Undercover Atheist Takes Christian College Apologetics Class: Lesson 1

Undercover Atheist Takes Christian College Apologetics Class: Lesson 1

I signed up for my Christian college’s apologetics class this semester purely out of curiosity, and for the sake of learning both sides of an argument. Well, classes started this past week, and the time has come for me to share what it’s like to be an undercover atheist taking Apologetics 101 at a Christian college.

If I’m being completely honest, when I signed up for this class, and in the days leading up to its start, I was apprehensive. If nothing else, it can be discomforting knowing that everyone else in the class holds a different view than you, but in addition to that, they’re being taught to argue with you and refute your claims. Nevertheless, I anticipate that this class will not change my mind regarding the existence of God, and I’m doubtful that, ultimately, it will change my views of anything at all.

Apologetics class exists for the purpose of equipping Christian students with the tools and arguments that they need to defend their faith against non-Christians in the real world. I expected that with such high stakes, the material taught would be some of the most fool-proof arguments for the existence of God. After all, if someone debates with atheists over and over again, they’re bound to determine what does and what does not convince them, and what is and what isn’t a sound argument. Wouldn’t you agree?

The material that was taught this week didn’t meet my expectations. Here are a few of the ideas  and arguments presented:

  1. Postmodernism says there is no objective truth or reality, but rather, reality is whatever we’re feeling
  2. Secularists treat life as if it has no value
  3. We all have a “God-hole” that can’t be filled by stuff
  4. Without God, man tries to rise to become a god himself
  5. Money can’t save us; it hasn’t fixed poverty or other problems of our world, so why should we expect it to? (note: neither has prayer)
  6. The reason why people don’t believe in God is because they don’t want to be obedient
  7. A Christian college can’t make you a godly person
  8. Revelation from God provides a “truth detector” from error and falsehood which arise from a man-made doctrinal base
  9. The world’s knowledge is limited by the mind of man and his imagination, while the mind of God is infinite and unlimited
  10. When you’re trapped on a desert island, it’s more useful to have a Bible than fire (I think this was implied but not directly stated)
  11. Morality is objective and comes from the Bible
  12. Mormon beliefs and practices are really bizarre (because Christianity is not bizarre?)
  13. Don’t be a “silent witness”; rather, go up to people and start a conversation in order to find what makes them tick so that you can try to convert them to Christianity
  14. A lot of people don’t believe that they’re lost and think they’re a good person
  15. “Holy tension” is when the Bible doesn’t make sense like when Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt (but if God wants to do things like that, then He can)
  16. Unbelievers will be encouraged to examine the evidence for theism
  17. Liberals relegate scripture as myth, legend, or fable in order to discount the veracity of the Bible
  18. “The skies declare His glory—HAVE YOU LOOKED AT THE SKY?” (Checkmate, atheists!)
  19. You can’t change people’s minds, only the Holy Spirit can do that; you can only point them in the right direction
  20. “The virgin birth is true because God” (I specifically pointed out to myself in my notes that this was a direct quote from my teacher)
  21. Noah’s Ark is hard to understand, but we can believe it, because believing something comes before understanding it, not the other way around
  22. We don’t understand wind either, but we believe that it’s there because we can see its effects!

I don’t know about you, but I found nothing that my professor said to be even remotely convincing. I almost hope that he will have more convincing arguments for Christianity throughout the semester, otherwise my classmates will have very weak rebuttals in debates with atheists, skeptics, and non-Christians.

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

29 thoughts on “Undercover Atheist Takes Christian College Apologetics Class: Lesson 1

  • September 3, 2017 at 8:25 am

    Thank you for sharing this. #22 FTW! Makes me laugh. It also seems tied to #18–if I don’t understand it or refuse to accept or delve into science, then WOOHOO, it must be God!

    Something that I’ve found interesting since leaving Christianity is that I am not all that certain there ISN’T some kind of deity…I only know that, as your list shows and my own education at a conservative Christian university (before moving to a secular state one) showed, the reasons in FAVOR of the Christian faith are not convincing enough for me to make THAT leap.

    I much prefer a real no-man’s land to a fairy-tale list of “credible” reasons like this. I look forward to more updates on this course in the future!

  • September 3, 2017 at 8:33 am

    I think this could be a great course for you, especially if it is taught be a teacher who knows his/her stuff.

    My advice to you would be take your biggest challenges to Christianity and throw them at the teacher, throughout the course. Use the “I was talking to an atheist friend the other day who said this, ________________ and I didn’t know what to say to them. How could I have answered that?” technique! Then sit back and listen to the answer.

