What Christian Parents Should Learn from the Normalize Atheism Movement

By Natasha Crain

Normalize Atheism Campaign

I recently encountered a movement underway on social media called “Normalize Atheism.” According to the website of the same name, the movement started a couple of years ago, but it seems to have picked up more speed recently. The basic idea is that atheists post a picture of themselves on social media, using the hashtag #normalizeatheism, to demonstrate that atheists are just like everyone else.

Normalize Atheism Christian Parents Kids

Why is that necessary? The website explains:

Even in countries where church and state are kept separate and mainstream religious practice is fairly moderate, atheists are marginalized, stigmatized, or simply ignored. And that’s a problem. Because if we want our society to be just, pluralistic, and inclusive, there needs to be space not only for the many varieties of religious believers, but also for those of us who don’t believe. This isn’t an easy problem to solve…it’s a very old problem. Solving it will require changing the way atheists are perceived by the societies in which we live. And the first step toward realizing that change is reminding everyone else that we’re here. It doesn’t demand any particular political affiliation, it doesn’t necessitate the acceptance of a specific ideology. All it requires is for all of us who are able to speak up and say, ‘I’m an atheist. And I think it’s time for us to #NormalizeAtheism.’”

Here are a few examples of what people are posting:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

There is, of course, nothing wrong with such a movement. People (oftentimes Christians) do stereotype atheists in unfair ways, so I can appreciate why atheists would start something like this. The reason for this post is that I believe Christian parents should learn several important things from the movement, and I wanted to share those things with you today.

  1. Atheists are a minority, but their numbers don’t appropriately reflect their influence.

Depending on the survey you look at, and how atheism is defined, the percent of atheists in American is usually estimated to be under 10 percent. I’ve had parents ask me at speaking events why it’s so important to help our kids learn how to engage with the atheistic worldview when so few people are actually atheists. This question, however, misses the point: atheists may be a minority, but they are a vocal minority that your kids will hear from. There may be a lot more people who simply identity as “nothing in particular” on religious surveys, but they don’t organize campaigns called #NormalizeNothingInParticular. It’s not the numbers; it’s the influence that requires parents to thoughtfully engage with their kids on the atheist worldview today.

  1. Your kids will engage with atheists from a much earlier age than you probably did.

It may be tempting to think that atheist influence is only at some kind of organized political level, but that’s simply not the case. As the Normalize Atheism campaign readily demonstrates, atheists want a much more popular-level awareness. Reaching out through social media in this way is an excellent way to promote ideas to young people. Talking with your kids about the atheistic worldview isn’t a subject to have when they become teens. They should be well aware that some people don’t believe in God and why Christians have good reason to be confident God exists from the youngest ages.

  1. Kids must learn to distinguish between theirfeelings about peopleand the truth about those people’s beliefs.

The overriding message of the Normalize Atheism movement is that atheists are good people, just like everyone else. And if by good they mean they are people who can be nice, love others, be good citizens, and so on, they’re right! As Christians, we should never be teaching our kids that only those who love Jesus can match such a description. If we do, we’re seriously misleading them. Perhaps that sounds obvious, but I think the point has been lost on too many young people. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard teens comment that their atheist friends are “just as good of people” as their Christian friends—as if that has some implication for the truth of the Christianity. Here’s an atheist making the same claim herself:

Example 5

Kids who haven’t been raised to think deeply about the nature of truth and worldviews are spiritually vulnerable to a likeability campaign like this. They can readily confuse their positive feelings for people with a fair evaluation of the truth of those people’s beliefs: “If all these atheists are such good people, why does Christianity matter?”

The answer is obvious for kids who have learned to think about these things: Truth is what corresponds to reality and has nothing to do with who’s nice and who’s not.

  1. Kids need to understand that there is often a difference between what atheists believe and what is logically consistent with an atheistic worlview.

An atheist recently commented on a blog post I wrote: “You have no way of knowing what I believe without talking to me.” I will never forget that comment because it raises such an important point that kids need to understand:

There is often a difference between what an individual atheist believes and what is logically consistent with an atheistic worldview.

In other words, this person was absolutely right. I don’t have any idea what they believe despite the fact they identify as an atheist. This is the case with any person. For example, someone might identify as a Christian but have non-Christian beliefs that are logically inconsistent with a Christian worldview (for example, some Christians believe in reincarnation).

Another example is in the picture I posted above. This lady says she lives her life by doing what is right. But in an atheistic worldview, there can be no objective right or wrong because there is no moral authority; moral judgments can only be a matter of opinion. Looking at the social media discussions in the Normalize Atheism campaign, there are many people who make claims inconsistent with what an atheistic world actually requires. When kids are not well-trained to understand this, they can be persuaded by beliefs that are logically incoherent.

