Undercover Atheist Takes Christian College Apologetics Class: Lesson 2

Undercover Atheist Takes Christian College Apologetics Class: Lesson 2

Last semester, I signed up to take Apologetics 101 in the hopes that I might learn something and that it would challenge me at least a little to think about arguments for Christianity so that I could better refute them. I didn’t have very high expectations, but what expectations I did have were certainly failed. The biggest problem within this class is that the teacher is a nutcase, and he doesn’t teach out of a textbook. Everything he teaches is self-proclaimed truth with no sources to back it up. This wouldn’t be so bad if it influenced only his personal beliefs, but I can’t stand when he feeds information that I know is wrong to a classroom of college students. I often feel that even as an atheist, I could teach Christian apologetics better than he could! Below are some of the common themes that run through the class and make me consistently want to facepalm throughout class.

Lack of research and wrong information

As I said before, our professor doesn’t teach out of any books (although he did put books on the syllabus and cause me to waste my money on things I’m not using). This makes it so that he can teach us his opinions, and worse, information that is flat-out incorrect. One of the earliest examples of this was when he introduced to us the Four Horsemen of New Atheism.

He asked the class if anyone knew who they were, and I raised my hand, ready to list off all four. I only made it to “Richard Dawkins” when my professor listed off the other three as Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and William Dennett. Now not only do my classmates know nothing about them but their names (and also that they’re evil atheists, although they probably don’t know what “atheist” means), they don’t even know that. They will probably spend the rest of their lives thinking that Daniel Dennett’s name is William.

Another thing he’s been teaching us that’s wrong is even more damaging. Rather than giving them the wrong name of someone, he mistaught the name of an entire belief system, and he does it continually. My professor frequently equates Christianity with theism. Of course, Christianity is one type of theistic belief, but he teaches them as being absolutely synonymous. He often refers to the bible as “the holy scriptures of Theism”. I understand that Christians often don’t know what atheism is, but I would expect them to know what theism is, as they are theists.

Just as atheism is a lack of belief in a god or deities, theism is a belief in a god or deities. If you want to distinguish theism from deism, theism would involve revelation and interaction with mankind via some holy book while deism has neither. This means, though, that any religion that believes in deities is theistic. Even pantheistic and polytheistic religions are theistic. Christianity is only one of thousands of theistic beliefs.

Disrespect toward non-Christians

We have had days of lectures in Apologetics 101 in which we “learned” how ridiculous other religions are. My professor uses a condescending tone towards the beliefs of Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, universalists, and naturalists while his own belief is equally, if not more, unbelievable.

Furthermore, on several occasions, he has tried to provide my classmates with tips on how to deal with apologetic encounters with “the unbeliever”. He doesn’t really give any advice on trying to appeal to us using reason, but rather, he tells them that “The unbeliever won’t be able to understand this so you just have to trust that God will show them,” “The average unbeliever doesn’t understand why bad things happen to them,” and they shouldn’t try to understand why we don’t believe, because “They deny Jesus because they had a bad experience at church or they don’t know how to interpret the Bible.”

He tells them to provide unbelievers with arguments for God and allow the Holy Spirit to convert us. The arguments that he taught us included the ontological, moral, design, cosmological, and teleological arguments, all of which serious atheists will have heard before, even if we’re not experts. What’s worse is that he didn’t even go into detail on these arguments; rather, he spent one class period to vaguely describe all of them at once, and he didn’t prepare the students for any rebuttal that an unbeliever is likely to give.

Circular reasoning

If this class had another name besides Apologetics 101, it could be called Circular Reasoning 101. If my classmates learn to think the way that my teacher does, they’ll be arguing themselves into circles in no time.

Deep down, my teacher is aware that there is no true evidence for God. He once said something along the lines of “the Bible is our evidence of God, and it’s a good thing we have it, because it’s our greatest source of evidence for his existence.” In addition to that, he’s spent multiple classes talking about the infallibility of the bible, telling us about how we know that it’s perfect because it was written by the Holy Spirit (which we only have “evidence” of because it’s in the bible). He says that no one knows how the Holy Spirit moved the authors to write the divine scriptures, but we have to take it on faith that he somehow did, and we will just have to be okay with that.

After saying all this, my teacher decided he should bash unbelievers for not finding sufficient evidence for God in order to believe in him. He had talked a lot about the biblical authors and how they were divinely inspired, then asked the class, “Why do you think that when God spoke everything into existence that he didn’t just speak the Bible into existence as well?” It’s a really good question, but he didn’t give such a good answer: “Because he wanted the personalities of the human authors to be able to shine through.”

