One would think that it would be a simple matter to clear up a few basic misunderstandings, but it is amazing how often proponents of this disinformation are utterly convinced that they are doing no such thing–even when they are in the middle of spreading it.
Enter the particular misunderstanding to be discussed:
If you’re demanding that the Bible be interpreted literally, you aren’t talking about Christianity.
It is incredibly common for anyone who interprets any passage of the Bible (not just Genesis 1-3) non-literally to be dismissed with a simple “well, you clearly reject real Christianity anyway”.
The first thing that needs to be said, I suppose, is that not even the most fundamentalist believer takes the Bible absolutely literally at every passage. To demand that one is simply not a theist unless one is even more literal than the fundamentalist is definitely a straw man fallacy.
So much has been said by others. What I’d like to add, however, is a note about how quick people are to deny that this kind of demand adds up to a claim about what Christianity is.
I’ve long since lost track of the number of times I’ve been told that atheists don’t try to define God, but merely respond to what the theist claims. I’ve been told this by people who promptly demand that I’m completely wrong to interpret a passage of the Bible differently than they do. This is a blatant contradiction.
Also, it is a false dichotomy.
Whether or not the New Atheist take on the Bible is correct (it isn’t), the point is that this is no reason to be an atheist. And the New Atheists are simply wrong to demand (as most of them do) that the only options on the table are their fundamentalist atheism or a religion even more fundamentalist than Falwell’s.
The simple fact is that none of the arguments for theism I’ve presented here have relied on trusting the Bible as authoritative, let alone literal. Yet attacks on such bad theology are frequently presented as irrefutable counters to them.
All this shows, then, is that one (very silly) understanding of Christianity is false. It doesn’t address theism, or defend the materialism that the New Atheists embrace.
So, let’s agree at the outset that the weird caricature of theism that the New Atheists mock is untrue. It seems reasonable that we should then move on to at least two other ideas:
1. The concept of theism that is actually being defended, and
2. The materialist atheism that has gone strangely undefended.
So far, the response I’ve received to the first is a perpetual bewilderment at what I’m saying. At every point, atheists claim to not understand my actual beliefs (leading me to wonder how they can be so confident that they’ve refuted my beliefs)
As to the second, that’s generally ignored. And, though I count it a victory in debate that materialists are so completely unable to defend their view, I’d hoped for more thoughtful engagement than a skirting of the issue.
That is to say, those who claim that we shouldn’t believe things without evidence should completely reject materialism.