  1. If you’re not prepared to discuss the evidence for God’s existence with your kids, atheists will be happy to fill the role.

While the idea of Normalize Atheism sounds innocuous enough, don’t think for a moment that the only thing atheists want is to have people see them in a more positive light. Just as Christians want to share our beliefs with others, atheists want to share their beliefs as well.

They’ll let you know that atheism represents reason, logic, and science (implying theism doesn’t):

Example 6

They’ll let you know that atheism represents free-thinking (implying theists are all mindlessly indoctrinated):

Example 7

They’ll let you know that if you believe God speaks to you, you need to see a “shrink”:

Example 8

They’ll let you know that God is an imaginary friend:

Example 9

I could continue with examples all day, but you get the point. If you’re not prepared to talk with your kids about why there’s good reason to believe God exists and why the claims of all these skeptics are unfounded, your kids’ faith may well suffer. As atheism indeed is becoming more “normal,” we have a great responsibility as parents to have these discussions with our kids.

Notes

My new book, Talking with Your Kids about God, comes out in just 5 days and is a complete guide for parents to all of the points raised by skeptics in this post and so many more. It walks you step-by-step through conversations on the evidence for God’s existence, the ins and outs of claims about science and God, the logical implications of an atheistic versus theistic worldview, and much more. Click here for the full table of contents and order information!

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24 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    “But in an atheistic worldview, there can be no objective right or wrong”
    .
    There’s no more nor less objective right or wrong in an atheistic worldview than a Christian one. Any honest parent should teach their kids that, regardless or their own faith.

    Reply
  2. TGM says:

    “In other words, this person was absolutely right. I don’t have any idea what they believe despite the fact they identify as an atheist.”
    .
    Exactly! This is why it makes no sense to say “atheist worldview”. There is nothing you can know about a person who identifies as atheist other than that they have not been convinced some deity exists. Yet a large number of apologists continue to use this expression to make blanket statements about the beliefs of atheists. Please stop.
    .
    Atheism is not synonymous with materialism, naturalism, agnosticism, secularism, liberalism, communism, socialism etc. etc. Nor does atheism advocate for any political, moral, or economic stance on anything. And if you want to get really technical, atheism is a reactionary term that does not even make any sense until someone posits a deity. It’s just bizarre to invent some idea of “god” only to disclaim it.

    Reply
  3. David says:

    Again Natasha, god did not give morality to man. Man gave morality to god and the bible. And a pretty poor version of it early on. In the old testament alone we have human sacrifice, misogyny, slavery, bride price, racism, honor killings, religious bigotry, holy war, genocide, etc. And then a thousand years passed and a more enlightened Jesus gave us a much more civil and sane morality (in many respects, not all). The evolution from ancient, barbaric to more modern, less brutal is obvious. The story of the woman caught in adultery (interestingly, a portion of scripture that is not original to the text) is a good example.

    Reply
  4. St. Lee says:

    This was a great piece which touched on a number of key issues. It seems that the growing influence of atheism is directly linked to the dumbing down of our schools. If you ever listen to some of Todd Friel’s interviews on college campuses you will see how prevalent the idea is that “truth” is personal and not universal (“if you believe it then its true for you, but my truth is different”). This has led to a near complete abandonment of logic, so the idea of an ultimate authority any higher than their own feelings is incomprehensible to them. At that point they have no problem stating that they are “just as moral” as anyone else. And then the Apostles of Atheism go a step further and declare they are morally superior to YaHWeH. That they are apostles in their own right is attested by how much time they spend announcing their bad news (I won’t dignify it by calling it gospel even in parody) on Christian web sites. If they were consistent with their alleged atheism then spending their short time before returning to nothingness in arguing with Christians would be a ridiculous waste of time. I only wish I had that much time to spend declaring the good news of Jesus Christ, an issue with eternal ramifications!

    I do have to add this, though. I get a real kick out of the guy who spent 3/4 of his post tooting his own horn for all his philanthropy and then adds: “if you do charity work for recognition, you are scum in my eyes.” You can’t make this stuff up!

    BTW, I need to get back to work (self employed) so I may not get back here to respond to the Apostles of Atheism who will undoubtedly spend a bunch of time denouncing my heresy.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      “If they were consistent with their alleged atheism then spending their short time before returning to nothingness in arguing with Christians would be a ridiculous waste of time”
      .
      How so? It can be good fun, and arguing people out of harmful views is never a waste of time, let alone a ridiculous one.
      .
      ” you will see how prevalent the idea is that “truth” is personal and not universal”
      .
      Sorry, but this sounds just like your average Christian Trump supporter to me.