    That way you are going to get something out of the class. Either the teacher is going to say something that makes you think hard about your own position, which is a good thing OR you are going to have your views reinforced and feel better about the eventual conversation you are going to have to have with your mom.

    • September 3, 2017 at 5:16 pm

      Just out of curiosity, if I may, Jim. You are a Christian offering advice to an atheist, which seems more than a little odd from where I’m sitting.

      So, I have two questions:

      What possible reasin could a Christian have for offering advice to an atheist,
      and, on that basis
      on earth are you a Christian?

    • September 3, 2017 at 5:49 pm

      I don’t know if I can give any better advice then what Jim has said. Well said.

  • September 3, 2017 at 8:39 am

    Wow … some of those are pretty easy to pick apart with science – we know how winds work, how weather happens, why the moon turns red, why eclipses happen. Scientists are figuring out more and more every day.

    The others – observation and experience. I think of them morality is an obvious one; many used to believe that slavery was okay because Bible. Today many believe slavery is wrong because Bible. The text itself didn’t change an iota. Believing in an objective morality doesn’t make you morally superior. It just means you can justify a lot of what you do and transfer the blame for any evils you do on some other force. I also don’t like the idea that subjective morality means that people are completely lost. I read a blogger who says that subjective morality means that we can’t condemn evil in others, but to only say: “I prefer it that you do not do that action.” I never saw subjective morality working that way – I can freely say bigotry and hatred is evil because I believe it to be wrong according to what I believe – not according to a Biblical standard that allowed prejudice because some were chosen and others weren’t.

    Also, we can see all sorts of regular people just living their lives, not trying to become gods. They value their own life as it’s the only one they have. They’re good people, kind, willing to share – because it’s the right thing to do.

  • September 3, 2017 at 8:54 am

    It would be nice if their arguments were based in truth, not BS.
    #1 “based on feelings”? No, subjectivity only requires the operation of the mind.
    #2 Patently false
    #3 Seriously?
    #4 Ridiculous boilerplate.
    #6 This is one of the wildest assertions christendom makes. The jails are full of the religious. Being a believer has no influence on how “sinful” they are, just on whether they’re forgiven or not. There’s a literal mountain of evidence and studies on belief and it’s influence on behavior, and it’s equal to the effectiveness of prayer. That is to say, not at all. The WORST in society can be found among the ranks of the religious. Your professor should google “religious leader scandals” for some examples.
    #8 Based on results, I’d say revelation’s not working the way they think. There’s roughly 4200 different religions in the world, all who have a claim on “absolute truth” from revelation. By logic, at least 4199 of them are wrong.
    #10 Well, at least having a bible will give you the means to start a fire.
    #11 No. No. No. If morality were objective, it wouldn’t change. It has. [slavery]
    #15 Lol! Holy tension Batman! Like when the sun stood still? The great flood?
    #22 Those who reject science don’t understand wind. That comes from relying a book written when the brightest didn’t know where the sun went at night. They should join the rest of us in the 21st century.

  • September 3, 2017 at 9:15 am

    this is definitely Religion 101. I love the idea of you playing the undercover devil’s advocate, presenting the teacher with all KINDS of challenges.
    Those comments that are presented, apparently as showstoppers (to make the atheist think…) are so simplistic as to be laughable.

    “believing comes before understanding”. And that is where blind faith opens the door and walks in. You don’t have to understand anything, just believe it, and it will be true.

  • September 3, 2017 at 9:32 am

    I don’t know about you, but I found nothing that my professor said to be even remotely convincing.

    My experience is that the apologists only have bad arguments.

    I have pretty much come to the conclusion that their arguments are mainly intended for Christians with doubts. It is hard to see how they could persuade anyone else.

  • September 3, 2017 at 9:46 am

    #4 made me laugh out loud, a god-hole indeed. Regards #18 physicists are forever uncovering how the universe is constructed and there’s no room for a God of the gaps in that.

    And #22 we have a pretty good idea about wind. We can fell both the wind and it’s effects on us. And we live on a rotating planet. Enough said.

  • September 3, 2017 at 9:53 am

    I expect that you learn all those fallacious arguments like the Kalam or the ontological argument. It’s a nice experiement. Don’t allow them to get on your nerves though.

  • September 3, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Well it’s a bummer that all the arguments are garbage so far (even though they can be entertaining) but hopefully it will get more interesting later on in the course. I look forward to your updates about the course!

