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Yes, there are a few honest atheists—not many, but a few. Christian Tom Gilson has cherry-picked a couple of these. Note, however, that “honest” is his word for “agrees with me.”

This is the conclusion of a three-part look at a recent article by Gilson (part 1). Why are atheists unreasonable? According to Gilson, they’re all about the science (and science is imperfect), and they hate being wrong (and insist that Christians have the burden of proof).

Gilson attacks because he’s too weak to defend.

Here’s the final reason.

3. Fear that Christianity really is true

He begins his exposé with philosopher Thomas Nagel.

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that. (The Last Word, 1997)

Read the Old Testament—you want that guy in charge here on earth? Remember his murderous rampages (the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s children and servants, and so on). God’s support for slavery. God’s demand for human sacrifice. God’s invention of hell. The indistinguishability of God from nonexistence here on earth.

Why is this quote from Nagel here? So Nagel doesn’t want a god—who cares? Our desires don’t matter. But of course Gilson is coming from a Christian perspective, where what you want does matter. You don’t need to contort yourself to fit into a church environment; you find a church that fits who you are. Churches are like shoes, and for each of them you pick the ones that fit best.

As for smart, well-informed people being believers, this simply speaks to the tenacious grip that a child’s upbringing has on the adult. Just because they’re smart doesn’t mean they’ll discard their Christianity as adults. Many will use that powerful intellect to defend their worldview, and the more impressive the intellect, the stronger the defense (Shermer’s Law).

The divine foot in the door

Biologist Richard Lewontin is a favorite of Christian apologists for this quote:

[Scientists] are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. (1997)

The first rule in making a sound argument is that a Christian is an unreliable source for quotes from their intellectual opponents (scientists, atheists, and so on). You must find the original source and be honest to its context.

Gilson has ignored this rule. Read Lewontin’s original quote and you find the next two sentences clarify Lewontin’s point in an important way. He says you can’t allow a Divine Foot in the door, not because scientists fear Christianity will explain everything, but because adding “God might’ve done that” as an axiom of the scientific method means that no measurement can be trusted. How much of that is reality and how much is God’s thumb on the scale?

Lewontin is simply explaining how science works, and if you permit more than natural explanations, it’s no longer science.

Gilson attacks because he’s too weak to defend. He never draws attention to the strength of his position. He wants your attention on some perceived shortcoming within science, but instead of the speck in his opponent’s eye, he should focus on the log in his own.

Atheism isn’t a religion.
It’s a personal relationship with reality.
— seen on the internet

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CROSS EXAMINED In his first career, Bob Seidensticker designed digital hardware and was a contributor to 14 software patents. Since then, he has explored the debate between Christianity and atheism for...