      Reply
  5. bob says:

    “If they were consistent with their alleged atheism…”
    .
    Alleged atheism…? what the heck is that?
    .
    “…then spending their short time before returning to nothingness in arguing with Christians would be a ridiculous waste of time.”
    .
    I have lost count of how many Christians have used this very same “argument” on me. My response…what would you have me do then? By your “logic” – if I, as an atheist, should consider arguing with Christians to be a waste of time, I should consider everything a waste of time and just kill myself.
    I hope your work does keep you away.
    .
    r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

    Reply
    • St. Lee says:

      I see that there are a couple Apostles of Atheism still in the house.

      Andy says, “arguing people out of harmful views is never a waste of time.” Yes indeed, those harmful views like: “…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28) or “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

      Bob asks, “Alleged atheism…? what the heck is that?” That’s an easy one: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (Romans 1:18-19) God says you suppress the truth about Him. If you choose to call him a liar, that’s between you and God.

      “By your ‘logic’ – if I, as an atheist, should consider arguing with Christians to be a waste of time, I should consider everything a waste of time and just kill myself.” While your worldview does make everything to ultimately be a waste of time, logic would suggest the opposite of killing yourself; that is, you should live every moment for the most enjoyment possible since once you die it is all over. You know, eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die! (of course, that “saying” originally came from the Bible, but not in the context of this discussion). So, I guess if you receive a great deal of enjoyment by your attempting to weaken the faith of Christians, then arguing with them makes perfect sense. It’s sad, but it makes sense. But it is also a fool’s errand. Nothing an alleged atheist might say or argue will ever change a believer into an unbeliever. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

      I pray that God might put the desire into both your hearts to seek after Him.

      Reply
      • St. David says:

        St. Lee, you say, “Nothing an alleged atheist might say or argue will ever change a believer into an unbeliever”. Oh contraire. Reason trumps imagination.

        Reply
        • St. Lee says:

          Well Street David, reason is on the believer’s side. Anyway, it is God you argue with, not me: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19)

          BTW, its pretty cool that you are named after one who is known as “a man after God’s own heart.” I’ll add you to my prayers.

          Reply
          • David says:

            St. Lee, funny you should mention that about David. I spent my whole life reading the bible’s propaganda about David and never even gave it a second thought. But when I woke up from my 45 year Christian fog some things occurred to me. If David was a man after god’s own heart, I’m tempted to say I’m perfect. David power rapes Bathsheba, impregnates her, tries to cover it up, murders her husband and then is executed for rape and murder. Oh no, that’s right, nothing happens to David. He isn’t subject to the Law of Moses like the average Joe. The guy picking up sticks on the Sabbath gets stoned to death but in David’s situation, god, in his bizarre logic decides to kill the baby. That’s right, the god who supposedly hates abortion kills the baby instead and David goes free. David takes a census, apparently against god’s wishes but also inspired by Yahweh (what?). And for this great sin David is executed and the people live happily ever after. Oh no wait, again thousands of others get to die for the “sin” that Yahweh lead David to commit. David wants to make peace with the Gibeonites and end the famine so, at the direction of Yahweh, he delivers seven of Saul’s descendants to the Gibeonites who offer them as human sacrifices. So the Gibeonites get their vengeance and, Yahweh throws in a nice little bonus, the famine is ended. I could go on and on.
            I see a real parallel between Donald Trump and David. Both are horrible people but are dearly loved by a certain faction of the religious of the day. It doesn’t matter what they do, that group of people creates a narrative in their mind that they are god-fearing leaders who only want what’s best for them. It’s really sick but that’s what religious fervor and blind devotion does to people.
            I personally would much rather have lived under Saul. Let’s add up his evil deeds. He wasn’t thorough enough in his slaughter of the Amalekites and he didn’t wait for the clergy to offer a sacrifice to Yahweh. Yep, that’s it. Some how this makes him unfit to be king yet David is a thousand times more despicable and is called “the man after god’s own heart”. But, no one said the bible had to make any sense, right? Sorry Lee, I think I’d rather be compared to Saul.
            One additional bit of data Lee, the story of David and Goliath (1 Sam. 17) was not in the original text. It’s just one more piece of propaganda in favor of David and his line. It is demonstrably a later interpolation in the text and contradicts 2 Sam. 21:19. Thankfully, 500 years after the fact, similar to how Fox News shills for Trump, the chronicler shows up to spin David into Goliath’s killer and Elhanan into the killer of Goliath’s brother Lahmi. That’s right, Goliath the Philistine giant with a good Philistine name just like the other Philistine giants had a giant brother with a Jewish name that means “my bread”. LOL!

