This is probably the most difficult aspect of the atheist/theist interaction. Often, Christianity is dismissed without sufficient consideration (or vise versa). Though this accusation is explicitly denied, it will usually pervade in the arguments of the one whom holds to the position (weather consciously or not). Atheist or theist, all one is doing is treating the other person/position with contempt. Forthrightly, I am growing tired of being categorized as inferior because I am Christian. The misconception is that one his somehow more rational to be a skeptic than a believer.
On the same note, Christians should not dogmatically aim to enforce their convictions on others in an effort to militantly convert, but aim to persuade them of Christianity’s vitality through love, reason, and compassion. The act of persuasion necessarily entails engagement; unfortunately, this is the very thing that aggravates non-believers. A large portion of this aggravation is due to an ineffective or inappropriate apologetic approach. Increasingly though, I have found the hesitancy for faith based discussion, even with various approaches to be futile with many non-believers. This is not because non-believers have found substantial objections that silence the Christian apology, but rather, the complete disinterest in any such engagement. For what ever reason, there is a sect of skepticism that has fashioned itself into cynicism. The cynicism now permeates through the blogsphere.
Part of the problem is that there has been a detrimental failure upon Christians to give thoughtful reasons why they believe, which is a possibility why many non-believers would rather not converse with Christians. It’s not as if we must have stock answers for every objection. I certainly have not been able to readily answer every objection that’s come across my path. But the general viewpoint of Christianity is irrationality. Atheist George Smith notes his distaste for interactions with Christians in the following paragraph:
The first thing I want to point out is rather depressing to some people. Since reasonableness is a habit to be learned, not everyone is capable of conducting a good argument. For that matter, not everyone is capable of arguing in an intelligible sense at all. Argument is also a skill that has to be learned and practiced. What this means is that, for the most part, you are probably wasting your time if you argue with many religionists, for the simple reason that many of these religionists are incapable of arguing well. It's almost like you have to educate some Christians before you can persuade them to atheism. You have to first convince them that they should be concerned with what's true and what's not. They should be able to distinguish between rational and irrational argument. And so on and so on. And then two months later, you might be able to say to this person that if they carry this out, it will lead them to atheism. But unless you have a lot of personal interest in this person, unless they are personally significant to you, you will probably not want to waste a lot of your time educating or re-educating this person to the principles of reason. What do you do? Some people just give up on the person. Some people, you have to.
George Smith’s observations paint with a wide brush; however, I think the same observation can be applied to many (not all) self proclaimed atheists today. All one needs to do is replace “Christians” or “religionists” with “Atheists.”
It is important for Christians, to maintain and communicate a distinct Christian worldview. Truth emerges as differing perspectives dialogue with one another in the kind of marketplace of ideas; privatization of these ideas only hinders the ability to reach an informed position.
However, it seems that those of secularism don’t want to or are unwilling to dialogue—the discussion is over. They would rather muzzle the mouths of religion. However, in rejecting religion, secularism has only become a religion itself. When skeptics close the door in the face of Christianity, they have only locked them self in a room where they can pat each other on the back and join in on their own parade of intellectual superiority. James E. Faust notes:
The civil religion I refer to is a secular religion. It has no moral absolutes. It is nondenominational. It is non-theistic. It is politically focused. It is antagonistic to religion. It rejects the historic religious traditions of America. It feels strange. If this trend continues, non-belief will be more honored than belief. While all beliefs must be protected, are atheism, agnosticism, cynicism, and moral relativism to be more safeguarded and valued than Christianity, Judaism, and the tenets of Islam, which hold that there is a Supreme Being and that mortals are accountable to him? If so, this would, in my opinion, place America in great moral jeopardy.
Skepticism is noting new and I don’t take much issue with it. However, I think sometimes it’s taken to a counterproductive extreme driven by alternative motives. All the Christian is really asking for is to treat us and our position with respect and give our arguments the honest consideration they deserve. Skeptics will have to realize that Christianity is something they will have to contend with on a serous level sometime or another. Sooner or later, the facade of intellectual superiority with mocking, ridicule, and jokes will grow old and fade away and they will have to deal with Christianity on a serious note. It’s time to be honest with oneself.
G.K. Chesterton said, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."
In regards to the cynicism that now permeates through our culture, it seems that fruitful discussion has ended.