Answer an Atheist


Dave is an atheist. He responded a few weeks ago to a posting called “You might be an atheist fundamentalist if…” How would you answer his question below? Be nice, please. (I have contacted him and asked him to look for this post.)

Number one applies to me: “You became an atheist when you were 10 years old, based on ideas of God that you learned in Sunday school. . . .”

My Sunday school claimed to teach the eternal absolute perfect truth about God as directly revealed in the King James Version of the Bible, the only correct version that has ever existed. They also taught that if I didn’t believe every word of the Sunday school lesson, I would roast in hell forever, my molten skin dripping away from my bones.

This church further explained that to have the least doubt about anything the pastor said was equivalent to (1) a complete rejection of God, (2) an utter rebellion against all forms of righteousness, and (3) a loving embrace of Satan, whose realm offered me nothing but an ever-increasing level of torture as fuel for the flames that would sear the next batch of sinners tumbling into the bottomless pit.

“. . . Your ideas about God haven’t changed since.”

Since this church was delivering nothing but the unalterable facts from the unassailable Bible about the unchanging God, no error was possible, so my ideas had better not change. Otherwise I would be straying into heretical fallacy, sure to face Divine wrath at the Great White Throne of judgment, after which Our Heavenly Father would dispatch me to choke and gag on the sulfuric fumes of the Devil’s playground. (Watch out for those pitchforks!)

Explain to me why Christianity has to use that kind of threat to get small children to believe, and I’ll quit being an atheist.

(Steve’s note: If I don’t get many responses that answer this man’s sincere question, then I will respond  next week.)


  1. Christianity doesn’t have to use that kind of tactic to get kids to become Christians and I doubt very much that any, including your anecdote do. Now, that may have been your take on it on what you were taught, although I believe that you’ve taken a few warnings about hell and turned it into a great fishing story. In reality, it’s Jesus’ love and acceptance of us that draws almost everyone into an intimate, healed and forgiven relationship with Him. You know as well as I do that there isn’t any logic, reason, “good” argument or explanation that will get you to change your anti theist stance. I believe your Sunday School story is nothing but an excuse and if it was addressed to your current bottom-line satisfaction, you’d simply switch to a new excuse for rejecting your Creator.

    On the other hand, if you ever reach a point in your life where you admit to the futility of every achieving happiness and contentment in this life via the atheistic phiolosophy, Jesus will be waiting for you to come home and enjoy His presence in your life.

  2. Steve —

    I will need to think about how to best answer this. The last paragraph brings up some good questions. Don’t kill me, but I think his church was wrong in their approach of delivering a truthful message.

    Mike …

  3. If the church approached you in the way that you stated, I feel they were wrong. In the Bible, Paul praised the Bereans because they daily checked the scriptures to see if what he was teaching was true. I think it’s healthy to question what a preacher says, as long as we are checking the facts with the Bible.

    On the Hell thing, I think it’s important to talk about that. Jesus talked more about hell more than just about anything else in his sermons. The point of discussing this topic is that a sinner must realize first that he has broken God’s law, the ten commandments. He must admit that he is guilty of breaking some or all of these laws. He may be a liar, or thief, or adulterer (even by looking at a person with lust one is an adulterer). Perhaps they have dishonored their parents, or coveted someone else’s goods. If they have done these things, they are guilty of breaking God’s laws. For breaking the law, there is a punishment. In breaking God’s law, the punishment is an eternity in hell.

    The grace of what Jesus did for us on the cross, His sacrifice to saved us doesn’t mean much without first knowing we are guilty and going to hell. Only when we know these things, that we are deserving of eternal damnation do we recognize our need for a Savior. Then, when we see our depravity and inability to save ourselves we are thankful to know of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice in our place. That cross was a legal transaction. Jesus paid the fine we were unable to pay before the Holy Judge, God. He took our punishment so we could be free. We must preach hell before grace so the sinner will know their need.

    I hope this helps.

  4. Dave, first of all, do not base Christianity on the actions of some of His presumed followers. Judge it based on the teachings of Christ Himself.

    With that said, not all Christians were born into Christian families. I for one was saved at around the age of 15, and my parents most certainly do not share by beliefs, and are quite vocal about it.

    On the issue of fear, fear is not a bad thing necessarily. Fear gets you to put your seat belt on when you get into your car, because you’re afraid of getting seriously injured in an accident. Fear makes you check the expiration date on your milk, because you’re afraid of getting food poisoning. And those fears are well-founded. You won’t find anyone complaining about the FDA or the state police using fear tactics to get you to do those things.