  • September 3, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    This list is truly hilarious.
    It reads as if it were prepared for a class of people with learning disabilities.
    Noah’s Ark? Seriously!
    And this is presented by a professor?
    If I were sitting in this class I think I might struggle to keep a straight face.

    • September 3, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      Ark, I answered your question below, but your question disappeared. Maybe it is my computer, but I did want to let you know I responded to the question. 🙂

  • September 3, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    As a believer I have heard many of the arguments and points you will probably hear. I think the thoughts Jim mentioned above are good points. I personally do not feel there are any arguments or points that are going to prove God to you. God cannot be proved or disproved. We either believe He exists or we do not accept god’s at all. I think the main thing for all of us is to be ourselves, be kind and respectful to others and keep an open mind. The sad thing to me is the way we name-call, judge and condemn people who see things differently no matter which way we see things.

    • September 12, 2017 at 9:59 am

      So, the truth doesn’t matter? We should just believe because that’s what we want to do? The problem with believing without truth is that it shapes people’s decisions and those decisions have impacts on others. If a god cannot be proved or disproved, then why believe at all?

  • September 3, 2017 at 1:23 pm

    “Apologetics class exists for the purpose of equipping Christian students with the tools and arguments that they need to defend their faith against non-Christians in the real world.”

    That’s what they tell you apologetics is for, but that’s not the truth. It’s really tools and arguments to defend a believer’s faith against their own doubts, rationality, and common sense. It won’t convert anybody, and it’s not going to bring ex-believers back into the fold. Apologetics was created to let believers feel like they have smart intelligent reasons to keep believing things that they began believing for non-rational reasons.

    You may find RationalWiki a useful resource during this class, here’s the page on apologetics that has many links to articles on specific apologetic arguments: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Apologetics.

    And Matt Dillahunty has done in-depth discussions about a lot of the specific apologetic arguments at his Atheist Debates project: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8U_Qmq9oNY4I2RAT94zWGS3yo7Ma3QKI

  • Pingback:A Catholic Responds To Christian Apologetics | Catholic In The 21st Century

  • September 3, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Good to see that my tribe (postmodern liberal Christians) got a shout out on day 1! The professor is just jealous because my people don’t have to try to defend a premodern worldview in a postmodern world. People like him are the exact reason I left conservative religion behind.

  • September 3, 2017 at 5:11 pm

    I’m always fascinated by the notion that apologists are defending the faith? Toward what end? Clearly not for the purpose of establishing a compelling argument. I’ve known Christian philosophers who did that, but their efforts have little in common with the production of all these canned arguments which are clearly aimed at the choir. All too often, I suspect the goal is simply to empower a narrative in which the Christian emerges as the winner of the argument. Whether she is or not is a different question, but going through the motions seems to be enough for the average apologist.

    …thinking it has a lot in common with reality television.

    • September 4, 2017 at 4:48 pm

      Yeah, it’s flag-waving.
      Those philosophical arguments for Theism which are consistent, are also disconcerting.
      And since popular religion is mostly tonic for existential angst, disconcerting arguments are out of bounds.
      Sparkly antiques only.
      Kalam anyone?

  • September 3, 2017 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Ark, I really like the CA and her blog and I am sympathetic to her problem with a family that might reject her over her own rejection of Christianity. I also admire her for reading books and taking classes that are opposite her beliefs, which is something I love to do myself.

    I think atheists and theists of all persuasion can actually talk to each other, share ideas and learn from each other, as long as the goal of those conversations is not to convert someone to their belief or lack thereof. I have learned a lot and even had personal views about non god related topics changed as a result of Violets writings and those who comment on her blog.

    • September 4, 2017 at 5:21 am

      Actually, it is important to ensure the next generation of children DO NOT succumb to the vile drivel of Christianity, or any religion for than matter.
      And also to show just how disgusting and quite ridiculous god-belief really is – to teach children critical thinking skills, to help them withstand the idiots who would tell them they are ”Sinners” , whatever the fuck this means – and that there characters such as Moses and the miracle working(sic) Lake Tiberius Pedestrian, Jesus the Nazarene were simply narrative constructs and the bible and other such works of historical fiction are best used in the smallest room in the house.

      Hitchens was absolutely correct when he stated Religion poisons everything.

  • September 4, 2017 at 5:12 am

    This list confirms that apologetics is nothing more than assertions for those who are too lazy or too afraid to fact check.

