Atheist apologetics

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The philosopher and ex-atheist Antony Flew, who was one of the most prominent atheist academics in the world before adopting deism, said about the new atheist Richard Dawkins: “The fault of Dawkins as an academic…was his scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form”.[1]

Atheism as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and other philosophy reference works, is the denial of the existence of God.[2] Paul Edwards, who was a prominent atheist and editor of the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, defined an atheist as "a person who maintains that there is no God."[3] See also: Definition of atheism

Beginning in the latter portion of the 20th century and continuing beyond, many agnostics/atheists have argued that the definition of atheism should be defined as a lack of belief in God or gods.[3][4][5][6]

In terms of contemporary definitions of atheism, the Webster-Merriam Dictionary defines atheism in two ways: "1) a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods 2) a philosophical or religious position characterized by disbelief in the existence of a god or any gods."[7] Oxford English Dictionies defines atheism as "Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods."[8]

The term apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia (from Greek ἀπολογία), which means "speaking in defense".

Atheology is a resistance or aversion to theology.[9] Atheological arguments are arguments against the existence of God (see also: Rebuttals to atheist arguments and Responding to atheists and Analysis of atheism and common objections to atheism).

The majority of philosophers of religion, or those who have extensively studied the issue of the existence of God, are theists (72 percent).[10]

There is a considerable body of evidence and argumentation for the existence of God and for the validy of Christianity (see: Arguments for the existence of God and Evidence for Christianity and Rebuttals to atheist arguments).

Atheist Michael Martin on atheistic responses to theistic arguments

See also: Atheism and apathy

In 1990, the atheist philosopher Michael Martin indicated there was a general absence of an atheistic response to contemporary work in the philosophy of religion and in jest he indicated that it was his "cross to bear" to respond to theistic arguments.[11] Yet, in 1994, Michael Martin was criticized for his eleventh hour cancellation of his debate with Greg Bahnsen (see: Greg Bahnsen and debate and Bahnson-Martin debate press release).

Ex-atheist Alister McGrath's book The Twilight of Atheism

Alister McGrath is a Northern Irish biologist and Christian apologist. He is a Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University. He was a previous head of Wycliffe Hall, one of Oxford's religious Permanent Private Halls.

McGrath, an rx-atheist, is one of the world's leading critics of Richard Dawkins. He published a critique of Dawkins' book The God Delusion titled The Dawkins Delusion?. Another book of McGrath's is called The Twilight of Atheism, which chronicles the fluctuation of atheism throughout history. He has also publicly debated Richard Dawkins as well as other well-known atheist intellectuals, including Stephen Law, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens.

Atheist philosopher John Gray's review of The Twilight of Atheism

See also: Decline of the atheist movement

The economist Tomáš Sedláček (left) and the atheist philosopher John Gray (right) at ZURICH.MINDS 2012

The atheist John Gray is an English political philosopher and author who focuses in the areas of analytic philosophy and the history of ideas. Gray retired as School Professor of European Thought at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Gray is an atheist who is critical of New Atheism.[12]

John Gray in The Independent said "The decline of secular thought is the subject of Alister McGrath's provocative and timely The Twilight of Atheism. (...) His aim is not so much to analyse atheism as demolish its intellectual credentials, and in this he is largely successful."[13]

The National Review's review of The Twilight of Atheism

The National Review wrote in their review of The Twilight of Atheism: "I wish that McGrath had entertained the possibility that atheism, while undoubtedly in philosophical and demographic twilight, may yet be experiencing a new dawn: a terrifying new alliance with money and power, of a kind even Marx could not have foreseen."[14]

Philosopher Julian Baggini's review of The Twilight of Atheism

Julian Baggini is a British philosopher. He is also an author of several books about philosophy written for the general public. He is co-founder of The Philosophers' Magazine.

Baggini indicated that "A book like Alister McGrath’s The Twilight of Atheism no longer looks perversely contrarian, but a fair reflection of social reality".[15]

Theistic surge in philosophy departments

In 2001, the atheist and philosopher Quentin Smith declared:

Naturalists [atheists] passively watched as realist versions of theism … began to sweep through the philosophical community, until today perhaps one-quarter or one-third of philosophy professors are theists, with most being orthodox Christians…. God is not 'dead' in academia; he returned to life in the 1960's and is now alive and well in his last academic stronghold, philosophy departments."[16]

Ratio Christi is launching Christian apologetics clubs at college/university campuses. The Trinity Graduate School of Apologetics and Theology initiative which offers quality Christian apologetics for free to third world country students and charges extremely low costs for others.

