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Friday, July 08, 2011

A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists, by David G. Myers

I recently read A Friendly Letter to Skeptics and Atheists: Musings on Why God is Good, and Faith Isn't Evil, by David G. Myers. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008). Myers is a psychologist.

I have read a few books by atheists, and apparently Myers has, too. I don't know if most atheists have bothered to read good books by Christians. I doubt if many, or even any, have read Myers. From my perspective, that's unfortunate. Myers, from my perspective, understands atheism well, and although he makes no arguments that demolish such a point of view completely, he does show that intelligent, bible-believing Christianity, which is respectful of science, can hold its own in a discussion with atheism.

Myers quotes liberally from Richard Dawkins. He discusses some of the misconceptions of Christianity held by atheists, or -- let's be fair -- some of the eccentricities of some Christians. To Myers, the Bible does not require that Christians deny descent of organisms with modification, that they be prejudiced against people of other faiths, that they believe that the soul is separate from the body, or, even, that they oppose same-sex unions, provided that these relationships are between individuals who have a long-term exclusive commitment to each other. Some Christians are going to disagree with Myers on some things, I am sure. I'm not sure that I agree on the last point myself. (He says, correctly, that the Bible doesn't deal with such relationships when it mentions homosexuality, but it doesn't necessarily follow that such relationships are approved by God.) But most of Myers' ideas should be no problem for most educated Christians.

His main thrust is that a lot of atheistic attacks are on positions that Christians don't hold, or that they don't need to hold. I believe that he is correct in that.

I found the book to be well written, and easy to read. (It's only 152 pages long, and that includes an index and notes.) I recommend it to any Christian who is dealing with atheism. I also recommend it to any atheists who may read this.

Thanks for reading. I have posted previously on some of the writing of Richard Dawkins. Here's one such post.


atlibertytosay said...

Interesting, thanks for pointing this out.

Not a put down, just a statement of observation.

I find most atheists to be pseudo-intellectual - and usually only book smart. IE, they say or repeat what they have been told by a book or by a professor they respected as an intellectual.

I suppose it goes along with saying - they haven't been convicted by the spirit because they have not received the spirit. A convicted, mindful Christian of any intellect can discuss, defend, and disciple. I can't say the same thing for the average atheist.

Pete D said...

The most significant atheist attack is the lack of evidence for the existence of a god. Even Myers explicitly states that he takes God's existence as an axiom and not as a conclusion (though he later tries to justify that using weak reasoning like the cosmological argument, Pascal's gambit, etc.).

Myer's argument that atheists attack positions that Christians don't hold (or need to) is nonsense. We attack the positions that are and have been presented by Christians throughout the ages and justified by reliance on scripture even if those positions seem to be odds with each other. The fact that there is such divergence in interpretation of scripture is a consequence of relying on revelation and authority as sources of evidence.

atlibertytosay: you should be careful in evaluating the intellectual prowess of others when you rely on platitudes like "they haven't been convicted by the spirit because they have not received the spirit."

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay.

I'm not familiar with a lot of atheists, so can't draw conclusions about them as a class.

I have interacted with Pete D, and read Richard Dawkins, and some others, and there are some very intelligent atheists out there.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Pete D.

I guess you are right in your second paragraph. There are positions that Christians should not take, or should not have taken, and they should be attacked.

As to the first paragraph, I personally believe that I have enough evidence to convince me of the existence of God. But I recognize that I may be interpreting things because of a presupposition, and that the evidence is personal, and likely not going to convince anyone else. However, I'm pretty sure that some atheists are so because of their own presuppositions.

Pete D said...

Yeah, I don't think most people critically examine their own beliefs regardless of what they are!

Martin LaBar said...

No. Nor, in most cases, even think that they should.

Thanks, Pete.

Fred said...

I doubt that Richard Dawkins read A Friendly Letter book but I heard Myers speak at an American Psychological Association workshop on this book. His widely used textbook has given him the opportunity to speak to many groups that might otherwise not hear his point of view. He is a Skeptic* giving him another secular audience.


Martin LaBar said...

That's interesting. He has taken the right way to get heard -- do some respectable academic work.

Thanks, Fred.