  • September 12, 2017 at 9:56 am

    I absolutely love this list. Thanks for posting it. These are, by far, the WORST arguments I have ever seen for the theist position. These can be shredded by the simplest of arguments, so if they are teaching a new generation of weak apologetics, then that is a-ok with me. Just a few of my responses:
    #2 – no, we believe life is finite and, therefore, more precious
    #6 – I obey the laws of man
    #9 – so, can god create a puzzle so difficult that he cannot solve it?
    #16 – of course, we will. If only we could find some, then we wouldn’t be unbelievers
    #22 – I think we understand wind just fine. We can feel it on our skin, see it’s effects and use it to create energy. Hardly a comparison to a god.

  • November 25, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    First, there are no ironclad logical arguments for the existence of god. Second, even if there existed such a proof, in my opinion it would be even harder proving that this particular logical god is the god of the Bible.

    You present an interesting list, and I feel like commenting on each one, so this may be a little lengthy for a comment on a blog post. I apologize (no pun intended, originally) for the length and the causticness or sarcasticness of some of them.

    (1) What does postmodernism have to do with god’s existence? There are both postmodernist atheist and theist.

    (2) This is a broad claim. I could also make the same claim about Christians, based on their actions. Value is a concept provided by human beings. As such, there is a range as to how someone values human life, but to claim that atheists qua atheists do not is false with out some actual evidence.

    (3) “A god-hole” Give me a break. It is more likely that god would clog one’s brain.

    (4) I do not know many people that even want to play god, unless they are suffering from a disease like schizophrenia.

    (5) Prayer has not worked, or any other thing Christians try to do without money. Of course, money is not going to fix everything, but it certainly is needed in a lot of cases.

    (6) With or without god people misbehave. But, I do not fear obedience to anyone, except tyrants, like god, who is nonexistent anyway, so that just leaves tyrants.

    (7) What does this have to do with apologetics.

    (8) How much does this truth detector cost? Does it come with a warranty?

    (9) There is no valid proof of this claim. Even if a god did exist, he or she or it would not necessarily be infinite in any regards. Zeus was not considered infinite, and there is just as much proof of his existence, than the Christian god, which is none.

    (10) Do they explain how this is?

    (11) Biblical morality is contradictory, as with any god conceived to be all-knowing, all-good, and all-powerful morality. Plus, it is not even practical. Give all your money to the poor. Then, that person would need to give all of her or his money to the poor. Money would just move around, and the economy would tank.

    (12) Ibid. Any god-based morality is bizarre, just like most ethical theories that humans have come up with, including the biblical kind, which is just as man-made as any other theory. We just need to accept moral subjectivism relying on our moral feelings, facts at-hand, and our reasoning skills. Biblical morality seems mindless to me.

    (13) If they new what made me tick, they would give up and walk away.

    (14) I do not think I am either good or bad. I do good or bad things. And, what is good or bad is person dependent. Hopefully by trying to be nice and practicing kindness I do more good than bad. When is the last time you baked your neighbors some cookies? By the way I usually love being lost.

    (15) It is a myth. Take what ever meaning you want from it, but just do not use it to be hurtful to others, such as damning them hell or preventing your children from learning about science.

    (16) And, what is that evidence, and in what does it consist? The Bible – No. Theology – No.

    (17) This is backwards. It is the lack of veracity in the Bible that lead people to liberalism, among other options.

    (18) What, is glory written in the clouds? “Oh, it’s cloudy, maybe I should bring an umbrella.”

    (19) And, how is a nonexistent Holy Spirit supposed to change people’s mind? “Oh, but he does exist, he talks to me regularly.” Prove it besides using the Bible and personal experience.

    (20) The virgin birth, which is supposed be a prophecy based in “Isaiah” somewhere, which in turn is based on a suppose mistranslation of the Septuagint, is as much myth than anything else in the Bible. The Greek text scholars rely on is actually older than the Hebrew text, so this mistranslation could be more accurate, but there is really no way of telling. In any case they are just words written by men.

    (21) Huh. The proper way to believe that most analytic philosophers, who make the most sense, would agree with is that one should have evidence and coherent reasons to believe something. I will grant to the believer a psychological belief if he or she were willing to act on it, but it still does not make the belief warranted or justified, and no belief, religious or not, does not make something true—you need facts for this. And, there are no facts to back up the Noah’s Ark story.

    (22) But, we do. It is part of the science of meteorology. Besides, this is the god of the gaps argument that has repeatedly failed in the pass. Oh, when convenient just deny science, like not believing in evolution, which has far more evidence to back it up than anything to do with god.

    Their rebuttals would be weak or useless in any case because they do not use any evidence that can be believed, and their reasoning has contradictions hidden in them all over the place. Do they teach any logic classes at your school? Or fallacies used in reasoning in any class?


What do you think?