William Lane Craig on the unpreparedness of modern apologists of atheism and atheists in general

Exchange featuring William Lane Craig:

Atheism debates

In recent times, atheists have fared poorly in debates and there have been a number of notable cases of atheists being unwilling to debate (see: Atheism debates and Atheism vs. Christianity debates).

UK atheist group on defenders of Christian theism

In June 2012, the UK based Dorset Humanists wrote:

There’s been a forceful backlash against the ‘new atheism’ of writers like Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens, inspiring a new wave of Christian apologists. This group includes: Alister McGrath, Professor of Theology at King’s College London, Keith Ward, former Professor of Divinity at Oxford, and John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

Many atheists make the mistake of assuming religion is wholly irrational, relying on faith alone but, in a series of interviews recorded for DVD, the apologetics heavyweights from the list above demonstrate their ability to challenge us with reasoned arguments.[17]

Anthony Flew on the weakness of Richard Dawkins' arguments

See also: Richard Dawkins quotes and Feminist quotes about Richard Dawkins

The philosopher and ex-atheist Antony Flew, who was one of the most prominent atheist academics in the world before adopting deism, said about the new atheist Richard Dawkins: “The fault of Dawkins as an academic…was his scandalous and apparently deliberate refusal to present the doctrine he appears to think he has refuted in its strongest form”.[18]


See also: Counter-apologetics

The atheist Sam Harris quipped about William Lane Craig that he was "The one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists".[19][20]

Within the endeavor of criticism of religion, counter-apologetics is a field of thought that criticizes religious apologetics.

While religious apologists criticize the defense of other religions, the term counter-apologetics is frequently applied to criticism of religion in general by atheists/agnostics.

The atheist Luke Muehlhauser, defines counter-apologetics as "a response to Christian apologetics...examining the claims and tactics of Christian apologists and then equipping [a thinker] with skeptical responses to them"[21]

Atheist apologetics have been very ineffective. The atheist Sam Harris quipped about William Lane Craig that he was "The one Christian apologist who seems to have put the fear of God into many of my fellow atheists".[22][23]

Luke Muehlhauser wrote:

As far as I can tell, he has won nearly all his debates with atheists. When debating him, atheists have consistently failed to put forward solid arguments, and consistently failed to point out the flaws in Craig’s arguments...

This is especially embarrassing for atheists because Craig’s arguments and debates are easily available, and he uses the same arguments all the time. So it should be easy for atheists to prepare for a debate with Craig.[24]

Atheists have performed badly in debates (see: Atheism debates and Atheism vs. Christianity debates).

Inadequacy of counter-apologetics

The majority of philosophers of religion, or those who have extensively studied the issue of the existence of God, are theists (72 percent).[25]

There is a considerable body of evidence and argumentation for the existence of God and for the validy of Christianity (see: Arguments for the existence of God and Evidence for Christianity).

On the other hand, atheism and agnosticism lack proof/evidence and are unreasonable (see: Atheism lacks proof and evidence and Rebuttals to atheist arguments and Agnosticism lacks proof/evidence and it is unreasonable).

Creation scientists tend to win the creation-evolution debates

evolutionary theory opponent
Jonathan Sarfati is a scientists on the staff of Creation Ministries International.