      • Andy Ryan says:

        If you truly believe loving your enemies is a good idea, then why would you make it dependent on the existence of a God?

        Reply
      • bob says:

        “I pray that God might put the desire into both your hearts to seek after Him.”
        .
        I’ll make a couple predictions/observations:
        1 – Your prayer will not be fulfilled…just like none of your prayers are ever fulfilled.
        2 – You are of the “Reformed” or “Presuppositional” persuasion.
        .
        r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

        Reply
          • Andy Ryan says:

            Aren’t you losing money every time you reply to us? Given your sarcastic replies you can’t even pretend you’re trying to change minds. Again, if loving your enemies is a good idea, why wouldn’t it be a good idea if no God exists? Surely if you think it’s a good idea, it would be good either way?

  6. St. Lee says:

    Ryan, you ask, “if loving your enemies is a good idea …” I guess you missed my point entirely. I posted those verses [“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28) or “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)] in response to your claim that “arguing people out of harmful views is never a waste of time.” The point being that the views expressed in those verses are not harmful, but just the opposite. But nice attempt to deflect the point anyway.

    Now go spend some time in your Bible trying to find something to support your assertion that it promotes harmful views. And BTW, see if you can come up with something a little more original than “the Bible promotes slavery.” That accusation has been refuted so often that when it is used it only shows that the unbeliever making it has his fingers planted tightly in his ears. I know you can do better than that.

    Reply
    • Andy Ryan says:

      Feel free to call me Andy. If you must call me by my surname, make it Mr Ryan.
      .
      I’ve no idea whether you can do better than pretending the Bible wasn’t used for centuries to justify slavery. If you can, do.
      .
      Read the blogs on this site – how many are promoting ‘love thy neighbor’? None I can see, and certainly none I’ve commented on. But there are plenty arguing to repress the rights of others and spreading falsehoods about atheism and science. Those are harmful and those are the ones I argue against.

      Reply
      • St. Lee says:

        Mr. Ryan, …Andy, I apologize for calling you by your last name. I did not do that intentionally, it was purely a case of carelessness on my part.

        That said, if you are really interested in the issue of slavery and what the Bible really teaches on it, there is a great series discussing that and other common objections (and answers) to Levitical law that I highly recommend. Just do a search for “The Holiness Code – Dr. James White.

        Reply
        • Andy Ryan says:

          Last time a guy here tried to defend the Bible’s condoning of slavery, he passed off passages that referred to rules for Hebrew slaves as UNIVERSAL orders for the treatment of slaves. He’d already claimed to well versed in the Bible so he was either lying there or thought he could fool me. Not sure which is worse.

          Reply
    • David says:

      Lee you say, “And BTW, see if you can come up with something a little more original than “the Bible promotes slavery.” That accusation has been refuted so often that when it is used it only shows that the unbeliever making it has his fingers planted tightly in his ears. I know you can do better than that.”

      What does Leviticus 25:44 say Lee? There are a lot of other verse but tackle just this one for us if you would please.

      Reply
  7. St. Lee says:

    Street David (or are you going by just David now?) Your rant against king David really does nothing but expose the fact that you never did understand Christianity, let alone were one. In fact it would appear that it was ultimately your political liberalism that won out over your cultural christianity. That is probably for the best; At least now, as a professing atheist, you are no longer under the mistaken impression that you are a Christian. There is still hope you could become a real one. BTW, I realize that it is entirely possible that your low view of Christianity is due to the very weak (or outright lack of) doctrine prevalent in so many churches that still call themselves Christian.

    You are exactly right about David (at least in many of your points). He was an adulterer and a murderer. So am I. So are you, …no wait you say you are tempted to say you are perfect compared to king David. So you’re pretty much sinless then? King David is not the measuring stick, the law is. And what’s worse, the Bible tells us: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) You might want to consider that the law was given as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, so if you never really saw the seriousness of your own sin, you could never have had much use for a Savior.

    The difference is that king David (and I) realized our great sinfulness and the punishment it deserves, but are now forgiven because Christ paid the penalty we deserve. You on the other hand seem to be making yourself the judge of the God who gives you every breath. Not a very good place to be.

    BTW, I’ll check into your accusations about the David and Goliath narrative, because its always good to be ready with an answer, but I have to say you really lost a lot of credibility when you read into the text that Bathsheba was raped by David when that is clearly not there.

