Thursday, April 3, 2014

Brother says he's an atheist?

 One of Billy Graham's readers writes him about a brother claiming to now be an atheist... I've seen Graham answer letters like this before, so cue Billy getting everything wrong in T-minus, 3-2-1...
QUESTION: My youngest brother says he gave up religion in college, and now claims he’s an atheist. He says religion is just for weak people (like me, I guess he means). How can I convince him he’s wrong? He just laughs when I try to tell him about my faith in Jesus. — Mrs. L.C.
Okay, if he actually said that religion is just for the weak, that was a bit harsh (though many do use it as a crutch). Perhaps he laughs at LC because all she offers to back up her faith is, er... her faith. If LC wants to change her brother's mind, she probably has to do the same thing that would change my mind. Produce real, verifiable, testable evidence of her god's existence.
ANSWER: Whenever I’ve met someone, or received a letter from someone, who claimed to be an atheist I’ve always tried to discover exactly why they didn’t believe in God. You might want to ask your brother the same question.
Often, I found, they weren’t really atheists at all – that is, they didn’t firmly and decisively believe God didn’t exist. Instead, they were what we call agnostics – that is, they didn’t know whether or not God exists. Unfortunately, they often were content to stay that way instead of seeking God. They were unwilling to see if Jesus’ words are really true: “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7).
Sigh... This seems to be Billy's go-to answer. "They aren't really atheists". The problem is that he's dead wrong. When he makes this claim, he actually goes and redefines what it means to be an atheist. He claims that atheism means a firm and decisive belief that God doesn't exist. That quite often, claimed atheists are actually agnostics because they don't know for sure.

In a small way he is correct. They are agnostic. But they are also atheists. You see, atheism is the lack of a belief in gods, not the active claim that you know there are no gods. LC's brother doesn't believe in God, so he's an atheist. However, he (presumably) doesn't hold absolute knowledge that there is no God. So he is also an agnostic.

He, like me, is an agnostic atheist. One can hold these two positions because they are answers to separate questions. Atheism is in response to what one believes. On the other hand, agnosticism is in response to what one knows. This is a pretty simple concept that I'm
sure someone has brought to Graham's attention at some point. So is he simply ignoring this fact, or purposely misleading his readers?
Others, I discovered, claimed that they didn’t believe in God, and they may even have convinced themselves that they were right. But the more I probed, the more I discovered that often their real problem was that they didn’t want to believe in God.
Sorry, but I call BS.One can not simply choose what they want to believe. You either believe in God, or you don't. Sure, you can not like God, and still believe he exists. But in my experience, these people more regularly classify themselves as Satanists rather than atheists. I know that my disbelief has nothing to do with not wanting to believe in God. In fact, there are some aspects of some religions that would be nice if they were true. But the fact remains that I stand unconvinced. The burden of proof still remains unmet...
Instead, they wanted to run their own lives without any interference from God – and no matter what evidence you presented, they were determined to leave God out of their lives. Their problem was in their wills, not their minds.
Actually all it would take is one good piece of evidence to change my mind. But in these years I've never heard any evidence presented that proved Christianity to be true at all. So strong evidence. No weak evidence. No evidence at all! And it's certainly not a case of will overtaking the mind.

I wish reincarnation was true. I would love it if I were to get new life after new life. But even though I think that form of everlasting life would be favorable, I still don't believe it to be true. Why? Because I must remain intellectually honest with myself. While the idea is favorable, there isn't evidence to support the claim. Because of this lack of evidence, I don't believe in reincarnation, even though it's attractive to me.
Pray for your brother; God is able to break through even the hardest heart. As God gives you opportunity, challenge him also not to have a closed mind toward God. Most of all, ask Christ to make you an example to him of God’s love and strength. Remember: “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).
Wait, so if you don't believe in God you have a hard heart? Hardest heart, even? That's quite offensive! So I have a hard heart even thought the biggest philanthropists are non-believers? Even though Christians are statistically more likely to be criminals than non-believers? Sure Billy, you know exactly what you're talking about...

What LC needs to do is accept her brother for who he is, and not selfishly try to change him to her way of thinking. But if that is her end goal, there is only one thing she has to do. Present credible evidence of God's truth. If she can do that one thing that no one else has been able to do in the history of mankind, she will not only convince her brother that the Christian god is real, but she'll convince me as well. Good luck LC, I feel like your going to need it.

-Brain Hulk

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