See also: Creation vs. evolution debates

A majority of the most prominent and vocal defenders of the naturalistic evolutionary position since World War II have been atheists/agnostics.[26]

In 2010, the worldwide atheist community was challenged to a debate by Creation Ministries International as prominent atheists were speaking at a 2010 global atheist convention in Australia.[27] Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and other prominent atheists refused to debate Creation Ministries International.[27]

Creation scientists tend to win the Creation-Evolution debates and many have been held since the 1970s particularly in the United States.[28]

Robert Sloan, Director of Paleontology at the University of Minnesota, reluctantly admitted to a Wall Street Journal reporter that the "creationists tend to win" the public debates which focused on the creation vs. evolution controversy.[28]

In August 1979, Dr. Henry Morris reported in an Institute for Creation Research letter the following: “By now, practically every leading evolutionary scientist in this country has declined one or more invitations to a scientific debate on creation/evolution.”[29] Morris also said regarding the creation scientist Duane Gish (who had over 300 formal debates): “At least in our judgment and that of most in the audiences, he always wins.”[30]

Generally speaking, leading evolutionists generally no longer debate creation scientists because creation scientists tend to win the creation vs. evolution debates (see: Creation vs. evolution debates).[31]

In addition, the atheist and evolutionist, Richard Dawkins has shown inconsistent and deceptive behavior concerning his refusal creation scientists. In an article entitled "Are Kansas Evolutionists Afraid of a Fair Debate?" the Discovery Institute states the following:

Defenders of Darwin's theory of evolution typically proclaim that evidence for their theory is simply overwhelming. If they really believe that, you would think they would jump at a chance to publicly explain some of that overwhelming evidence to the public. Apparently not.[32]

In 1994, the arch-evolutionist Dr. Eugenie Scott made this confession concerning creation vs. evolution debates:

During the last six or eight months, I have received more calls about debates between creationists and evolutionists than I have encountered for a couple of years, it seems. I do not know what has inspired this latest outbreak, but I am not sure it is doing much to improve science education.

Why do I say this? Sure, there are examples of "good" debates where a well-prepared evolution supporter got the best of a creationist, but I can tell you after many years in this business that they are few and far between. Most of the time a well-meaning evolutionist accepts a debate challenge (usually "to defend good science" or for some other worthy goal), reads a bunch of creationist literature, makes up a lecture explaining Darwinian gradualism, and can't figure out why at the end of the debate so many individuals are clustered around his opponent, congratulating him on having done such a good job of routing evolution—and why his friends are too busy to go out for a beer after the debate.[33]

Growth of creationist apologetics and its effect on Christendom

See also: Global creationism

Dr. Johnson C. Philip & Dr. Saneesh Cherian wrote in their work Introduction To Integrated Christian Apologetics:

American evangelical Christians have began to notice in the fifties that compromise is a slow poison that ultimately destroys respect for truth. Some of them came together and started writing aggressively on themes defending the historical and scientific reliability of the Bible. This gave birth to the modern interest in Apologetics and Creationism. At the dawn of the twenty-first century the influence of this revival has spread all over the world, and today more than one hundred and fifty organizations function around the world, devoted solely to apologetics. Their influence has be so strong that a large number of Seminaries all around the world have begun assert the historical and scientific reliability of the Bible...

...with the birth of the modern creationism and apologetics, a revival set in motion among the evangelical Christians. This group became quite vocal and aggressive in the sixties, and by seventies they started exerting significant influence among theologians, thinkers, and the Bible teachers all over the world.

Thousands of apologetic books, hundreds of magazines, and tens of thousands of articles have been produced defending the Bible since. In turn, this has started to diminish the influence of rationalists and radicals on Christians.

From the middle of the nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century the rationalists had their heyday, snatching away millions of young people from their Christian faith and commitment. The wounds of this loss can been seen in Christendom even today, but at the same time this loss has been greatly minimized now because of the work of Christian apologists.

Today anyone desiring to know about the Bible, and its connection with science, evolution, history, archaeology, has read any number of books on this topic. Literally thousands of titles are available, and he can choose anywhere from the most simple books to the most technically advanced ones. Thus the modern apologetics movement has been able to arrest the way in which rationalists have been bleeding the Christian church.[34]

Friction related to revamping evolutionary ideology

The atheist Jerry Coyne speaking at a 2013 atheist meeting entitled The Amazing Meeting (TAM). TAM is an annual meeting.

The modern evolutionary synthesis is a school of evolutionary thought which incorporates the concepts of natural selection, mutations, and studies in population genetics.[35] In terms of detailed explanations, within this school of evolutionary thought, there is little consensus on how evolution actually causes macroevolution (see: Theory of evolution and little consensus).

Despite this current state of affairs and the implausibility of the evolutionary of model, there is resistance to significantly alter this evolutionary model (See also: See: 15 questions for evolutionists and 21 arguments evolutionists should not use).

