Atheism and theism

Paul Schilling,
God in an age of atheism
(Abingdon: Nashville 1969)

If we adopt this attitude toward thoughtful people who question the reality of God, we can respond to them in two major ways. First, we attempt to discover and clarify our differences, to expose the misunderstandings of the atheist, to refute his arguments, and to convince him of the superiority of the theistic position. The Christian dares not evade this kind of direct confrontation. ...
However, such debates are very likely to end at best in stalemate, and even our most skillful demolition of our opponent's arguments usually leave him unconvinced and unconverted.

A second response which we may make to the atheist is that of using his criticisms in the task of rethinking and clarifying our own understanding of God. Obviously we can learn only negatively from the superficial, self-centered, self-sufficient idolator who wants no divine interference in his pursuit of comfort and pleasure. But the situation is vastly different with the man whose honest search for truth leads to honest doubt or a definite rejection of religious faith.
Simone Weil has observed: "There are two atheisms of which one is a purification of the notion of God."* The serious atheist who wrestles with ultimate questions is likely to contribute more to intelligent understanding of both God and man than the pious believer who placidly accepts prevailing views. The objections of the former may call attention to weaknesses and incongruities in notions of God long taken for granted. They may expose false gods to which Christians themselves have given allegiance. ...

*William Robert Miller (ed.), The New Christianity (New York: Delacorte Press 1967) p 267

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created 1jun1996, revised 20mar98     |     comments on this site? tpkunesh@atheisms.info