What's Up With All The Angry Atheists?
When I first started witnessing to unbelievers to obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:19 and the command of 1 Peter 3:15, I’ve noticed how many atheists are just downright rude, nasty, and just downright angry. They don’t try to hide the fact that they despise Christianity and Christians by extension. I’ve been called just about everything from “bigot” to “imbecile” to “Creaotard” to “Oxygen Thief” to “homophobe” to “Christard” to the traditional “moron”. I’ve even been called “human waste” by one atheist. I remember his words precisely. He said “You don’t deserve respect. You defend and promote genocide. You deserve to be in prison. You are human waste.” Now, I’m assuming that tweet was directed at my defense of God’s Old Testament judgments on the Caananites, Sodom and Gomorrah etc. Which are often characterized as “divine genocide” rather than judgment on desperately evil people. The part about respect was in response to my request for him to be more courteous.
I’m not really surprised at receiving this kind of hate. Jesus promised that it would come. Jesus said “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” – John 15:18-19.
Having endured through conversation after conversation with atheist after atheist, the insults and slander don’t bother me like they used to. In fact, often times it makes me smile since according to Jesus, the more they do this the more rewards I’m going to get in Heaven. Jesus said “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in Heaven” – Luke 6:23 (cf. Matthew 5:11)
But even though it’s to be expected seeing as Christ said it would happen, it still raises the question as to why this is in fact the case. Why the anger? Why the animosity? Why do so many atheists have their blood boiling at even a passing reference to God? I have some ideas as to why this is. In fact, there are several answers to this question. Each answer is not universally applicable of course. Each person is different and so we’d expect there to be different driving factors for each individual. The reason why one atheist hates Christians will not necessarily be the same reason as that of another. There’s no “One size fits all” answer to this question.
Before I delve into the reasons why so many act this way, it should be noted that not all are like this. I’ve talked to several atheists that are kind and respectful. They treat me as an intellectual equal instead of belittling me. He’s respectful of me and I’m respectful of him. I find these atheists not only fun to discuss these important issues with but I also find these people to be quite likeable. They make me feel like we can break bread despite our contradicting worldviews. I’m often astonished at this behavior though since it’s unfortunately the exception to the rule.
#1: Some Atheists Are Angry Because They’re Under Deep Conviction.
It seems to me that one reason why so many atheists are irate is because they’re coming under deep conviction from The Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches that God wants all people saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:4), because He wants all saved He became a human being and died for all people (John 3:16-17, 1 John 2:2, Hebrews 2:9, 1 Timothy 4:10), and that He’s sending grace to all people to enable and persuade them to come to a saving relationship with Himself (see John 12:32). Since this grace is extended to every human being, in order to avoid being saved the unsaved person would have to fight against this drawing or else his salvation would be inevitable. They’d have to fight against The Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). It’s like this; if you’re in a river that’s trying to carry you to a certain destination you’d have to swim against the current with all your might in order to avoid being swept away. If you didn’t fight, the river would inevitably take you to wherever it’s flowing. God’s grace is the same way.
Human nature wants nothing to do with God. It is opposed to Him and all His ways. For some, they feel the strong pull of God’s grace to get them to bow at the cross. This, coupled with abundant evidence of God’s handiwork in nature (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1-4) makes it hard for them to ignore the truth. They do as Paul says in Romans 1;
They…“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 people are without excuse.” – Romans 1:18-20
Scripture teaches that the evidence for creation and design is abundantly clear in the created order. In other words, God’s fingerprints are all over His creation. This evidence is so strong that “men are without excuse”, that is to say without excuse for not believing. This is one of my favorite Pauline passages. Paul said this at a time when not much scientific knowledge was available. Yet Paul says that the evidence for creation from nature (i.e “everything that has been made”) is so strong that people have “no excuse” in their disbelief in God’s existence. Now think of this; if people of the first century didn’t have any excuse in their disbelief in God’s existence, what excuse do 21st century people have? By now scientists have uncovered startling data which powerfully points towards the conclusion that our universe is created and designed by a supreme Being. We now know that the universe popped into being out of absolutely nothing, that the odds of the laws of physics are fine tuned to make any form of life possible, our solar system also has such improbable characteristics. Plus you have evidence that our genetic make up is analogous to computer codes. We have scientific evidence that aquatic life sprung onto the scene in a geological instant. And, even secular historians have uncovered historical evidence for 4 facts which point to the Christian belief in Christ’s resurrection.
I might be able to excuse the Bronze Age atheist for disbelief in a Creator (though Paul says even they are without excuse), but the modern atheist has to stick his head in the sand to ignore the fingerprints of God uncovered by modern scientists (Which verse 18 says they do). After all, what screams “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” more loudly than The Big Bang theory?
Here’s my point; atheists have to talk themselves out of believing in God (Romans 1:18) because both general revelation and the internal witness of The Holy Spirit persistently gnaws at them (Romans 1:20, John 12:32). You have to try very hard to be an atheist. And for some, it feels like a losing battle. For some, it is a losing battle. People like Lee Strobel, C.S Lewis, St. Augustine, Holly Ordway, and Dave Glander have lost their battles against God.
