.

  • Pluto Animus

    Ah, a Christian coward who must moderate (censor) all comments.

    How excruciatingly typical!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Chesire11

      It’s not cowardice, it is sensible defense of discourse. Apparently you are new to the internets, and haven’t noticed that there are a goodly number of people on-line who like nothing better than to swarm a blog and intentionally disrupt the conversation, sidetracking, or overwhelming it with a tide of abusive or irrelevant comments. Without moderation, discussion is pretty much impossible on blogs that deal with politics or religion.

      As long as you stick to the subject and refrain from comments that would cost you a few teeth if uttered in person to a stranger, you don’t really have much to worry about.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      I’ve found he’s actually quite reasonable. He’s probably had too many trolls dropping curse-laden diatribes to note moderate.

  • Linus

    You wrote something I can’t post on Catholic Answers. Atheist discussion is forbidden because not only are atheists dull, they can be very angry and rude – and that makes us rude.

  • JARay

    The Mathematician Renee Descartes, talking about probabilities, summed things thus:-
    Either there is a God or there is no God.
    If there is no God then, atheist or theist, it makes no difference, because when we die we simply cease to exist. There is no heaven and there is no hell.
    If there is a God, then, for the atheist, his probability of heaven is either zero or very close to it.
    But, for the theist, his probability of heaven is closer to 1 but not ,perhaps, equal to 1.
    The atheist has be to be absolutely certain that there is no God because if he is wrong then his outlook for the future is to be dreaded.
    In other words, atheism is a very bad bet when looking at probabilities.
    Sensible people are theists.

    • Pofarmer

      What if the theist believes in the wrong God?

      • Djona

        What if it’s multiple choice, and one of the answers has to be an animal?

      • Unbeliever Prime

        Presumably they go to hell (regardless of how much they believed and faithfully followed the wrong deity).

    • Vicki

      Isn’t this Pascal’s Wager? This has already been proven to be a bad argument, and it’s really nonsensical to believe it holds any merit.

  • Brian

    “If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet
    there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will
    make that culture of encounter,” Francis said. “We must meet one another
    doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do
    good: we will meet one another there.”

    I like your new Pope, he seems to live his faith. I’m a ‘soup kitchen atheist’ so I appreciate his willingness to see the benefit in people coming together to do good, even if they arrive there on different paths.

    • Brian

      I’m a different Brian, just so everyone knows. I am Catholic and also asking difficult questions about the religion. I too was encouraged by those words. I trust that Pope Francis will continue doing his part to foster a culture of encounter, not one of total warfare.

      • Howard

        First of all, as a Catholic you should know that what is going on is PRECISELY total warfare, but that our struggle is “not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” It is a mistake to think our real enemies are other human beings, but it is also a mistake to think that all we need to do is buy everyone a Coca-Cola and we would all sing together harmoniously on a hillside.

        Secondly, let’s be realistic about a “culture of encounter”. As Christians, we certainly want to reach out to all people because they themselves have worth and value. That does not mean that everyone’s ideas have worth and value, though. For example, had Jim Jones survived the Jonesville Massacre, there would still be no new insights he could give us about God. There is no real point in sifting through the theology of David Koresh to see what we can learn. Likewise, expecting theological insights from people who do not believe in God is like looking for advances in evolutionary theory from creationists. By the same token, it’s not obvious that atheists would have any interest in “encounter” with a Catholic AS A CATHOLIC. If I get work done on my car, the mechanic might believe that the planet Nibiru is about to pass close to the Earth, causing geological upheaval and bringing the evil Anunnaki; I can be polite to him and do business, I can even admire his professionalism, but I am not interested in the details of the imaginary planet Nibiru. Atheists will see us the same way.

  • Jim

    Had a conversation at work with a young fella. He said, “Of course plants and rocks are people.” When I pressed the idea of nominalism he said, “Of course 3 times 4 equals 11 or whatever other number you want.” It was all so smug.

    The poor under 30 generation has chugalugged the homosexualism heresy hook line sinker.


    • Vision_From_Afar


  • Pofarmer

    “The conversation with atheists always lacks a certain edge. There’s a
    slipperiness to it and a lack of grip–like wrestling in jello with a one
    armed man. I have thought long and hard about this phenomenon and I
    think it is because the theist is arguing from a positive proposition
    and the atheist is arguing from a negation. The theist is arguing in
    support of something positive. The atheist can only deny. That denial
    and essential negativity culminates in a vagueness about
    everything–their mindset seems dull and out of focus.”

    Did you ever stop and think that maybe they are trying not to offend you ? You know, being nice?

  • mendezjb

    “In the beginning nothing (from no where) exploded, and created everything.”

    The funniest part of talking to atheists is that they haven’t discovered atheism is a religion.

    • Vicki

      Atheism is just the rejection of the claim that there is a god. It isn’t a religion. What made you come to that conclusion?

