Internet Atheists and Christian Philosophers

Internet Atheists and Christian Philosophers May 22, 2024

Internet Atheists

There are at least two types of atheists online. There is the angry, ax-grinding sort and there is the serious intellectual sort. The former I ignore because the only thing they want to do is impugn the intelligence of a theist to make themselves feel superior. Their attitude seems to be, “Believers are unenlightened boors who must be mocked.” Having read the works of Nietzsche or Dawkins and certain in their smug enlightenment, their tactic is to demean and defame. Their knowledge of theism is as deep as a thimble, and their knowledge of philosophy of religion is sophomoric.

While believing they hold to the highest ideals of logic, they use routine logical fallacies to support their position and cover up their weaknesses in arrogance. In a word, they are insufferable. While one might think engaging with them would be useful or persuasive, it never is. Engaging with them is as profitable as arguing with a potted plant.

With the latter, one can have an interesting and enlightening conversation. The exchange of ideas can make each think more carefully about his or her beliefs, and develop new ways of thinking about important issues.

William Lane Craig

Philosopher of Religion, William Lane Craig frequently debates atheists without regard to type. In the following video, he responds to a challenge from one of them.

The atheist poses a variation of a typical challenge, “We are all atheists regarding…” the gods of the Greek pantheon. Craig, answers the question well, but not as detailed as I would have liked him to have. He says to believe in atheism is to believe there are no gods. Ergo, disbelieving in the Greek gods does not make one an atheist in any way.


Philosophers at the School of Athens

Helpful Additions

It would have been helpful if Craig had added a few other points. The questioner was trying to argue that since there are so many gods, one should believe in none of them. As it is often put, “I just believe in one less god than you do.” What this particular challenge ignores is that for very many questions there is only one correct answer. There are an infinite number of incorrect answers to 2+2=, and there is only one correct answer. There are numerous incorrect answers to the question of the causes of WW2. A plethora of incorrect answers in no way devalues the correct one. Disbelieving in the gods of Mount Olympus does not make one an atheist.

Theists, especially Christian theists, argue that what other systems of worship get wrong is not the reality of God, but the definition of God. It is not that the believers of Zeus were wrong about the existence of God, it is that they projected themselves onto God, making God in their own image.


Making God in one’s image is extremely difficult to avoid. That is why most pagan deities look like humans with exaggerated capacities, most often power. This tendency is exactly why the Ten Commandments forbid making images of God, images are projections. Think of it this way, people tend to project what is inside of us onto nearly everything. Humans project personality onto stuffed animals, can see friendly faces in the random shapes of bathroom tiles, and see antagonistic forces in the clouds. It is quite natural for humans to project onto spiritual realities. It would be odd if those projections were absent.


That is why the witness of Scripture is important to humans. Because we tend to project, we need a corrective. The corrective is revelation. The revelation of Scripture is how we understand God. Why did the Greeks and others incorrectly define God? They did not have access to Scripture. The fullest revelation of God is Jesus Christ. Jesus, God incarnate, is the exact impression of who God is. What God is like, Jesus is like.

Faith and Reason

On the other hand, there is something important to note. Other religions, in certain places, do have some similarities to what we find in Revelation. The similarities between Plato’s conception of God and the Christian one have led to interesting, often improbable theories. One such theory is that Plato studied in Egypt and learned the works of Moses which he borrowed in his philosophy of God. Dubious as this theory is, a great teacher of the Patristic Era, Justin Martyr, seems to allude to it.

While theories like Plato’s visit to Egypt can make for great late-night conspiracy theories, they obscure what is afoot. Justin was on to something. Unlike his contemporary Tertullian who argued Greek philosophy was dangerous,[1] Justin believed there were seeds of the Gospel in it. Those who agreed with Justin used the term logos spermatikos. Justin believed that God put “seeds of the Gospel” throughout human civilization, including human religion. It would be natural, then, for Christians to find similarities to the Gospel embedded in the world around them.


It would also be natural, then, for the highest and best human reflections on God to have some kernels of truth. Since God is the author of reason, it would be rational to think that those who give long reflection on God would come to some quite similar conclusions. The only way to decide from among them is by comparison to the text of Scripture. The reason why the New Testament is the final authority for thinking about God is that it testifies to the event of the Resurrection. Because Jesus is risen from the dead, his claim to be God is vindicated. Since the New Testament is the witness to that event, it has priority over all human systems of thought on the nature of God.

So, back to the atheist’s question, there are many religions. A multiplicity of them does not affect the truth claims of one. Any similarities among them are to be expected as well. Testing the truth claim of the claims is only possible through the revelation of Scripture.



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