    Reply
    • David says:

      St. Lee, thanks for the psychoanalysis. I love to listen to Christians sooth their fears by attacking former Christians for their new found unbelief. You have no idea what my Christian journey entailed you pompous jerk. I grew up in the same evangelical form of church that you obviously did. I was certain that I was right, Jesus was the only way, saved at an early age, baptized in the church, sincere in my faith, attended Christian college, studied the bible intensely, witnessed on the street, went on mission trips, married a Christian woman, raised my kids in the church, faithfully tithed and served in my church, sat under solid bible teaching. And not liberal teaching either. Mainly fundamentalist, evangelical. Never even voted for a democrat in my life until the last 12 months. I’ll bet I was every bit as conservative and fundamentalist then as you are now.
      What’s your next ploy, claim that I walked away because of “secret sin”. Wrong again, going on four decades happily married. The only thing I stopped doing when I lost my faith was going to church and paying the temple tax. The thing I started doing was letting go of my indoctrination and getting an education. Letting my mind breathe. Stopped contorting my logic into answering every question with, “I guess it must be Jesus”.
      Maybe you could attack some of my logic. I’m sorry but I’m not going to powder your butt by putting on the old god glasses and ask you to deceive me with your special apologetic logic. Challenge my logic that Saul was a much less horrible person than David. David was a liar, trickster, murderer, (I’ll be kind here but there is a good argument for: rapist, he used his position of power to “take” Bathsheba and many have made this argument) adulterer, polygamist, human sacrificer, etc.
      Your belief in the bibles propagandist spin on David proves that you don’t care about facts. Tell me Lee, why does the man who picked up sticks on the sabbath have to die but David gets to live? Why wasn’t the same punishment applied to David? Please just answer this one question. Your answer will be full of dodges and special pleading because you know there is no satisfactory answer. Why do you get to set reason aside and accept this contradiction as ok? If you read in the Quran about a person with character similar to David’s you would condemn him as a monster. If you knew a modern day preacher or church leader that acted like David you would condemn him and join in the chorus that he should never stand in the pulpit again. If you had a friend that acted, for his whole life, like David did he wouldn’t be your friend for long. And you certainly wouldn’t call him a man after god’s own heart.
      I’m sorry Lee, but by every single criteria that you would demand was necessary for legitimate conversion I was a “real Christian”. You’re just freaking out because I’m a disturbing example to you of a belief system that fell apart. I didn’t give up on Christianity because I never really believed in it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I gave up on it because when I looked at it objectively it just didn’t make sense anymore. And, the more time I spent trying to find some way back to my previous belief the more ridiculous my previous belief seemed. You should read Thom Stark’s book, “The Human Faces of God”. It was instrumental in my deconversion. He poses a lot a really good questions to which there are no good orthodox, Christian answers and he just scratches the surface of the problem. Lee, the bible is a book of folklore, myth, allegory, legend and historical fiction. It contains very little that can be considered serious history. When you realize this, all the scripture you quoted above won’t carry as much weight with you as it currently does.
      And I never said I was an atheist, you did. I’m an unbeliever.

      Reply
  8. bob says:

    “…I have to say you really lost a lot of credibility…”
    .
    I would say, coming from you, David should consider that a compliment.

    Reply
  9. Andy Ryan says:

    By the way, the ‘why would you waste time arguing here if there’s no God’ argument seems to rely on the notion that it makes perfect sense for the Christian to argue here, as unlike the atheist they’re trying to save souls. However, this completely falls apart when it’s coming from someone snarking like St. Lee here. I don’t mean that he’s trolling – I’m sure he’s a genuine believer and really thinks he actually has a point. But the tone of his posts makes it obvious he’s arguing because he wants to prove the other side wrong rather than out of a noble hope of converting people. There’s nothing particularly terrible about that, and that doesn’t in itself make his arguments wrong, but it makes a mockery of his ‘what’s the point in you arguing here?’ idea.
    .
    His opening gambit of telling us his job leaves him too busy to post further is quite funny too given the lengths of his subsequent posts.

    Reply
    • St. Lee says:

      Well, Mr. Ryan, I admit that I have been known to be a little “snarky” at times. You don’t think that is some kind of a ….sin, do you?

      You said, ” But the tone of his posts makes it obvious he’s arguing because he wants to prove the other side wrong rather than out of a noble hope of converting people.” Well, I won’t try to make the claim that I am indifferent to proving “the other side wrong”, especially when they clearly set themselves up in opposition to God. However, you may note that in many cases I quoted scripture as part of my responses. That is because I realize that I cannot “argue” anyone into the kingdom of God. Only the Holy Spirit, through his word can do that. And you will note that more than once I stated that I would pray for the three of you. I did, and I will. (BTW, it was not an imprecatory prayer either.)

      Reply

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