    In the same way, if the way we live is not lined up with the way that the Creator God of the universe wants us to live, then why shouldn’t we be afraid of Him? The Bible says that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fearing God is not a bad thing; in fact, quite the opposite.

  5. Well, I would say first that when I wanted truth about myself and about God, I didn’t listen to preaching, I went to God’s Word and just asked God myself and He answered my questions through the Bible and other honest respectable people that just helped it make sense. And it was very clear. They weren’t the most pleasing answers that I wanted to hear but they were exactly accurate about me and I knew it was truth. I’ve been in churches for eighteen years now, and I still don’t know hardly any preachers that I trust to teach God’s Word accurately and from a right motivation – that’s where all of the problems have come in.

    When I explain things from the Bible to people, it’s because I want them to know what I’ve come to know that is so solid, the toughest attack can’t destroy it, not because of my own strength but because of God’s strength. When I put my faith in Him, I gave up trying to be good enough in my own strength and realized that no matter how good I try to be, I’m still not perfect and I can’t erase my sin which puts a barrier between me and God until I stop doing life my own way and let God be in charge of my life and save me from my sin and from the wrath of God that was on me because of my sin. Then life God incredible. It’s tough because this life is just all messed up, but I know where I’m going now when I walk off of this earth, and I know that God is actively involved in my life because everything has changed about me. Your bro – Paul

  6. I think we should ask him about his felt needs. Then tell him how much God loves him and that He has a wonderful plan for his life. Then ask him if he wants to accept Jesus into his heart. — NOT

  7. Hey Steve,

    The answer to this sincere and searching man’s question is this: Christianity should not use scare tactics to get people to come into the fold. Let’s unpack this a bit. If you go back to the Sermon on the Mount, you will see three things: 1), Jesus did not use scare tactics upon people to get them to follow him. 2) the people came willingly to hear what he had to say – his testimony of the one true God, all of which had to do with explaining the Kingdom of Heaven/Kingdom of God. 3) many had their hearts pierced by the truth of his words and without any prodding or threats on Jesus’ part, they gave their lives to God thru Christ. When the disciples went out, they did relatively the same thing: they gave testimony of how they had come to the faith, which went back to what Christ had revealed – and thru Christ, they had the power of God to back them up. (Stephen is a perfect example of a great testimony, which he stood upon until stoned to death).

    No person on this earth has the right to use scare tactics on others (especially the very young and vulnerable) to get them to believe their way. If we are indeed Christ’s, then we have a testimony of what he has done for us, as have those who have gone before us: why we came to Christ, why we surrendered to and believe in him and how he has helped us overcome sin and obstacles in our life. The testimony we give should be about God, Christ – the Kingdom of God. They should be the center of our life, our testimony – not the person we are testifying to and not some point of church doctrine.

    You will note that many times Christ and the disciples met a person’s physical needs first, which truly opened the door and allowed the unbeliever to pass from unbelief to belief. For those who think pounding someone on the head with the law is fruitful and necessary – it is not. Our testimony usually includes smatterings of how sinful we were before coming to Christ and thru these words we share with unbelievers, the Holy Spirit is faithful to prick that persons heart with the truth. Quite frankly, you can evangelize forever and a day, but only those whose hearts are prepared and are called of God will answer the call. To recap, it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict an unbeliever’s heart of sin, not us. But our lives can be a helpful example of The Example when we meet unbelievers who question our faith.

    There is no finer way to bring a person to Christ then by personal testimony. And if the person thinks you are an emotional fool or whatever, sobeit: it means he is not ready to surrender to God to be broken and re-moulded. Today, perhaps even more than during the time that Christ walked the earth, men are most miserable and looking for that which is real. They are lost and loveless. They are buried in sin and can’t see it. The true Ekklesia must become more visible, representing the one true God and Christ, that men may know there is a better way to walk. When the light dispels the darkness, men will see and begin to understand. You can not dispel darkness with darkness. Think about it.

  8. Show them all wrong by getting saved to true loving Christianity and shock them when you end up in Heaven. Don’t let them be “right” by ending up in Hell.

  9. I would simply reply that Dave’s experience, sad to say, is not real Christianity. Since when, for example, does the Bible say that one must use the KJV (which did not exist in that day), or that one had to believe everything the pastor said to be right with God?

    Sadly, Dave’s church changed doctrines of grace for one of works. So my response to Dave is that you don’t have to do that, and I’m saddened that his childhood church may have done so. I am, even more sadly, familiar with churches that do more or less take this approach. I can’t deny his testimony out of hand, because I’ve seen the damage it brings.

    How hard it is to live according to Paul’s words; that Christ died to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.

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