Yesterday I posted the following tweet:
A note to my atheist friends: the fact that you grew up attending a Baptist church in rural Kentucky or a Catholic parish in Toronto does not automatically give you an informed perspective on the intellectual breadth and strength of the Christian tradition.
— Tentative Apologist (@RandalRauser) August 9, 2018
Here is that point: participation within a specific Christian community does not automatically familiarize a person with the intellectual resources of the entire Christian tradition. So for example, the fact that you grew up in Podunk Community Church, sang in the church choir, attended church picnics, and taught Sunday school may give you valuable data on the church culture of Podunk. What it doesn’t do is guarantee that you have been exposed to a comprehensive understanding of hermeneutics, biblical studies, church history, philosophical theology, and systematic theology. So when post-Christians make categorical statements on the intellectual problems with Christianity based on their history at Podunk Community Church, they make a grave error.
The tweet elicited a range of responses from atheists. A few seemed to understand and acknowledge the point I was making. A few more didn’t quite understand it, but we had a good conversation that clarified the point amicably.
Unfortunately, many more responded with vulgar insults, derisive mockery, and/or dismissive condescension. As you can guess, many of those responses ironically provided corroboration for the initial tweet.
Consider, for example, this tweet from a person named “Beamer”:
“Ahem, I did grow up in churches in Kentucky. I also learned in Kentucky that dead people don’t come back. Donkeys don’t talk. The earth doesn’t stop spinning and there isn’t enough water on earth to cover the highest mountains by twenty feet. Oh, and owning a person isn’t moral.”
“Thanks, you just made my point for me.”
Beamer replied with a curious non sequitur:
“I see you didn’t really put an emphasis on testable predictions relating to religion. Why not?”
That led me to reiterate the point applied to Beamer specifically:
“I was pointing out that your church in Kentucky did not acquaint you with a knowledge of hermeneutics or theology, leaving you apparently to conflate Christianity with a particular stream of North American fundamentalism.”
Christians should keep the same point in mind, of course. If you have some limited exposure to atheists (e.g. you read The God Delusion and attended the skeptics club on your university campus a few times), that does not provide you with a sufficient basis to dismiss the intellectual credibility of the various perspectives that are commonly grouped together as atheistic, skeptical, and/or naturalistic.
To conclude with a point on which we can hopefully all agree, we would all do far better to chasten our opinions pending careful and extended study in the fields on which we would like to opine.