September 1, 2020 Daniel Harrison

The Lure of New Atheism on the Next Generation

This post is number one of a six-part blog series introducing the science and God debate.

Here’s the full series:

1. The Lure of New Atheism on the Next Generation

2. Is Science Ridding the Need For God?

3. Why God’s World and Word Cannot Be Separated (a)

4. Why God’s World and Word Cannot Be Separated (b)

5. Why God’s World and Word Cannot Be Separated (c)

6. Conclusion: Follow the Evidence Where it Leads


If God is Good Then Why…

Popular astrophysicist Neil Tyson was interviewed on the Chelsea Talk show. Chelsea, the host, asked him this question, “As a scientist, do you believe in God?” Tyson made the audience laugh as he replied, “Well, in the West…” followed by a long philosophical concept.

She interrupted him, “I didn’t ask that. I asked, do you believe in God?”

Everyone laughed again. He then began to unravel one of the biggest barriers for people coming to faith in God. If God is all-good and all-powerful, why does he allow evil? 

Here was his reply.

“Every description of God that I’ve heard holds God to be all powerful—very typical, and all good.

“And then I look around and I see a Tsunami that killed a quarter million people in Indonesia, an earthquake that killed a quarter million people in Haiti, and I see earthquakes and tornados and disease, childhood leukemia.”

“I see all this and I say, ‘I do not see evidence of both of those being true simultaneously. If there is a God, the God is either not all-powerful, or not all-good. It can’t be both.'”

Chelsea reacts with a surprising hum, then replies, “good answer.” The audience applauded. And Tyson continued, “If you have good evidence, I’m good for it. But I’m evidence driven more than I am faith driven.”

The audience’s response gave the feeling that ground-breaking philosophy was just introduced into modern thinking. Believing in a deity made sense in pre-scientific times. But with the rise of reason and scientific evidence concerning the laws of nature, arguments against the existence of God can seem persuasive.

Important to note!

No disrespect to Neil Tyson, I love listening to him. He has a set of principles he believes in and bases his worldview on them. I appreciate how he has convictions, yet doesn’t dismantle someone’s faith.

Honestly, such respect is a long lost art these days. I have a firm conviction that Christians must recover the discipline of standing for their moral convictions while practicing the second greatest commandment, “you must love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).

I recently taught on how we can do this here.

Behind every objection is a human made in God’s image, hence why God’s Word compels the Christian, “give a reason for the hope you have, yet do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15, emphasis mine).

Promoting Science or Worldview?

There are other atheists, however, who seek to eradicate religion under the guise of promoting science. They want to convince religious practitioners they’re wrong, even at the expense of their hope or happiness.

One such person is Physics Nobel Prize winner, Stephen Weinberg who said,

“The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion. Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.” 1

Notice the presuming, “Anything we scientists can do.” It is important to differentiate from a scientist atheist who promotes science and one who pushes worldview. Science is the authority, not scientists or scientific statements.

To be clear, Christianity doesn’t reject the work of scientists. The scientific method is a means of God’s revelation to us. We reject the worldview of scientism, an atheistic scheme to disprove religion in the name of science.

More on that next week.

We must differentiate from an atheist scientist who promotes science and one who pushes worldview. Click To Tweet

Richard Dawkins for example, the deemed leader of the New Atheism movement, writes in his evangelistic The God Delusion:

“If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” 2

Introducing New Atheism

Atheism, to be clear, believes God does not exist. It holds to naturalism—the only things that exist are material things. Miracles, for that matter, defy the laws of nature and thereby do not exist. Theists, who do believe in the existence of God, hold there are immaterial things like the soul or spirit.

There are brilliant scientists who are both atheists and theists. As we will observe soon, the last century held more Christian Nobel prize winners in science and physics than any other worldview.

Atheism has been around for millennia. But it’s only called “new” atheism, because it has sprung into popularity in recent years by personalities making headlines.

John Lennox says the only thing “new” about atheism is their attitude. Namely, the hostility and disdain they show toward the religious.3

This is expected from any person desiring to escape the moral obligation of authority, and is why atheism will never become an organized entity. Dawkins admits it’s because, “they tend to think independently and will not conform to authority.”

Atheists are too individualistic to organize around a common cause. Dawkins explains it’s like “herding cats.” Even if that’s not possible, he adds, “cats in sufficient numbers can make a lot of noise and they cannot be ignored.” 4

I can’t escape the feeling that more noise and disunity is not what we need.

Old Arguments

New atheists like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitches have become very popular. But new atheism isn’t new. Old arguments like Tyson’s have been answered for centuries by Christian scientists and apologists (defenders of the faith) who understand well the dilemma of evil. 5

That includes not only the problem of evil—but its origins, purpose, persistence, and just what an all-good-all-powerful God is doing with it.

We live in an age where knowing what we believe and why has never been greater. Especially, with the recent trend of pitting faith against reason—the idea that you cannot have faith in God and be rational at the same time.

We live in an age where knowing what we believe and why has never been greater. Click To Tweet

But Biblical faith is not irrational, wishful thinking, or a blind leap into the dark. Blind faith certainly is. But Biblical faith is evidenced-based and stands on objective verifiable truth. These are concepts we will explore later.

Not only does Christianity answer life’s toughest questions, but offers a better way to live in this world.

The Lure on College Students

In their book, So The Next Generation Will Know, Sean McDowell and Jim Wallace share the affect new atheism is having on the next generation. The percentage of teens who identify as atheist is double that of the general population on the globe.

More problematic is the amount of young people leaving the faith after graduation.

Here are statistics on the exodus.

  • A recent study done by UCLA showed that 52% reported “frequent church attendance the year before they entered college. But only 29% continued frequent church attendance by their Jr. Year.
  • A variety of studies report that 50-70% of young Christians walk away from the church by the time they are in their college years. Even those who don’t leave, find themselves struggling to believe Christianity is true.
  • Approximately 40-50% of students in youth groups struggle in their faith after graduation. 6
A variety of studies report that 50-70% of young Christians walk away from the church by the time they are in their college years. Click To Tweet

Josh McDowell shares that while many leave for various reasons (moral, volitional, emotional, relational etc.), intellectual reasons are one important factor. Their questions posed are genuine, and when not answered, they leave the church.

Stories like these are all too common:

“I wish my child could have heard you a few years ago. We raised her in the faith, but now she has strayed from it. She had questions that no one could answer, and simply doesn’t believe anymore.” 7

The truth is that anyone with a PhD can convince you of their worldview. I recently saw a video by philosopher Jorden Peterson on YouTube that said, “How to Sell Anything to Anyone.”

While an 18-year-old belief system may be dismantled in college, pair his or her professor with an academic peer and apologist like John Lennox or the late Ravi Zacharias, and the outcome is much different.

To be continued…

Get notified on part two next week by clicking here!


About the Blog

I’ve started this blog to invite you to think about what you believe and why.

My hope is that you’ll believe not because your parents told you or your professor, but because you’ve explored the person of Jesus and made conclusions yourself.

My goal is that you would grow to live joyfully and resiliently as you learn to rely on Jesus.

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Comments (7)

  1. Intriguing, captivating, and equipping! I chuckled at some tongue and cheek remarks; but, I loved your informative approach. I’m looking forward to the rest of this series! Thank you!

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