People who stand in opposition to Christianity often have their own vocabulary for us Christians and our beliefs: magic, invisible friend, crutch, irrational, and the like.
If we have different meanings in mind, conversations are more likely to lead to confusion than conclusions. Therefore I offer these questions and thoughts, in hopes of clarifying atheist vocabulary.
- Magic. Do you mean illusionists’ or wizards’ little tricks? Or do you mean the eternal Creator God of the universe involving himself purposefully and lovingly in his creation? If the latter, is “magic” really an appropriate label?
Invisible friend. Do you mean an imaginary boy, girl, or adult that we can “play with” as if he or she were a real human friend? Or do you mean the all-powerful, sovereign, loving, self-sacrificing, omniscient, omnipresent, majestic, and partially hidden God of the universe? If the latter, is “invisible friend” really an appropriate label?
Crutch. Do you mean something by which people hobble along when they’ve been injured due to their own inherent frailty—a weakness that you’re too good to be subject to yourself? Or do you mean something that enables people to rise up and be more and do more than they could otherwise? (I speak as one who has had chronic injuries due to a congenital foot condition. I know what crutches are good for.)
Irrational. Do you define “rational,” as most published New Atheists do (see True Reason ) in terms of agreeing with your conclusion that the world must always be interpreted on strictly empirical terms? Or do you define it in terms of the ability to process thoughts from evidence and premises through to a conclusion with valid reasoning? If the former, aren’t you begging the question quite irrationally?
Intolerant. Do you mean unwilling to agree with relaxed standards of truth and morality? If so, we agree. Where’s the problem? And why are you so intolerant toward our position?
Arrogant. Do you mean that we’re convinced that we know something that’s true for both you and us? If so, we agree. Where’s the problem? And why do you arrogantly propose that you know what’s true for both you and us?
Judgmental. Do you mean we are willing to apply ethical and rational standards to beliefs and actions? If so, we agree. Where’s the problem? Are you judging us for this?
Now I must add this, since we’re not always as virtuous as we ought to be. In some situations it’s likely that atheists and skeptics mean the following:
4a. Irrational. Unable to process a thought with valid reasoning, from evidences and premises to conclusions.
5a. Intolerant: Ornery, unkind, unwilling to associate with people one disagrees with.
6a. Arrogant: Proud, contemptuous, holding an attitude of personal superiority.
7a. Judgmental: Condemning, smug, unaware of one’s own failings.
Sometimes those are valid descriptions. Sometimes we’re really like that. In those cases, the best thing we can say is “We agree, and we see the problem. We apologize and we’ll try to live in a more reasonable and loving way.”
It’s always a good idea to make sure we know what words really mean.