      • Djona

        I believe in a talking snake and a floating babysitter who says I’m not allowed to question my belief in said snake. You believe evolution, which I would need lots of faith to believe in because I am unaccustomed to logic and it doesn’t come with a babysitter. So thinking hard about the snake is verboten and thinking hard about evolution is impossible and THEREFORE all that’s left is faith, and let’s everybody just stop talking about it before somebody gets smited.

  • Stevethesteve

    To answer why athiests insist on the whole “We’re good people too you know” kind of atheism you need only read the this article has generated.

    “Father, the greatest insight I’ve had recently is the realization that all evil comes from Godlessness and what that entails.”

    “I would argue that most of the evil things in this world stem directly from the embrace of secularism and evil.”

    Of course, in your own words you say much the same thing.

    “At least the old fashioned atheists followed their logic and tried to
    wipe out everyone who didn’t agree with them. Stalin, Lenin, Mao and Pol
    Pot had teeth.”

    It seems rather disingenuous to first mock how atheists need to advertise just to move past the point of being hated, and then work to foster the very environment that makes these dull advertisements necessary.

    Of course, I didn’t include any humor in the above, so I presume my argument is invalid.

    • Sean Osborne

      Apparently, being “boring” has been added to the list of Deadly Sins. Your post will result in your being darned to heck for a long, long time.

  • Rick

    I love the fact that so many athiests read and comment on your blog Father, it indicates they are searching, if just for a place to vent. Maybe you are the Ambrose to their young Augustine. Keep up the good work Padre.

    • Pofarmer

      What it indicates, is atheists know that this kind of foolishness needs to be engaged, or we are back to being burned at the stake.

  • Dadof8

    But Fr, I do like oatmeal. :)

  • Claudia Sperlich
  • Keon

    LOL This entire “article” is absolutely absurd. I thought it was satire until i scrolled through the comments. This is something I’d expect to see on The Onion but the fact that you and your followers are serious makes this even more funny. Thank you. It was quite humorous. People actually think like this LOL. Mission accomplished my good sir!

  • Captain_Wierdo

    Is it me or did anyone else think he was using satire until they read the comments?

  • Abasi S. Baruti

    Got dogma?

  • Banner

    This is worthy of more thought. Thank you for sharing.

  • ocarol500

    I usually ask anyone who claims not to believe in God where he gets the basis for his morals and ethics. If he says ‘himself’ then I reply, so you’re saying ‘situational ethics’ … if it ‘feels good’ do it? What if at a certain time killing someone ‘feels like’ the right thing to do? Oh, you don’t kill because it ‘feels right?’ So then, what do you base your decision not to kill on? Do you steal something because you want it? If not, what holds you back? On what do you base that moral decision? Your own conscience? Who gave you the conscience? Etc etc. Usually the person just starts calling me names or walks away … and I start praying for their heart to be turned to God.

    • Pofarmer

      See above, ethics and morals are societal, we have DEVELOPED them though time. The morals and ethics of today are NOT the same as the morals and ethics 2000 yrs ago.

      • ocarol500

        Societal Norms are Situation Ethics. God’s Laws are written on our hearts. The 10 Commandments were written on stone to emphasize their permanence and absoluteness. Societies change: God never changes. Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8

        • Pofarmer

          And what is so moral about the 10 commandments? Why isn’t it possible that our morals have evolved with our social structures?

          • ocarol500

            “A man may lose the good things of his life against his will; but if he loses the eternal blessings, he does so with his own consent.” ~ St Augustine (354-430 AD)

            “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” – Plato (427-347 B.C.)

  • Clonmacnoise

    Santa…or St. Nicholas was a real person…I always tell my preschoolers that St. Nicholas walked the world just like us and was given the very special power of healing…especially children. W.when St. Nicholas died, Christ told Nicholas that he had served HIm well, and what did he want? Nicholas retorted that he wanted nothing but to serve…and that he would like to visit the children once every year. So they decided that an appropriate time to visit would be on Jesus’s birthday. And that Jesus would be sending a gift through Nicholas.

  • Brian

    I would like to post just one more thing and then bow out of this thread a moment ago. I just came across this claim. Perhaps you could address this claim?


    Thank you.

  • Unbeliever Prime

    I call myself an atheist (in truth I am more of an angry agnostic*) and even I have to admit that the Father has something of a point (although I think the late Christopher Hitchens was more interesting than 99% of 21st Century preachers and theologians).
    The problem is, simply not believing in gods and the supernatural isn’t much to rally people around (or very exciting most of the time). Christianity might not be true, but its an exciting story, with larger than life characters and a (promised) epic climax.
    *The truth is, I don’t feel confident saying that there are absolutely no gods (or goddesses) and there never were. That we live in an entirely material universe (with no supernatural elements).
    There are too many x-factors involved (at least as far as I am concerned).
    But I do feel confident saying that the major religions like Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam are all BS. Because there is no concrete evidence to support their claims, those claims seem so implausible, and (perhaps most damning of all) the dogma of all the major religions seems to reflect the prejudices and/or self-interests of their founders.