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I think atheism is a mystery. The more I read about it, think about it and talk with others about it, it puzzles me. What drives people to become atheists? Would they want there to be no God, no afterlife and no cosmic purpose? If not, why are so many of them dismissive of religion and, frankly, angry with the God they don’t believe exist?
One of the most weird thing one discovers when one studies atheism is that so many atheists are unwilling to call it a belief or even admit that atheism makes a positive claim about reality (the non-existence of gods). Rather, they like to define atheism as merely a lack of belief in gods. This psychological definition has made it into Wikipedia and some dictionaries, but obviously if that’s the only thing an atheist is defending they have no reason whatsoever to criticize other people’s conviction that God exist, or the validity of religion. When an atheist criticizes religion, they do it because they indeed have a positive belief in the falsehood of religion and non-existence of gods.
When atheists deny that atheism is a claim, they do it because they don’t want to present evidences for the claim that gods don’t exist. In fact, many of them will say that no such evidences exists – that you can’t prove a negative. This puts them in the same position as Andy Bannister’s hypothetical friend who denied Sweden’s existence: (more…)
Andy Bannister is a funny apologist. His book The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist (Monarch, 2015) combines intellectual sharpness with witty humour as he deals with the ideas of modern atheism. As director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Bannister has a lot of experience in defending the faith. We got to talk to him about his ministry and ideas.
What made you integrate humour in your apologetics?
Over the 20 years or so that I’ve been involved in Christian ministry (most of it focused on reaching sceptics) I became frustrated with the fact that so many really great books explaining the Christian faith never find their way into their hands of atheists or agnostics. Most evangelistic and apologetic books are simply read by Christians. Now on the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with that: Christians need to be equipped to share and defend their faith. But I wanted to write something that would actually be read by sceptics. The question was how.
Then I came across a quote by C. S. Lewis. Asked why he had taken up writing fiction (like the Narnia books) Lewis explained that too often the front entrance to people’s minds is guarded by “watchful dragons”: things like cynicism, pride, and poor arguments. But story and imagination could let you “steal past those watchful dragons”. That was a revelatory moment for me: maybe I could use a whole different approach, something completely fresh, to engage with atheism. And that’s what The Atheist Who Didn’t Exist does—but rather than creep past the dragon, it uses comedy and wit to tickle the dragon’s nose, so that whilst it’s busy laughing, we can bring truth in through the front door. (more…)