Atheists don’t believe in God or any higher power outside of the universe that could have created it. Oftentimes they aren’t content to just disbelieve, but are antagonistic toward those who do believe. They hate a God they don’t believe in and are intent on proving that He doesn’t exist (i.e., proving the unprovable). Sadly, there are several ways in which those who profess belief in God actually add fuel to the atheist’s fire. Here are a few.
Violence in the Name of Christianity
Every act of violence in the name of Christianity has only done harm to the cause of Christ. Most notably throughout history would have to be the Crusades during the medieval period. Never did Christ or any of His inspired apostles command Christians to conquer land, even the alleged “Holy Land” of Jerusalem. Such military actions can never be harmonized with passages like John 18:36, Romans 12:18, and Hebrews 12:14, and have given atheists unmerited ammunition against God.
Today, misguided “believers” commit criminal acts in the name of Christ, such as setting fire to abortion clinics. No words can properly express the hatred we should feel for the murder of innocent babies in their mothers’ wombs (and now even outside the womb); but this in no way justifies such unauthorized retaliation, and, in the eyes of the atheist, only brings Christians down to their worldly level.
While most of us don’t go on crusades or blow up Planned Parenthood offices, do we get angry and hateful toward those who oppose us, returning hate for hate instead of overcoming evil with good (Rom. 12:21)?
There are many erroneous views among professed believers regarding Christianity and the Bible, many of which are so opposed to the Bible’s teaching that even atheists can recognize this and use them against what they perceive to be Christianity.
For example, Calvinism attributes to God everything that happens in life (including the salvation or damnation of every soul, regardless of a person’s actions). This results in the view that “everything happens for a reason” (i.e., every single thing that happens in this life is exactly what God desires and even causes to happen). This is demonstrably false: e.g., sin abounds in the world, but God hates it; it’s a violation of His law and He cannot and will not be part of it (cf. 1 John 3:4; Hab. 1:13). Therefore, He never desires it, is never pleased with it, and would certainly never cause it! This shows that when bad things happen (i.e., sin), they’re the result of man’s doing, not God’s.
However, the atheist, or really anyone thinking logically, can rightly conclude, based on Calvinism’s claims, that God is to blame for everything bad that happens in the world (and there are lots of bad things happening), most significantly the eventual destruction of the lost in Hell. An atheist might conclude “why would I follow a God who, regardless of my actions, good or bad, may condemn me to die in Hell?”
According to Calvinism, the Christian has no response other than to say “it is not within the creature’s jurisdiction to call into question the justice of the Creator for not choosing everyone for salvation” (Steele et al. 28). In other words, “Mr. Atheist…you’re right!” That’s more fuel for the atheist’s fire, even though he and the Calvinist are dead wrong on this view (cf. Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 20:12-13; and every other passage that teaches that God is no respecter of persons and that a man’s actions do matter)!
There’s also the view that faith is believing something to be true without having any real, tangible evidence. It ought to be obvious how self-defeating this view is, and how easily an atheist can use this against those who believe it, claiming “atheists believe facts; Christians believe myths!”
But true Christians know that faith is based on evidence. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17); and the Bible gives the honest reader ample evidence of its Divine origins, stating scientific facts thousands of years before mankind had the ability to know them, as well as providing numerous detailed prophecies, accurate predictions of future events, something mankind is incapable of doing on its own. The Bible provides irrefutable evidence of the existence of God and therefore can be trusted to guide our souls away from Hell and to Heaven.
How many times have we heard atheists with whom we are trying to study the Bible bring up religious division as an excuse not to pursue Christianity? They say things like “why should I be a Christian when Christians can’t even agree?” Although these folks have a faulty understanding of who is and isn’t a Christian, their point is not without merit. Think of all the good that could be done in the world if all those who claim Christianity actually were Christians and were unified!
Paul commanded in 1 Corinthians 1:10 “that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” Unity among believers is commanded and could do so much to counteract the efforts of atheism in our world.
Faithful Christians cannot control what ignorant and/or disobedient believers say and do. But we must be cognizant of the damage that they cause and make every effort to teach them the truth. We must also lovingly show the atheist that all these additional fuels for his fire only destroy the false ideas about Christianity, not true biblical Christianity.
Steele, David N., et al. The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, and Documented, Phillipsburg, NJ, P&R Publishing Co., 2004, 28.