In addition to this, he also asked, “Why do you think that God doesn’t just make himself known beyond doubt, like writing ‘I am God’ in the sky for all to see?” The answer was “He wants you to have to use faith to believe in Him. Plus, he has written it in the sky” (I guess he means in the pretty sunsets) “but for the unbeliever, that’s just not enough proof.” How dare we actually ask for real verifiable evidence instead of a fickle book and the night sky.

There is a lot more that my teacher has gotten wrong in this class, such as bashing my fiancé’s secular university for being anti-Christian (it’s not; it is still full of Christians and pressure to join Christian groups on campus) and reminding us that the bible says that wives should be submissive to their husbands, but I think I’ve said enough for now. In any case, I have a test in Apologetics 101 tomorrow, so I suppose I should begin to study, although there’s barely anything in this class that’s either correct, soundly logical, or that I don’t already know.

Lesson 1

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

28 thoughts on “Undercover Atheist Takes Christian College Apologetics Class: Lesson 2

  • October 1, 2017 at 5:39 pm

    It seems that your teacher is doing an excellent job of demonstrating that apologetics really is lying for Jesus.

  • October 1, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I would be sorely tempted to report him to whomever you report teachers like this, for failing to teach his class properly, forcing you to all purchase books he isn’t using, and not knowing his subject.. He sounds like an asshat.

  • October 1, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    Hmm. Interesting read. Christopher Hitchens, I think, was one of the last “classical atheists” (for lack of a better term). As for the class itself, I’m curious as to what type of apologetic approach it took? Do you know which methodology he was attempting to teach (Classical, Evidential, Cumulative, or Presuppositional)? Or perhaps it was a mix? I would think Apologetics 101 would simply cover the different approaches of apologists historically and methodologies.

    • October 5, 2017 at 6:05 pm

      He’s not even teaching any specific method. He went over what they were (he taught classical, reformed, evidential, and fideism), but we’re not even getting information. So far he has talked about the origins of the bible, the life of Christ, and the evils of secular humanism and other religions.

  • October 1, 2017 at 7:19 pm

    Ew. Nothing more boring than someone who can’t defend their faith with anything else other than “Because the Bible said so.” And disrespecting other’s views is like throwing stones in a glass house. If you’re Christian and doing that, someone else can just as easily disrespect you purely because of what you believe in.

    As for evidence that God is real, I propose that there is evidence out there other than the night sky and the hippie “JUST BELIEVE, MAN!” slogan that’s recited every time a Christian hears that you’re anything other than a fellow brother in Christ.

    Millions upon millions of people’s lives have been radically changed because of Jesus. Miracles happen when people call on Jesus’ name. The supernatural, against all odds, occurs when people pray. The Bible surviving through centuries of persecution is almost proof enough that there’s a God looking out for that strange little book- and the straw that breaks the camel’s back is that prophecies that were written thousands of years ago that are in the Bible are still coming true today.

    I’m curious, but have you ever read “The Case For Christ” by Lee Strobel? If you haven’t, I wager he’ll make a better Christian Apologetics professor than your current one. He doesn’t sound like a very knowledgeable man.

    • October 2, 2017 at 4:50 am

      I saw the movie The Case for Christ. Pretty good story about proving the resurrection happened. However, what did he have for proof? The bible. Other professors opinions around the country and he made a good theory by linking together bits and pieces of a story that happened 2000 years ago. The brain is naturally a puzzle solver and is geared see patterns where none exist. I’ve heard and read completely believable and logical arguments that the world is flat or that 9/11 was a done by our government or aliens exist and the Holocaust never happened. He made a good case though and I enjoyed and admired the effort he made.

      • October 2, 2017 at 1:07 pm

        That’s interesting! I never even knew there was a movie out there. I prefer books over movies- especially if the movie is based off of the book- because there’s only so much information that they can squeeze in with an hour and a half or thereabouts. And it’s almost always better explained in the books better as well. I don’t know what parts of the book they went into great detail over, but I remember even him talking about the medical science of what happened to Jesus on the cross.

        Also wondering if you’ve ever heard about the documentary about Jesus’ shroud. You’ll probably have to dive deeper into the depths of the Christian websites to find it, but it’s the only shroud that has a negative imprint of the body on it. I think it’s currently held in a catholic church somewhere in Europe.

