Tom Gilson

Why Bother With An Atheist’s Error?

A rather obscure New Atheist has issued a completely pointless and unreasonable proposal. So what? Wouldn’t it be wise just to ignore it?

No, not if anyone you are leading or teaching has ever wondered about hell. Not if they are among the many thousands who have read Richard Dawkins on that topic, or have friends who have read Dawkins. Ideas like these are circulating in our culture; they are not as obscure as they might seem.

Invariably when atheists speak of hell they mangle the teaching, and they do it with an obvious axe to grind. Stefanelli’s proposal (see the linked page) is obvious propaganda—which presents a fine opportunity for you as a pastor or teacher, next time you have opportunity to teach about humans’ eternal destiny. (I wouldn’t suggest you bother with Stefanelli until the topic comes up in the course of your teaching.)

Human learning—especially adult learning—often requires unlearning. A lot of us have some serious unlearning to do with respect to heaven and hell, and how we get there. Stefanelli’s blog post accomplishes three things for a teacher: it demonstrates the error that must be addressed, it illustrates how that error can creep into culture, and it shows the propagandistic nature of the mistake.

Or in other words, it helps to show how unreasonable people can be when they’re trying to show how unreasonable Christianity is!

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2 thoughts on “Why Bother With An Atheist’s Error?

  1. There are many different interpretations on what exactly Hell is, and viewpoints about it (and how to avoid going there) have also changed over time. It would be much more reasonable to talk about the evolution of Hell as an example of how Christian beliefs have changed over time, or perhaps talk about the morality of Hell, rather than walk up to a stranger and tell their kid that they’re going to Hell.

    I wonder if he’s a parent. He can’t be, to be suggesting something like that, right?

  2. I’d like to add that there is a silver lining to clearly wrong statement. It presents an opportunity for quality teaching, and the emotional reaction people have to the polemic engages them in hearing the answer.

    I’ve definitely learned a great deal of theology because I’ve had to answer some of these challenges.

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