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How To Make Bad Arguments to Atheist Teenagers

How To Make Bad Arguments to Atheist Teenagers September 7, 2011

A pastor named Greg Stier has an article in the Christian Post about how to proselytize to teenage atheists. It’s full of the kind of silly nonsense that makes teenagers, and others, become atheists. Like this:

1. Mock religion as early as you can in the conversation…

When atheist teenagers discover that God is as disgusted by religion as they are it gives them common ground with authentic Christianity. After all it was religious people that Jesus railed against in Matthew 23. It was religious people who crucified Jesus in Mark 15. It was religious people who killed Stephen, the first martyr of the early church, in Acts 8.

Gain this common ground as soon as possible with atheist teenagers. When they see you sickened by the hypocrisy that inevitably accompanies religion, the emotional barriers that often keep them from taking a second look at Christianity can begin to fall down.

Ah yes, the old “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship” nonsense. Almost as stupid as the claim that Islam isn’t a religion, which is being made by a lot of the same people. They seem to want to define religion out of existence. This is not, of course, an argument that’s going to fool any half-smart teenage atheist.

2. Focus on Jesus.

Jesus was a radical, rebel and revolutionary. This same “vibe” often appeals to atheist teenagers, many of whom consider themselves the same.

Show them stories in the Bible where Jesus healed lepers, hung out with “sinners” and bucked the religious system. Paint the picture of Jesus as a hero of the downtrodden (because he was) and his death as the ultimate injustice (because it was!) When they begin to see Jesus’ willingness to suffer injustice so that they could be justified the code of unbelief can be cracked in their souls.

This might work if you’re part of a Christian denomination that is liberal, both politically and theologically. But in a more conservative church? Not a chance. You can’t sell the rebel message and the authoritarian message of conservative Christianity at the same time.

3. Speak of God as if he exists.

Instead of assuming they are true atheists, speak of God as a reality. Romans 1:18-21 makes it clear that,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

At the end of the day there are no true atheists. In the deepest parts of their soul every atheist, according to Romans 1, truly believes in the existence of God but doesn’t want to give glorify him or give him thanks.

I have found that the more you speak of God as a reality the sooner the atheist teen will say something like, “Well, if God is so good then why….” It’s at this moment they are admitting that they actually do believe in God but they don’t want to acknowledge it for whatever reason. So, instead of attacking their arguments, speak of God as if he exists and let them deal with the true core of their problem with God, not his existence but their accountability to him.

Stier apparently thinks teenage atheists aren’t bright enough to recognize the difference between a hypothetical question and an admission — maybe because he obviously isn’t bright enough to recognize it. But I strongly recommend this strategy. When a teenage atheist offers a hypothetical argument — like “If God is so good, then why does he order the slaughter of innocent people many times over in the Bible?” — and Stier responds by saying “a ha, see, you really do believe in God, you just admitted it,” the teenage atheist is going to immediately assume — correctly, of course — that Stier is a moron not worth listening to.

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