        The reason why we Christians are so persistent on proving the Bible right is because it’s the guidebook to our faith and part of our cornerstones to our belief. That’s also part of the reason why it’s so debated against in opposing faith groups and science. If you can disprove the Bible, all we pretty much have left is science that’s heavily debated in research facilities and at the dinner table, hallucinations, and people spreading good vibes. But- if the Bible IS real, then we have so much to gain than just “good vibes.”

        If I didn’t have my own personal experience with God, I’d probably be atheist or deist. But because I have- I can’t say it was anything else. Too many “coincidences” and too many times when I’ve had explainable peace and comfort when I should’ve been running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. We’re called to have faith, but not blind faith. My faith is certainly not blind. (also, just want to note that I know no one is attacking me and that I’m not attacking anyone. Wanted to make sure that I got the right message across. xD)

        • October 2, 2017 at 3:35 pm

          I didn’t sense any attack going on. No problems here. That’s terrific if you’ve had a personal experience with God that enforces your belief. That’s what I had been searching for for decades, but come up empty every time. I’ve tried the Bible, but find it unreadable. Although my sister just handed me a supposed readable version. I did watch Jordan Peterson’s Biblical series on YouTube, which I found amazing. I watched all 12 episodes 2.5 hours each and he was only on the Old Testament. Everyone thinks Adam and Eve were the first humans, but it’s Cain and Able who were truly the first humans.

          I haven’t heard or seen anything on the shroud being a negative. I don’t know what that means or why it might be important?

          It’s interesting that after 2000 years the phrase you use -if the Bible IS real – One would think as the time of Jesus fades farther and farther into the past it would have been definitely proven by now and as time goes on it would be harder and harder to prove. 2000 years is a heck of a long time for a book to exist though, so, there must be something to it. I remain open and curious to what that is. I don’t read the Four horsemen of Atheism nor do I go searching for meaning in the Bible. I expect soul, spirit or God to be obvious, reachable and without doubt as I live and breath. Unless I’m an idiot and blind, which is possible, I haven’t experienced his presence if he’s around.

          • October 2, 2017 at 7:12 pm

            Ah, good. I just wanted to make sure. Sometimes it can be difficult writing on the internet because people can take things wrong or find a cruddy undertone that wasn’t intentional.

            What type of encounter are you looking for? Are you looking for a feeling, an angelic encounter, or a fireball to write your name in the sky? The more specific you get, the more likely it is to happen. God has a funny sense of humor like that. I don’t have to know the answer if you don’t want to share it on the internet.

            What type of Bible did you try to read? This is just me going off the assumption that you might not have tried to read it in different versions. If it’s in King James version, I REALLY don’t blame you. Almost everyone has issues reading that version. The Amplified Bible is really good because it expands on the meaning of the original words used in Hebrew and Greek texts, and New Living Translation (NLT) is what I have. I like it because it’s probably closest to modern day American English. If you have issues trying to follow certain books of the Bible, then I recommend starting in the New Testament. For scientific minds I recommend Luke, and for love and feeling based minds, I recommend John. (not to be confused with 1st or 2nd John)

            You’ve piqued my interest. I’ll definitely check out Jordan Peterson later today when I can.

            If the shroud has a negative imprint on it (they look like those knock-off X-ray pictures), it means that it was exposed to crazy amounts of light or radiation while the body was in the shroud. If you want to theorize or read between the lines, it would require a once in a lifetime phenomenon happening. Like someone rising from the dead via Heaven. I did some digging, and found out that the shroud’s official name is Shroud of Turin. Even if you don’t believe it’s Jesus’ shroud, it’s definitely interesting to look into anyway.

            I don’t think you’re an idiot- or blind. You’re holding your own in this conversation, you’re curious, and you don’t have satisfactory proof to believe in a certain faith. (and if I’m being really honest about, it is pretty fanciful.) A good friend of mine is Christian and isn’t sensitive to anything that happens spiritually in a room. They know God’s there, but can’t feel Him move in the same way that a few others and I can. Different people see and feel God in different ways. I think I’ve also heard other stories about how people don’t feel God until the one day they do, and they become sensitive to when The Holy Spirit moves that day forward.

            I really enjoy our talks. I look forward to it whenever I see a notification for when you post again. 😀 Do you have a Twitter account or something that I can add you on?

          • October 3, 2017 at 9:19 am

            I am not now or ever been looking for a specific ‘kind’ of encounter. I’m open to whatever comes. It used to be proof of God, but recently within the past year or two, the idea of spirit/soul is something I can’t justify in my daily life. I just don’t see it as possible and I don’t want to read about it or have someone tell me. In my thinking it should be completely obvious and without question. It’s not.