Jerry Coyne is an evolutionary biology professor and atheist who runs a leading pro-evolution blog.

In terms of its ideology the Templeton Foundation is non-profit foundation which espouses both conservative and liberal positions (As far as conservatism, it promotes theism and capitalism. In terms of liberal ideology it supports theistic evolution.).

In terms of liberal ideology The Templeton Foundation helps fund the BioLogos Foundation which promotes theistic evolution. Former head of the NIH Dr. Francis Collins, (an ex-atheist who became a Roman Catholic) heads the BioLogos Foundation. Pope Benedict XVI has also appointed Collins to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Collins has been criticized by pro-life advocates for his views on aborting babies with learning disabilities.[36]

CNS News reported:

Don't let anyone tell you the evolutionary paradigm isn't in serious turmoil. Just in time for DNA Day today, Science Magazine announced on Friday an $8.7 million project by the Templeton Foundation seeking an “evolution rethink." I'm trying to think of the last time I heard Science reporting on support for a "gravity rethink," or a "heliocentrism rethink." The gist of it:
“For many evolutionary biologists, nothing gets their dander up faster than proposing that evolution is anything other than the process of natural selection, acting on random mutations. Suggestions that something is missing from that picture – for example, that evolution is somehow directed or that genetic changes can't fully explain it – play into the hands of creationists, who leap on them as evidence against evolution itself.”

Oh, those dreaded "creationists" and evolution deniers.

“No wonder some evolutionary biologists are uneasy with an $8.7 million grant to U.K., Swedish, and U.S. researchers for experimental and theoretical work intended to put a revisionist view of evolution, the so-called extended evolutionary synthesis, on a sounder footing. Using a variety of plants, animals, and microbes, the researchers will study the possibility that organisms can influence their own evolution and that inheritance can take place through routes other than the genetic material.”

Whatever the outcome, the news has yanked Jerry Coyne's chain. He complains in the article:

“Evolutionary biologists shouldn't accept its money, says Jerry Coyne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago in Illinois, who has been a persistent critic of the foundation for linking science and religion. ‘It really slants the way science is done,’ he told Science.”...

The scope is impressive – "49 researchers from different fields and ... 22 interconnected projects across eight institutions." Coyne's dyspeptic reaction gives you an idea of what a huge deal this is.

Oh, so you want to dismiss Templeton because its perspective isn't rigidly materialist enough? They aren’t the only ones “rethinking” Neo-Darwinism. This coming November, the Royal Society plans a conference on "New trends in evolutionary biology: biological, philosophical and social science perspectives." Despite the subdued title – reflecting British understatement, perhaps – this is more big news, a gathering of major mainstream voices from the world of biology and other fields to hash out the merits of the call for a Third Way for evolution – not classic Darwinism, not intelligent design, but something ... else:

“Scientific discussion meeting organised in partnership with the British Academy by Professor Denis Noble CBE FMedSci FRS, Professor Nancy Cartwright, Sir Patrick Bateson FRS, Professor John Dupré and Professor Kevin Laland.
“Developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution, although the issues involved remain hotly contested. This meeting will present these developments and arguments in a form that will encourage cross-disciplinary discussion and, in particular, involve the humanities and social sciences in order to provide further analytical perspectives and explore the social and philosophical implications.”

When it comes to "hotly contesting" the "standard theory of evolution," the timing couldn't be better. Today we are celebrating two significant anniversaries – that of the description of the structure of the DNA molecule by Watson and Crick (DNA Day 2016) (they published on April 25, 1953), and the fiftieth anniversary of the Wistar Institute conference on "Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution."...

If you'll forgive a morbid metaphor, Wistar was like the ominous spot first seen on the X-ray of a vital organ – the beginning of the end for unguided Darwinian processes as the sole, satisfactory explanation of how complex biological features evolve.

