I make a concerted effort to read books written by authors with world views opposed to mine. I find that there is a potential for growth when my views are challenged and my thinking stretched. At the very least, I often walk away from such encounters with a better understanding of the positions counter to my own. Such understanding makes it easier to share the gospel with those who think differently than myself.
It was in that spirit that I recently checked out The Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islamby Michel Onfray. The book is intended to take the philosophies of Kant and Nietzsche to the next level:
Kant is a monument of timid audacity. The six hundred pages of his ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ contains the ingredients for blowing western metaphysics sky-high, but the philosopher ultimately shrinks from the task.
So a final push is needed to rekindle the flames of Enlightenment. A little more Enlightenment, more and more Enlightenment! Let’s be Kantian in opposition to Kant, let us pick up the gauntlet of boldness he throws down – without daring to act boldly himself.
It is with this goal that Onfray launches his attack on religious thought. What is immediately striking, however, is the arrogance of his approach. Onfray pities the believer like one may pity the mentally ill:
I do not despise believers. I find them neither ridiculous nor pathetic, but I lose all hope when I see that they prefer the comforting fairy tales of children to the cruel hard facts of adults.
To Onfray, believers are like children hopelessly courting fairly tales while he and his fellow atheists tend to adult business. He may not hate or despise believers, but he certainly sees them as mentally deficient. Religion, according to Onfray is a mental illness – an illness whose only cure is atheism:
Atheism is not therapy but restored mental health.
Onfray’s arrogance is reminiscent of other noted atheists such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Unfortunately, they launch their arguments from such a condescending platform that anything of value they may have to say is lost amid their audacity.
This stands in stark contrast to Christianity which teaches that God created all men and women in His own image (Gen. 1:27). The student of the Bible is taught to be humble in spirit. When we’re tempted to think too highly of ourselves, the God of the Bible reminds us that He doesn’t show favoritism (Gal. 2:6) and ultimately, God sacrificed His Son for all men (John 3:16). Christ’s act on the cross paved a path to God that is just as available to Michel Onfrey as it is Billy Graham.
Without reading a single argument from Onfray it becomes obvious that his views create an atmosphere contrary to civil discourse. How should the atheist (of Onfray’s ilk) hope to convince anyone when he makes it clear from the onset that his opponents are essentially mentally ill? Onfray clearly doesn’t respect the intelligence and reasoning abilities of the Christian. As a result, his arguments fall on deaf ears and serve only as cannon fodder for those who already subscribe to his beliefs.
The genuine Christian, however, sees value in all people as the image-bearers of God. It is because they recognize this value in their fellow human beings that they engage them in the first place. Onfray’s brand of atheism begins with the premise that Christians are mentally ill while Christianity begins with the premise that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Do you see the difference?
Without considering a single argument from either side it’s clearly more beneficial to adopt the attitude espoused in the Bible. Onfray’s worldview leads to an attitude that devalues and condescends his fellow man. Discipleship to Christ leads to a world view that appreciates and sees value in all men.
What a difference Christ makes.