            I grew up Catholic, so we had a bible around, but no one ever read it. A couple years ago I got involved with Christian Science and started reading King James along with Mary Baker Eddy’s interpretation in the Christian Science reading rooms. That was interesting to have her point out the meaning of passages, but way too complicated. Once again…give it to me simple. If there’s a god and spirit he it should be plain enough for all levels of intelligence. So…God/Spirit/Soul is interesting in that it seemingly can’t be proved nor disproved. I listened to one talk by a physicist who pointed out that there is a section of the frontal lobe of the brain when if manipulated will create a spiritual/God-like sense. So…you’d say that that’s proof there isn’t a God and it’s in the brain. But…she goes on to say..’maybe God created that specific point in the brain so we can communicate with him.’ https://youtu.be/iKYSG_NAMbk

            Who knows for sure? Believe, don’t believe…just live your life as best you can.

          • October 3, 2017 at 9:20 am

            Oh…and I don’t have a Twitter, FaceBook or any other social media. I used to have a blog, but deleted it recently. Maybe I’ll make another one??

          • October 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm

            Alrighty. I understand where you’re coming from. I know you’re looking for evidence in your everyday life that there’s a God/soul/spirit, but I thought you might be interested in a study that was done back in 1901. Take whatever you want out of it. 😀


            I’m almost positive that there’s something out there that would definitively show by science that there’s proof of the soul and spirit- it just needs to be discovered. But until then, a lot of debates are going to happen around the dinner table. And that video was interesting, too. Thanks for sharing that!

            I used to be that way with social media, but got slightly annoyed that I couldn’t contact any of my friends. Lol. If you started up another blog, I know I would follow you. By the way- thanks for the follow on my blog! I don’t do a lot of talking about theology, so I hope you enjoy writing, art, and music.

          • October 4, 2017 at 3:51 pm

            there is one argument, and a most compelling one, for the non-existence or reality of god: if he existed, there would be no need for a bible. There would be no need for prayer, to ‘get his attention’; there would be no problem with different religions, all going at each other like angry wolves. He would just be, and we would not need these kinds of conversations to prove or disprove anything.
            And we would know. A god would make sure of that. They do so hate to be ignored.

        • October 2, 2017 at 5:08 pm

          I’ve seen lots of stuff about the alleged shroud. But I’ve also seen an analysis that the body proportions are not those of an actual person, but do match the way artists of the time painted people. And, of course, the fabric carbon dates to the same period as the first reports of the shroud. Relics were quite a fad at that time period; I think someone back then commented that churches had enough supposed fragments of the “true cross” to build a house out of! So the probability that it’s an actual relic is next to none. But it’s interesting to examine why people are so dedicated to the idea.

  • October 1, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Typical Christian apologetics (in or out of a teaching environment).

    It’s this way because a centuries old book says so, Christian preachers, pastors, elders, leaders, etc. have taught this for years so it must be true, the Holy Spirit will show you it’s true, etc. , etc.

    But the best reason Christianity is “true”? Because … it … just … is.

  • October 2, 2017 at 9:35 am

    This is a shame to hear. I teach apologetics, and am bummed out that this type of careless and insensitive teaching is taking place. It seems to only hurt his case, and I find it unfortunate. Sorry this is your experience with a Christian teacher. All I can say is that I hope you don’t attribute this brand of apologetics with all of Christianity. I have found great evidences, great logical revelations, and very interesting arguments done with much respect concerning atheism vs christianity from many good sources. I understand you are looking to better refute Christianity, and I admittedly do the same when I read atheism sources. But it does not sound like this is helping you to understand the arguments for Christianity very well, and is simply serving to undermine the movement completely. My hope is that you don’t allow this brand of teaching to determine the argument for you forever, though I am sure it is doing damage to it in your opinion. I continue to wish you well on your journey, and continue to enjoy your perspective, though we disagree on our world views.

    • October 5, 2017 at 6:09 pm

      I agree. I know that there are better arguments for Christianity out there, and better Christians out there for that matter. I’m sure you’re a much greater teacher than he is!

  • October 2, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Thanks for your honesty. But HOW do you manage to endure these classes if your feelings are strong? Surely you must feel like getting up and punching him in the face all the time. Have you seen the film ‘God’s Not Dead’? Your situation is the opposite but why don’t you be honest and stand up in front the class and admit how you are feeling? Challenge him and the others to a question that has been bugging you and see if any can rise to your challenge. I am a Christian and I know that it is not God’s will for us to criticise other faiths but if I was a non-believer as you put it, I would really struggle being in a class that winds me up so much. As for the church thing – I feel so sorry for you. going to church should be because you want to, not because you have to, but I understand that if you are still under your parents’ roof then you may have to do as they say. But please try to drum up the courage to approach them and tell them what you really think. If you do it in a polite way, surely they will still treat you with respect and honour your beliefs?