In my experience, the atheists who are the rudest tend to have the weakest arguments. The most polite ones tend to have the most powerful arguments. It's probably the case that the angriest atheists are the least confident in their worldview while the calmer ones have the most confidence. Richard Dawkins is the poster child for being an atheist who's both angry and has terrible arguments (e.g the "Who designed the designer" argument).
If you preach the gospel to such a person and/or given them an argument for God’s existence, you’re making their struggle even harder. C.S Lewis admitted to such a struggle in one his writings. He even called himself “the most reluctant convert in all England.” It’s only natural to get angry at someone who’s making it hard for you to hold on to what you want to believe. This isn’t exclusive to atheists; this is the case for anyone who holds a belief that they cherish above all others. People don’t just hold beliefs, they cherish them. For some people, rendering their belief invalid is like attempting to kill one of their loved ones. Now, why people would want Christianity to be false also differs from person to person. This is a different topic though which I wrote about earlier. For some, it’s because they don’t want to give up their sin. This is what Paul meant in Romans 1 about people “suppressing the truth in their unrighteousness” However, for others, it may be that to accept Christianity as true would be to affirm that a loved one who perished as a non-Christian is now in Hell. It’s preferable to believe that there is no such thing as Hell than to affirm that someone you love is there. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t intellectual obstacles that people have that prevent them from becoming Christians (e.g the problem of suffering). However, we should acknowledge that the issue isn’t merely intellectual, but that there are spiritual and emotional elements present as well.
#2: Some Atheists Think Religion (of all kinds) is The Root Of All Evil.
As ridiculous as this sounds, there are many atheists who think that religious beliefs are the root cause of all the worlds ills. Not a sinful nature as scripture teaches (Romans 5, Psalm 51) but belief in a higher power. While it certainly is true that some religious beliefs are the root of some of the suffering in the world (e.g Islamic Jihad) it certainly is not the case that if the entire world consisted of atheists, the world would be a better place. In his book “God’s Not Dead”, Rice Brooks has a chapter called “The Grace Effect” where he points out all of the good that religion has done for the world (specifically Christianity). That’s an excellent book and I advise you to check it out. I’m not going to take the time to address the fallaciousness of this mindset, I’m just going to take the time to point this mindset out in order to answer to the question “Why are so many Atheists angry?” However, for those who do think this way, I have two words for you; “Mother Teresa”.
You’ll often times here the “Religion has caused more wars than anything else” slogan. Which is statistically false, and it’s an atheistic slogan I plan on addressing some day in a future post. So, if someone thinks you and those just like you are the cause of many evils in the world, it makes sense why they’d resent you…even if the basis for their hatred is a foundation of misinformation.
#3: Mistreatment By Christians
It’s unfortunate that the dislike of Christians from non-Christians isn’t only because of the message they preach, but because of the way in which they present the message. For example, the blind faith movement among churches has damaged opportunities for spiritual harvests for Christ. If you ask any critical questions of the faith (like reasons to think Jesus rose from the dead, or why God permits suffering), you don’t get any rational answers from the pastor. No, instead you get the “just have faith” line or “Pray about it. God will show you the way”. If you’re a critically thinking Christian (like yours truly) you may even be reprimanded for doubting scripture, or you may have your salvation called into question. If you press the Christian for answers and he’s unable to respond, he might get as angry and hostile as the atheists I’m talking about in this post! The believer may feel that his cherished Christian beliefs are invalid, causing him to be defensive as well.
I remember recently arguing with a Christian over whether we should engage in Christian Apologetics. I was accused of being under the influence of demons and was told to repent! I was also told I was “not walking in The Lord’s power”. I can't tell you how worried I am about the poor non-Christian who'll have to swallow her verbal abuse and accusations of demonic possession. God help him. This is NOT the way God’s children should behave. We are called to provide sound reasons for belief (see 1 Peter 3:15). The Christian faith is not a blind faith. Faith is placing your trust in a God whom you know exists based on prior evidence. Faith and evidence are not opposed to each other, but go hand in hand. You can still have faith in God even though you have evidence for His existence just as I can have faith in another human being even though I have evidence that he’s standing right there!
Another instance has to do with Homosexuality. Far too often when talking about homosexuality, Christians come off as hateful, narrow-minded and bigoted. Even though it’s possible to consider homosexuality (or any kind of activity) a sin and not hate those who engage in that type of activity, the behavior of some Christians implies that they hate the sin and the sinner. Christians should be careful how address this topic. Homosexuality is an extremely sensitive issue. We should tread with caution when we talk about it. We should let the homosexual know that not only do we care about them but that God cares about them. We need to let them know that they are more precious to God than a sea of gem stones. That He loves them so much that He was willing to condescend to our human level and suffer horrifically so that He could spend eternity with them (John 3:16, Romans 5:8). A homosexual, and any person for that matter, should walk out of a church with the sense that the congregation cares about them and even more importantly that God cares about them. Sadly, the misconduct of Christians feeds the myth that all Christians despise gay people.
To read more on this, check out "Biblical Faith VS. Blind Faith", “Aren’t Christians Just A Bunch Of Hypocrites” and “Do Christians Hate Homosexuals?”
So there you have, 3 different reasons that I think are behind all the atheistic rage. There are a couple of others that come to mind, but addressing them would make for a longer article.