Intelligent design, obviously, is one source of the current challenge to Darwinism, but it's only one source. You could erase ID advocates entirely from the battle map, and Darwinian theory would still be under siege. Evolution's smug cultists are in denial about that, but it's true.[37]

Most of the Templeton Foundation funds for the evolutionary rethink appears to be going to the University of St. Francis which is a Roman Catholic University.[38]

Previously, creationists have exploited significant differences among evolutionists and the punctuated equilibrium vs. neo-darwinian gradualists is an example of this matter.[39]

See also


  1. Ten years on from that book of atheistic faith, the God Delusion by Mike Taggart
  2. Multiple references:
  3. 3.0 3.1 Putting the Atheist on the Defensive by Kenneth R. Samples, Christian Research Institute Journal, Fall 1991, and Winter 1992, page 7.
  4. Day, Donn R. (2007). "Atheism - etymology".
  5. Definition of atheism by William Lane Craig
  6. Britain is a less religious country than the United States and the online Oxford Dictionaries offers both the narrow/broad definitions of atheism (As noted in a previous footnote the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which is a traditional American dictionary, offers a more narrow definition of atheism similar to the definition that major encyclopedias of philosophy use). Oxford Dictionaries: Disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.[2]
  7. Atheism, Webster-Merriam dictionary
  8. Atheism, Oxford online dictionary
  9. Atheology, Collins dictionary
  10. Does it matter that many scientists are atheists?
  11. Open Questions: Diverse Thinkers Discuss God, Religion, and Faith by Luís F. Rodrigues, page 201
  12. John Gray interview: how an English academic become the world’s pre-eminent prophet of doom, The Telegraph, By John Preston, 6:30AM GMT 28 Feb 2013
  13. quoted in Summary of reviews - see also summaries of reviews in several other publications
  14. National Review v. 56 no. 17 (September 13, 2004) p. 51-2. Allen, Charlotte
  15. Julian Baggini The Rise, Fall and Rise Again of Secularism in Public Policy Research Volume 12 Issue 4 Page 204 - Dec 2005 - Feb 2006
  16. Craig, William Lane (2012)."Theistic critiques of atheism". Reasonable Faith. Retrieved on July 26, 2014. Unabridged version of article published 2007. See William Lane Craig.
  17. Philosophy, Science and the God Debate
  18. Ten years on from that book of atheistic faith, the God Delusion by Mike Taggart
  19. William Lane Craig Puts the Fear of God in Atheists, video clip of the William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris debate
  20. The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig, University of Notre Dame YouTube channel
  21. Muehlhauser, Luke (March 26, 2010), "Counter-Apologetics: What is Counter-Apologetics?", Common Sense Atheism (blog)
  22. William Lane Craig Puts the Fear of God in Atheists, video clip of the William Lane Craig vs. Sam Harris debate
  23. The God Debate II: Harris vs. Craig, University of Notre Dame YouTube channel
  24. William Lane Craig’s Debates (Reviews)
  25. Does it matter that many scientists are atheists?
  26. Multiple references:
  27. 27.0 27.1 Ammi, Ken (May 2010). "Richard Dawkins the cowardly clown". True Freethinker. Retrieved on July 30, 2014.
  28. 28.0 28.1 Multiple references:
  29. Fraser, William A. (2003). "Who wins the debates?" Mark64's webpage. Retrieved from October 24, 2009 archive at Internet Archive on May 15, 2015.
  30. Ankerberg, John, and Weldon, John (1998). "Voices for evolution". Darwin's Leap of Faith (Harvest House). Retrieved from the John Ankerberg show website on May 15, 2015.
  31. Morris, Henry, Ph. D. (1996). "Reason or rhetoric". Acts and Facts, vol. 25, no. 11. Retrieved from Institute for Creation Research website on May 15, 2015.
  32. West, John G. (February 23, 2005). "Are Kansas evolutionists afraid of a fair debate?" Evolution News and Views. Retrieved on May 15, 2015.
  33. Scott, Eugenie C. (1994). "Debates and the Globetrotters". Skeptic Tank Text Archive File website/Evolution. Retrieved on May 15, 2015.
  34. Introduction To Integrated Christian Apologetics, Dr. Johnson C. Philip & Dr. Saneesh Cherian
  36. Francis Collins’s “Devout” Views on Abortion
  37. Darwinian Evolutionary Theory Is Under Siege, Intelligent Design Notwithstanding
  38. Templeton funds evolution rethink
  39. Punctuated equilibrium: come of age? by Dr Don Batten