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four-horsemen-atheists

Four prominent atheists. Clockwise from top-left: Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris.

Giving airtime to atheists?

Some Christians, while staunch supporters of the work and ministry of CMI, can find it perplexing that we seem to be publicising the views of avowed atheists, or even God-haters. For instance, Alan F. from the UK recently queried our decision to discuss statements by former Oxford University professor, Richard Dawkins:

Dear CMI I thank you for you ministry and the work you do, but are you seriously using Richard Dawkins to further the kingdom of God? It is bad enough that this man is given the amount of media coverage that he is. Please reconsider giving him any more [coverage]. Thank you.

Philip Bell, CMI-UK/Europe responds:

Dear Alan,

I can understand what you’re saying. However, there are several reasons why we choose to refer to statements made by Richard Dawkins.

1. It bolsters faith

Sadly, some people—usually Christians who are ill-taught regarding the Scriptures, whose faith is somewhat shaky—are perturbed by his writings. Unwisely, they read his books and get hoodwinked into thinking that some of his arguments are valid. We believe it’s important to put the record straight. An example of such a person springs to mind. We were able, by the grace of God, to help a 79-year-old man on his journey back to faith in Christ. After a previous profession of faith (which he described to me as a “Damascus Road experience”) his faith was ship-wrecked by his reading of Dawkins; he ended up an atheist for many years, unhappy and wretched. Years later, having read some books from CMI, he came back to the Lord and is still going strong at 86 years old. Of course, other stories do not have such a happy ending.

2. It arms and equips

It actually greatly encourages Christians, armed and equipped with solid refutations of Dawkins’ claims, to confidently share their faith with others. We have received testimonies to this effect many times. Not only that, some people have come to faith in Christ as a direct result of such refutations, for example by reading Jonathan Sarfati’s critique of one of Dawkins’ books, The Greatest Show on Earth.

3. It has biblical warrant

While we shouldn’t be overly fixated on the works and words of anti-Christian men and women, there is biblical warrant (indeed exhortation) to counter anything that is an obstacle to God’s Word:

“Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and understanding.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ …” (2 Corinthians 10:4–5)
“[B]ut in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect …” (1 Peter 3:15).
“I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

These Scriptures indicate that ungodly, anti-Christian ideas will be raised up as proud obstacles to Christian faith, that we must contend for the truth, cast down arguments and pull down strongholds of unbelief and arrogance, even rebuking the adversaries of God—always of course with a meek and humble attitude and in the love of God.

Over the years, I have met Christians who pray for Richard Dawkins. The plight of such men is very sad for, albeit unwittingly in most cases, they’re tools in the hand of the Adversary of people’s souls (1 Peter 5:8). As with all unbelievers, they’re heading out to eternal ruin and punishment unless they call upon the name of Jesus in repentance and faith (Romans 10:13). I do understand that Dawkins’ bilge (strong words for his teaching) is often very distasteful. I myself found this in reading and refuting his book The God Delusion, but it was, I believe, a necessary (if unpleasant) task.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Bell

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Further Reading

Readers’ comments
Dean R., Australia, 25 November 2016
It's good to get both sides of the argument, particularly for context. Secular modern media play the one side of the argument all the time and things trickle in to the modern psyche unchallenged which creates a lot of ignorance & denial (confirmation bias?). CMI do a good job with excellent articles that reveal the issues and tensions while still defending science and Scripture. Quality journalism I would say.
Paul S., Australia, 26 November 2016
It's important to note also that as Richard Dawkins occupies a position of authority, his arguments will be heard by many regardless of the airtime he is given by CMI. In the minds of many, Dawkins is likely to be arguing with the strongest logic and force of argument in comparison to the average man on the street. It makes more sense to counter the arguments of those seen as authoritative than to counter the arguments of the 'village atheist' who may be seen as not representing the 'best' of atheist argumentation. Atheists have been known to criticise creation arguments by attacking an obscure creationist or creationist argument whilst ignoring more prominent contributors and arguments. We rightly call this out for avoiding the 'meat' of the debate. By interacting with Dawkins' arguments we confirm that we have no issue dealing with the strongest arguments.
Jean P., Australia, 26 November 2016
Unless we can show that we have read and understood the arguments of the opposition, sceptics often assume we only believe what we do because we haven't heard the " superior" arguments put forth by the likes of Mr Dawkins.
Dwight F., United Kingdom, 27 November 2016
Good work CMI keep it up. God has commanded you to feed His sheep. The role of Atheists is to try and get us to doubt God's word just as Satan did to Eve. We all came from the same place as the Atheists and they too need prayer so that maybe God will be merciful to them as He was to us. I find that when I sometimes debate Atheists I have the answers already, due to reading articles about Atheists on CMI's webpage. Once again keep up the good work as it has help others including me. Thank you.