    • October 2, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      “But please try to drum up the courage to approach them and tell them what you really think. If you do it in a polite way, surely they will still treat you with respect and honour your beliefs?”

      Sharon, you would think so, but often that does not turn out to be the case. Not every christian would agree with you that “it is not God’s will for us to criticise other faiths.” Especially in the more religious parts of the US, just to say “I don’t believe what you believe” is considered a personal attack. Religious tribalism can take priority, even over family relationships. Many deconverted young people wind up OK eventually, but some have been thrown out of their homes, just for being honest about their disbelief. Talking to religious parents, or other people in authority, is something that needs to be a carefully considered decision, and not approached lightly.

      • October 2, 2017 at 2:06 pm

        Thanks for your insight on this Ubi. This is not a topic I am familiar with. Maybe I have been sheltered? I am used to hearing stories of Christians being persecuted for their faith but not of others receiving the same treatment for rejecting Jesus. That’s what I love about WordPress – meeting people of all beliefs, experiences, ages and hobbies. Thank you for taking the time to explain this.

        • October 2, 2017 at 3:05 pm

          Churches are very big on telling you the stories of people being persecuted for faith, but are generally silent on the reverse, people being persecuted for lack of faith. The internet has been a real help in letting people see outside their “church bubble”.

          Good for you for taking the opportunity to read blogs from people whose experience is different from yours!

  • October 3, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    I’m sorry that your Apologetics teacher sounds like a sour disappointment. If you ever want some good material I recommend William Lane Craig’s “On Guard” and J P Moreland’s “Scaling the Secular City.” You can also find some on my blog, and, if you want any that aren’t as superficial, I’d be happy to write them up.

    Now with your teacher disrespecting others, that is not my God. Please don’t make him in man’s image. My God is loving and kind to the greatest possible degree, and doesn’t treat humans like garbage, or replaceable for that matter. I could go on, but I will stop preaching.

    And the reason he may be ridiculously begging the question is because of who he’s addressing; your classmates. The reason the Bible may be “the best evidence for God” in his eyes is because it is the way you’ll learn the most about him, all else fails in comparison to prove the notion of a Judo- Christian God and all else surrounding him. The best I can reckon is the Ontological Argument, but it relies on numerous value judgments reckoned within a Christian framework. Regardless, I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts on the matter. Thank you.

  • October 5, 2017 at 4:40 pm

    I’ve just started reading your blog and I can’t believe that people like this ‘professor’ are actually employed and shaping the minds of young adults. I love that you’ve made your own decision and haven’t given in to the brainwashing ways of devout Christian-types. Keep doing you, sister! 😀

  • October 12, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    The Internet will sort them out sooner or later. As more atheists happen in society those Christians would have to deal with tough questions.

  • January 13, 2018 at 1:11 pm

    I have read most all of Daniel C. Dennett’s semi-popular books and books meant for a general intelligent readership, plus a number that were purely academic in content, and I would not put him in the same class as the others. I have not read anything so anti-Christian as the rest of those on the list. I admit to not having read any of his internet material or videos (not my cup of tea), so these might show the traits of the others. Someone I might replace him with is John Loftus, who has written books attacking Christianity and edited a number of others.

    Most Christians are ignorant of theology and philosophy except for the basics of salvation. Yes evangelicals say they have a personal relationship with Jesus (god), which is the basis of theism, but I bet many would not even know the term. And it would surprise me if I would pick a Christian at random from a fundamentalist church that he or she could even state the classic arguments for god existence (which are all flawed).

    His tone sounds not too different to that of Christopher Hitchens when talking about anyone he does not like. I have read his book Arguably: Selected Essays and seen an interview with him on 92Y.

    I do not see any actual circular reasoning in what you are presenting—inability to prove his arguments, yes. He does assume that god exists, but that seems implicit. He uses bad evidence and presents no arguments at all. He states one thing and then another with no logical connection between them, but not circular, like I think is one of the problems with the ontological argument. Unless I missing something here, and please point it out, I see no circular reasoning here. It is just no argument at all.

    As usual you have written a good and informative post on what it is like to be taught in a Christian university.

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